Revenge Porn (5334_16)

Request

Would you please supply me with figures relating to the enforcement of the law surrounding ‘revenge porn’ – that is the offence of  “sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress”.

I would like the up to date figures for the entire year since the law’s introduction – from April 2015 to and including April 2016.

I would like figures relating to:

  1. Date of offence and age and sex of the victim.
  2. The platform used to publish the image or information – for example Facebook or Instagram.
  3. What media was used – for example photo or video?
  4. Any further information about the offence?
  5. Was it an ex partner?
  6. Outcome of the investigation.

We can confirm that information is held by West Midlands Police. However, while the majority of the information is attached to this email I am afraid that I am not required by statute to release all of the information requested. Please find attached – This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) for the information not provided

 

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 further details relating to the offence. The information is exempt by virtue of the following exemptions

 

 

Section 30 (1) (a) (b) (c)  Investigations

Section 40 (2) Personal Data

 

These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:

 

https://www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/information-management/freedom-of-information/#freedom-of-information-exemptions

 

In line with the above, I am required to complete a Prejudice Test/Public Interest Test (PIT) on disclosure.

 

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.

 

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. To place the information into the public domain under FOIA could undermine any current or future criminal investigation and seriously compromise the investigative process.  As a consequence any ongoing or subsequent court proceedings could be jeopardised and may result in an individual not being brought to justice.

 

It is also likely that actual or perceived breaches of confidentiality would adversely affect the public’s perception of the process and cause harm to the community as a whole. Victims’ details are provided to the police for the purposes of an investigation.  Disclosure into the public domain may make people more reluctant to report crime in the future.  Underreporting leads to an increase in undetected crime which has an adverse affect on the community.
Public interest in disclosure

The release of information about investigations would satisfy the public interest that investigations into revenge pornography are conducted properly. This could help to promote public trust in the WMP by providing transparency, and demonstrating openness and accountability.

Disclosure of specific details about the case, in particular full details could allow the public to be satisfied that the investigation has been conducted efficiently and appropriately. It would also show that public funds were being used effectively.

When information disclosed relates directly to the efficiency and effectiveness of the force or its officers there is a public interest in its disclosure.  In respect of this request, the force and its officers are accountable to the public for their actions in respect of any investigations they undertake and any subsequent action that is taken.
Public interest in non-disclosure

There is an inherently strong public interest in public authorities carrying out investigations to prevent and detect crime. This ensures that offenders are brought to justice and that the necessary checks and balances are in place to safeguard public funds and resources. To allow the effectiveness of investigations to be reduced, as described in the harm above, is not in the public interest. 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.

 

The public must be confident that West Midlands Police are committed to ensuring that information provided by them will only be used for appropriate purposes and that the confidentiality of any information given will be maintained. Therefore they should be assured that West Midlands Police would never release information that would breach confidentiality.

Inappropriate release of information would act as a deterrent to people to provide information to the force.  With this relationship impeded, it would be more difficult for the force to gather information required to perform its public service functions.  When information is provided to a police force on the understanding that it is confidential, e.g. when a statement is given to the police, the force is obliged to ensure that confidence is upheld.

 

Balance

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.

 

Although the issue of awareness is noted, on balance it is considered that the public interest in disclosing these data is outweighed by the potential impact release would have on the future reporting of crime.

 

It is reasonable to assume that any persons reporting a crime would not expect information that could indicate their involvement to be disclosed to others. West Midlands Police have a responsibility to treat dutifully all the information it holds.

Having considered the arguments for and against the release of the information requested the balance in the public interest test favours non-disclosure. West Midlands Police will not disclose information that could compromise the future law enforcement role of the force.

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Attachments

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