MP Threats (10076_17)

Request

I am following up on a recent article in the Daily Mail which reported the remarkable fact that the Member of Parliament for Birmingham Yardley, Jess Phillips, has received hundreds of online death and rape threats, including 600 rape threats in one day (link included below).

 

The article also states that Ms Phillips has reported these threats to the West Midlands Police and I am hoping that you will assist me by answering the following questions:

Since 2015 how many death threats has the Member of Parliament for Birmingham Yardley received and what action has the West Midlands Police taken in relation to them?

Since 2015 how many rape threats has the Member of Parliament for Birmingham Yardley received and what action has the West Midlands Police taken in relation to them?

Is it possible to indicate any outcomes in relation to any investigations arising from these threats being reported (e.g. arrests, cautions, prosecutions etc)?

Response

Please find below our response under the Freedom of Information Act and I apologise for its late delivery.

 

West Midlands Police can neither confirm nor deny whether information relevant to this request is held, as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply by virtue of the following exemptions:
Section 23(5) Information supplied by or concerning certain Security Bodies

Section 40(5) Personal Information

Section 30(3) Investigations

Section 31(3) Law Enforcement

Section 38(2) Health and Safety

 

Sections 23 and 40 are class based absolute exemptions and there is no requirement to evidence harm or consider the public interest test.

 

Section 30 is a class based qualified exemption and consideration of the public interest must be given as to whether neither confirming nor denying the information exists is the appropriate response.

 

Sections 31 and 38 are prejudice based qualified exemptions and any prejudice (harm) that confirming or denying information is held would cause must be articulated as well as the public interest considerations.

 

Harm in Confirming or Denying that Information is held

 

The College of Policing has an Authorised Professional Practice on Intelligence Management which is a national standard adhered to by all police forces across England and Wales.  These are four products which are the deliverables of intelligence led policing.  Each product has a defined purpose and provides recommendations for making decisions and options for action.  These four products are strategic assessment; tactical assessment; subject profile and problem profile.

 

This APP can be viewed at the below link:

 

http://www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/intelligence-management/intelligence-products/#content-of-the-strategic-assessment

 

It is a business process with an intention to provide focus to operational policing and to achieve a disproportionately greater impact from the resources applied to any problem.  It is dependent on a clear framework of analysis of information and intelligence allowing a problem solving approach to law enforcement and crime prevention techniques.

 

In addition, the College of Policing also publish an Authorised Professional Practice for Investigation which provides guidance on the key roles and principles on the process of criminal investigation.  It includes guidance for both reactive and proactive investigations, from volume crime to major crime, see below link:

 

https://www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/investigations/victims-and-witnesses/

 

It clearly states within this APP that when working with victims the success of any investigation depends largely on the accuracy and detail of the material obtained from them.  Although the questions submitted for this request are purely statistical, confirmation or denial to the world that any information is held would undermine the confidentiality expected by a victim who bravely reports to the police that they have been subject to a serious threat to their life.

 

Confirmation or denial that information is held relevant to this request would undermine both the APP for Intelligence Management and Investigations. The impact of confirming or denying whether information is held relating to this request, i.e. whether any reports of death threats against Members of Parliament have been recorded by (force name), has potential to undermine the flow of information (intelligence) received from members of the public into the Police Service relating to allegations of crime.

 

Finally, and more importantly, any disclosure which would undermine an investigation would also compromise the health and safety of an individual placing them in grave danger.

 

 

Public Interest Considerations

 

Section 30

 

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a)

 

Confirming or denying whether information exists relevant to this request would lead to a better informed general public by identifying that West Midlands Police robustly investigate death threat allegations against Members of Parliament.  This fact alone may encourage individuals to provide intelligence in order to assist with investigations and promote public trust in providing transparency and demonstrating openness and accountability into where the police are currently focusing their investigations.

 

Death threats against Members of Parliament are high profile at present following the tragic murder of Jo Cox.  Confirmation or denial that any information exists could provide reassurance to the general public.

 

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a)

 

Confirmation or denial that information is held in this case would suggest West Midlands Police take their responsibility to appropriately handle and manage intelligence supplied to them flippantly.

 

By its very nature, information relating to death threats against individuals is highly sensitive.  Under FOI there is a requirement to comply with Section 1(1)(a) and confirm what information is held.  In some cases it is that confirmation, or not, which could disclose facts which would undermine the investigative process and in such cases West Midlands Police takes advantage of its ability under FOI legislation to, where appropriate, neither confirm nor deny that information requests is or is not held.

 

Irrespective of what other information is or isn’t held, any information which could be used to undermine prosecutions or aid offenders is not in the public interest.

 

Section 31(3) Law Enforcement

 

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a)

 

There is media speculation and rumour within the public domain relating to death threats against Members of Parliament and that in itself can be considered to be a factor for disclosure.  An example of this can be found at the below links:

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-36790576

 

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/watch-mp-jess-phillips-asked-11568859

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-36712707

 

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/luciana-berger-mp-receives-antisemitic-death-threats-amid-rise-harassment-labour-politicians-1570527

 

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) neither confirming nor denying that information is held

 

West Midlands Police has a duty of care to the community at large, which obviously includes Members of Parliament.  Public safety is of paramount importance.  If an FOI disclosure revealed information to the world (by citing an exemption or stating no information held) that would undermine an operation and place the safety of an individual at risk, this could be used to offenders advantage which would compromise public safety, the safety of Members of Parliament and it may also encourage offenders to carry out further crimes.

 

West Midlands Police relies on information being supplied by the public.  Irrespective of what other information is or isn’t held, by applying substantive exemptions would indicate that information is held and is currently being investigated.  Such action would act as a deterrent to the public to provide intelligence to the force which would further undermine public safety, with repercussions that could hinder the prevention or detection of crime.

 

Section 38(2) Health and Safety

 

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming information is held

 

Confirmation of whether information is or isn’t held would provide reassurance to the general public and Members of Parliament that West Midlands Police use tactical options in line with relevant intelligence received into their force.  This awareness could be used to improve any public consultations/debates in relation to this subject and also allow the public to take steps to protect themselves.

 

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming or denying that information is held

 

Confirming or denying that information exists could lead to the loss of public confidence in West Midlands Police ability to protect the wellbeing of the community.

 

West Midlands Police has a duty of care towards Members of Parliament and the general public per se and to reveal information via an FOI request which would place the safety of individuals in grave danger, is not in the public interest.

 

Balancing Test

 

The points above highlight the merits of confirming, or denying, whether any other information pertinent to this request exists.  The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve.  As part of that policing purpose, various operations may or may not be ongoing.  The Police Service will never divulge whether or not information pertinent to this request does or does not exist, if to do so would place the safety of an individual(s) at risk, compromise an ongoing investigation or undermine the policing purpose in the effective delivery of operational law enforcement.

 

Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and investigations, providing reassurance that the Police Service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat from criminals, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding the health and safety of individuals.  As much as there is a public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced it will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances.

 

Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test for confirming, nor denying that information is held is appropriate.

 

No inference can be taken from this refusal that information does or does not exist.

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