1. As of the current date (05.08.15) how many child abuse related cases is the High-Tech Crime Unit currently working on?
2. As of the current date (05.08.15) how many child abuse related cases are currently waiting to be allocated to member of staff in the High-Tech Crime Unit for analytical work?
3. Of those cases waiting to be allocated, please state the number of days they have been waiting to be allocated? (If you are unable to provide figures on a case by case basis, please could you tell me the oldest case which is still waiting to be allocated to a member of staff by the date it was first received to the unit)
4. In each of the last 3 financial years (2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15) and this year to date, how many media devices have been sent to external private companies for analytical work in child abuse related cases? For each year, please state the total costs associated with this. (please take media devices to mean mobile phones, computers, tablets etc)
5. In each of the last 3 financial years (2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15) and this year to date, how many child abuse related prosecutions/cases have been dropped or stayed due to delays in carrying out analytical work of devices?
6. How many staff do you currently have working within the forces High-Tech Crime Unit? (Please include both full and part-time staff).
N.B Please take child abuse cases to include the possession of images, grooming and other online sexual offences.
Please find attached our response.
Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) places two duties on public authorities. Unless exemptions apply, the first duty at s1(1)(a) is to confirm or deny whether the information specified in a request is held. The second duty at s1(1)(b) is to disclose information that has been confirmed as being held. Where exemptions are relied upon Section 17 of the FOIA requires that we provide the applicant with a notice which: a) states that fact; b) specifies the exemption(s) in question and c) state (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies.
West Midlands Police neither confirms nor denies that it holds any other information relating to this request by virtue of the following exemptions:
Section 23(5) Information supplied by, or concerning, certain Security Bodies
Section 31(3) Law Enforcement
Section 23 is a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to evidence the harm or consider the public interest.
Section 31 is a prejudice based and qualified exemption which means there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be causing in confirming or not whether any other information is appropriate as well as carrying out a public interest test.
Harm in complying with Section 1(1)(a) – to confirm or nor whether information is held
These questions all relate to the performance of the High Tech Crime Unit (HTCU) with regard to child sexual abuse investigations. The impact of confirming or denying whether any other information is held in relation to this request, irrespective of what information is or isn’t held, would be inappropriate as it could confirm the activity of all ongoing police investigations into child sexual exploitation, some of which may be covert.
In addition, irrespective of what other information may or may not be held, disclosure would provide a geographical activity map for the whole country of all high tech crimes force-by-force which would undermine investigations and the effective delivery of operational law enforcement. This could lead to more crime being committed and the safety of victims being compromised.
Finally, child sexual exploitation is not only a national problem but a global one. In order to ensure West Midlands Police Force delivers effective law enforcement we liaise with various other national agencies to provide suitable support. Not only would police investigations be compromised but any enquiries or investigations that other agencies may be undertaking would also be compromised.
Public Interest Considerations – Section 31
Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a)
By confirming that any other information exists relevant to this request would enhance informed public debate on this subject area. In addition, disclosure would also highlight whether an individual force High Tech Crime Unit is performing badly which would identify that the unit needs to be examined by senior officers to establish where the problem lies which may be down to lack of resources and funding. The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent, particularly in the current economic climate.
The issue of child sexual exploitation is a highly emotive subject area often attracting high profile media and public interest attention. Confirmation or denial that any other information exists could provide reassurance to the general public.
Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a)
Modern-day policing is intelligence led and West Midlands Police share information with other law enforcement agencies as part of their investigative process. To confirm or not whether any other information is held could hinder the prevention and detection of crime as well as undermine the partnership approach to investigations and law enforcement.
To neither confirm nor deny that any other information is held would highlight that West Midlands Police take their responsibility to protect the safety of individuals seriously. Public safety is of paramount importance and West Midlands Police will never provide detail of all police activity into this subject area if to do so would compromise public safety.
The points above highlight the merits of confirming or denying whether any other information pertinent to this request exists. The Police Service has a duty to protect and defend vulnerable individuals.
In addition, the effective delivery of operational law enforcement is of key importance and is at the forefront of West Midlands Police Force’s priorities to ensure the prevention and detection of crime is carried out and the effective apprehension or prosecution of offenders is maintained.
Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test for confirming, nor denying, that any other information is held is not made out.
No inference can be taken from this refusal that information does or does not exist.