ISIS Flags (2570/15)

Request

 

I write to make the following request for information under Freedom of Information laws.

 

It concerns reported cases of individuals displaying Islamic State flags.

 

I have broken down my request as follows:

 

  1. For the year 2015 so far, please detail all incidents where an individual has been reported for displaying the Islamic State flag or an item, such as a tee-shirt, which includes an image of the Islamic State Flag.

 

For each reported incident, please detail

  1. Summary of the reported incident
  2. Date of the incident
  3. Location of the incident
  4. How many people involved
  5. Ages of the person/people involved
  6. Was the flag or item confiscated?
  7. Was there a prosecution, if so what was the charge and what was the outcome.

 

2a – f.  Same for the calendar year 2014.

 

3a – f. Same for the calendar year 2013.

 

Please note the Islamic State may also come up in the system as ISIS or ISIL.

Response

 

We have searched our systems and we have 4 instances where the use of Islamic State flag was reported.

 

In two cases the flags were reported to be being flown in cars and those cars were never located.

 

In another case when officers arrived at the scene no flag was being flown.

 

In the last case the flag was not an Islamic State flag.

 

 

In addition to the above response West Midlands Police can neither confirm nor deny that it holds any other information relevant to your request as the duty in s1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply, by virtue of the following exemptions:

 

Section 23(5) Information relating to the Security bodies;

Section 24(2) National Security;

Section 30(3) Investigations;

Section 31(3) Law enforcement;

 

These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:

 

http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/docs/advice-centre/foi/exemptions.pdf

 

Section 23 is a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest in this case. Confirming or denying the existence of whether any other information is held would contravene the constrictions laid out within Section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in that this stipulates a generic bar on disclosure of any information applied by, or concerning, certain Security Bodies.

 

Sections 24, and 31 are prejudice based qualified exemptions and there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or not that the information is held as well as carrying out a public interest test.

 

Section 30 is a qualified class-based exemption and there is a requirement to conduct a public interest test.

 

Overall harm

 

Every effort should be made to release information under FOI. However, to confirm or deny many of the police actions around counter terrorism would undermine on-going investigations, risk the identification of individuals, and introduce the possibility of revealing involvement of any exempt bodies and therefore risk undermining National Security.

 

Revealing detail of specific counter-terrorism activity could provide information that would help subjects avoid detection, and therefore could inhibit the prevention and detection of crime. This could either lead to the identification of specific cases or, by mapping these data with other data it could indicate levels of counter-terrorism activity and resources.

 

In order to counter criminal and terrorist behaviour it is vital that the police and other agencies have the ability to work together, where necessary covertly, in order to obtain intelligence within current legislative frameworks to ensure the successful arrest and prosecution of those who commit or plan to commit acts of terrorism. In order to achieve this goal, it is vitally important that information sharing takes place with other police forces and security bodies within the UK and internationally in order to support counter-terrorism measures in the fight to deprive international terrorist networks of their ability to commit crime.

 

It should be recognised that the international security landscape is increasingly complex and unpredictable. The UK faces a serious and sustained threat from violent extremists and this threat is greater in scale and ambition than any of the terrorist threats in the past.

 

Since 2006, the UK Government have published the threat level, based upon current intelligence and that threat has remained at the second highest level, ‘severe’, except for two short periods during August 2006 and June and July 2007, when it was raised to the highest threat ‘critical’. The current security level for England & Wales is set at Severe.

 

The Police Service is committed to demonstrating proportionality and accountability regarding counter terrorism activities. However, if the Police Service were to either confirm or deny the existence of information in some circumstances, the ability to investigate those crimes will either be compromised or significantly weakened. If the Police Service denies the details of an investigation in some circumstances but then exempts for another, requesters can determine the ‘exempt’ answer is in fact a circumstance that has occurred.  The impact could undermine national security, any on-going investigations and any future investigations, as it would enable targeted individuals/groups to become aware of police activity. This would help subjects avoid detection, and inhibit the prevention and detection of crime.

 

Any information identifying the focus of policing activity could be used to the advantage of terrorists or criminal organisations.  Information that undermines the operational integrity of these activities will adversely affect public safety and have a negative impact on both national security and law enforcement.

 

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S24

The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and by confirming or denying that any other information relevant to the question exists could lead to a better-informed public that can take steps to protect themselves

 

Factors against confirmation or denial for S24

By confirming or denying that any other information relevant to the question exists would render Security measures less effective. This could lead to the compromise of ongoing or future operations to protect the security or infra-structure of the UK and increase the risk of harm to the public.

 

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S31

By confirming or denying that any other information relevant to the question exists, would enable the public to see where public funds are being spent. Better public awareness may reduce crime or lead to more information from the public.

 

Factors against confirmation or denial for S31

By confirming or denying that any other information relevant to the question exists, law enforcement tactics could be compromised which could hinder the prevention and detection of crime. More crime could be committed and individuals placed at risk.

 

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S30

By confirming or denying that any other information relevant to the question exists would enable the public to obtain satisfaction that all investigations are conducted properly and that their public money is well spent.

 

Factors against confirmation or denial for S30

By confirming or denying that any other information relevant to the question exists, would hinder the prevention or detection of crime, undermine the partnership approach to law enforcement , which would subsequently affect the force’s future law enforcement capabilities.

 

Balance test

The security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police service will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so could undermine National Security or compromise law enforcement. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and in this case providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by the criminal fraternity, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in this area.

 

As much as there is public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced in matters of national security this will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances. Therefore it is our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for confirming or denying whether any other information relevant to your request exists is not made out.

 

 

No inference can be taken from this refusal that any further information relevant to your request does or does not exist.

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