MEND (7862_15)

Request

I am writing to make an open government request for all the information to which I am entitled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

It has come to my attention that the organisation Mend (www.mend.org.uk) claim to “secured the commitment to record Islamophobia as a separate crime flag” from ten police forces, including the West Midlands Police.

You can find this reference on page 14 of their Activity Report 2014. This report is available at the following URL and uploaded as an attachment:
http://mend.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/MEND_Activity_Report_2014_Low_Res.pdf

There is a clear suggestion that it was specifically the work of Mend that led to a change of policy in West Midlands Police on 1 April 2014, when the force announced that hate crime would be better recorded and that “perceived identity” of the victim of religious hate crime would be recorded.

Please send me:

1) Confirmation of whether or not the work of Mend directly influenced the decision of the West Midlands Police to record Islamophobia under a separate crime flag.

2) Confirmation of whether or not the work of Mend directly influenced the decision of the West Midlands Police to improve recording of hate crime.

3) Confirmation of whether or not the work of Mend directly influenced the decision of the West Midlands Police to record “perceived identity” of the victim of religious hate crime.

4) If the work of any other groups influenced the above changes in policy detailed in points 1-3.

5) If the work other groups did influence the policy changes detailed in points 1-3, the names of the other groups.

6) Confirmation of the number of hate crime cases referred to the West Midlands Police by Mend in 2014.

7) Confirmation of the number of hate crime cases referred to the West Midlands Police by Mend since January 2015.

Response

Please find attached data with respect to questions 1-5.

West Midlands Police will neither confirm nor deny that we hold any data with respect to questions 6 and 7. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act).

REASONS FOR DECISION

The Freedom of Information Act places two responsibilities on public authorities, the first of which is to confirm what information it holds and secondly to then disclose that information, unless exemptions apply.

In this case West Midlands Police will neither confirm nor deny the existence of any relevant data for questions 6 and 7 by virtue of Section 30(1). Nothing in this response should be taken as meaning that any of this information is or is not held by West Midlands Police.

This exemption and explanatory notes are shown here:

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

Please find following detailed reasoning on the application of this exemption.

Section 30
Harm

The release of information provided to authorities in confidence, may affect the public’s perception of the investigative process and make people more reluctant to report crime in the future. Under-reporting leads to an increase in undetected crime which has an adverse affect on the community. Therefore to allow a situation to occur whereby the details provided during reporting of an incident are routinely disclosed would likely to prejudice the ability of the public authority to carry out investigations.

Considerations Favouring Confirmation or denial

Confirming or denying the existence of information about reported incidents would provide greater transparency in the investigating process and the actions of a public authority. It is clear that there is a public interest in public authorities operating in as transparent a manner as possible, as this should ensure they operate effectively and efficiently.

Considerations Against Confirmation or denial

The release of information provided to authorities in confidence may affect the public’s perception of the investigative process and make people more reluctant to report crime in the future. This would impact on the level of service the police are able to provide to the local community.

Under-reporting leads to an increase in undetected crime which has an adverse affect on the community. Therefore to allow a situation to occur whereby the details provided during reporting of an incident are routinely disclosed would likely to prejudice the ability of the public authority to carry out investigations.

Conclusion

For a public interest test, issues that favour release need to be measured against issues that favour non-disclosure. The public interest is not what interests the public, or a particular individual, but what will be the greater good, if released, to the community as a whole.

I recognise that the public interest in being open and transparent is of great importance to all and release of information may assist in the public being more aware of the work that the police are carrying out. However, while the public interest considerations favouring confirmation or denial are noted, this must be balanced with the impact any response would have on the operational capability of the police.

Therefore it is my view protecting the ability of West Midlands Police to carry out investigations is greater importance than the advantage of public confidence from the disclosure of this information.

West Midlands Police will neither confirm nor deny the existence of information if it could lead to harm to the public or could compromise the future law enforcement role of the police.

Attachments

7862_ATTACHMENT_01

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