Officer Convictions (4278_13)

Request / Response

The number of police officers convicted for committing crimes whilst working for the force since 1 January 2010.

2010 = 8
2011 = 8
2012 = 9
2013 = 5

Please include:

– Full details of each crime committed by police officers – including the type of crime committed as well as the date, time and location of each offence.

Offence Type

Year

2010

2011

2012

2013

Data Protection Offence

2

0

0

1

Driving Offences

5

5

2

1

Assault

1

0

2

1

Making off without payment

0

1

0

0

No Insurance

0

1

0

1

Make False Representation

0

1

0

0

Burglary/ Theft

0

1

2

0

Harassment

0

1

0

0

Sexual Offences

0

0

2

0

Public Order

0

0

1

0

Misconduct Public Office

0

0

0

1

Send Malicious Communication

0

0

0

1

 

– Please only include cases where the officer was found guilty and subsequently charged with an offence.

– Yearly breakdowns (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013).

We can confirm that further information is held by West Midlands Police. However, while some of the requested information is shown below, I am not required by statute to release all of the information requested. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) for the withheld information.

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, this letter represents a Refusal Notice for the specific dates, locations and full details of each case. The information is exempt by virtue of the following exemptions

Section 30 (1) (a) (b (c) Investigations
Section 40 (2) (a) (b) Personal Information

These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:

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

Section 40 (2) is an absolute and class based exemption if to release the information exists would breach the third party’s data protection rights.  In this case to release this personal information would not constitute fair processing of the data and therefore would breach the first of the principles within the Data Protection Act 1998. As this exemption is class based I am not required to identify the harm in disclosure and in this instance I believe that the right to privacy outweighs any public interest in release

Section 30(1) provides an exemption in cases where the information has at any time been held for the purposes of investigations and proceedings which the public authority has a duty to conduct.  The exemption covers information held at any time for the purposes of an investigation, whether the case is ongoing, closed or abandoned.

The information relates to information held by West Midlands Police (WMP) relating to previous investigations of police officer offences. Therefore Section 30 applies to the information.

Harm

Release of information through the Freedom of Information Act removes any of the legal strictures and assumptions of confidentiality associated with the due legal process. As a consequence any previous or ongoing investigation or subsequent court proceedings could be jeopardised where release of information regarding an individual was identified.

 

Considerations Favouring Disclosure

Disclosing information about previous investigations would provide a greater transparency in the investigating process and the actions of a public authority. It is clear that disclosing information about investigations would provide a greater transparency in the investigating process and the actions of the police. There is a public interest in the police operating in as transparent a manner as possible, as this should ensure they operate effectively and efficiently.  Providing information surrounding an investigation could help to ensure that authorities do not overlook issues which they should investigate or that they have good reasons for not investigating.

Release of information may raise awareness of these particular incidents and therefore ensure that the public are reassured that West Midlands Police have investigated offences appropriately.

Considerations Favouring Non-Disclosure

The requested information relates to investigations that proceeded to court. While there are not any current on-going investigations regarding these matters an investigation could be reopened if new evidence came to light. Avoiding disruption resulting through disclosure to a reopened investigation would be in the public interest. Some of these investigations are recent and so there remains the possibility that new evidence may come to light and the investigations may be reopened.

Releasing the requested information in this case would lead to the disclosure of investigative and evidential material that has not entered the public domain. This information could disrupt any possible future investigation or court proceedings as described above.

West Midlands Police need to be allowed to carry out investigations effectively away from public scrutiny until such times as the details need to be made public, otherwise it will be difficult for accurate, thorough and objective investigations to be carried out.

Conclusion

In considering the public interest in relation to Section 30(1) I have balanced the factors in relation to transparency and accountability against the public interest in maintaining the integrity of this investigation and the likely impact of release on future investigations.

It is recognised that there is a public interest in releasing information which may indicate “where there has been a lack of vigour or proper vigilance in the conducting of any investigation” [Information Tribunal decision EA/2006/0017]. The requested data contains no such indications.

In addition I have noted the Tribunal Decision with the case Mr A Digby-Cameron v the Information Commissioner which stated that that the public interest is served by “the effective investigations and prosecution of crime, which itself requires in particular (a) the protection of witnesses and informers to ensure that people are not deterred from making statements or reports by the fear that they may be publicised, (b) the maintenance of the independence of the judicial and prosecution processes and (c) the preservation of the criminal court as the sole forum for determining guilt” [Information Tribunal decisions (EA/2008/0023 & EA/2008/0025)].

Although providing the information might provide greater transparency in the investigating process, there are already a number of checks and balances on authorities to assess whether investigations are conducted appropriately. There are legal processes in place to ensure that all parties are given access to all the appropriate information at the time of any trial and subsequently through court records. In addition if a person feels that they have been treated inappropriately by the police there are clear processes in place to ensure that matters are investigated thoroughly and appropriately.

Releasing information outside of such a schedule could undermine the smooth running of these processes and would impact on future judicial proceedings. Therefore the wider public interest lies in protecting the ability of the appropriate public authorities to conduct an effective investigation and consider the outcome. There is a strong public interest in protecting the integrity of these investigations to ensure that they can be undertaken effectively.

Having considered the arguments for and against releasing the information, in order to protect the integrity of the justice process the balance of the public interest test lies in favour of maintaining the exemption

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