Stolen HGVs (14127_16)

Request

1.) How many HGVs have been reported missing or stolen to your force in the past two calendar years (Jan 2015 – December 2016) – or two years up to the most recent time you hold records to?

 

2.) How long did each take to be found/ have any not yet been found?

 

3.) Have you had to alert security services/ counter-terrorism agencies to a HGV theft in the specified time?

 

4.) If you have:

  1. was it a suspected terrorist incident?
  2. details of how the truck was stolen – e.g. was the driver attacked, was it stolen from a depot etc?

iii. how was the situation resolved?

 

5.) What, if any, protocols are currently in place to guide your force’s response to a reported HGV theft? For example, do you have to immediately alert security services?

 

6.) Have you introduced a protocol for responding to HGV thefts, or altered existing protocols, in light of the terrorist attacks in Nice and Berlin this year?

Response

We can confirm that some relevant information is held by West Midlands Police. However, while a response to questions 1 and 2 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 questions 3, 4 ,5 and 6

 

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.

 

West Midlands Police neither confirms nor denies that it holds any information relevant to this request by virtue of the following exemptions:

 

Section 23(5) Information supplied by, or concerning, certain Security Bodies

Section 24(2) National Security

Section 30(3) Investigations

Section 31(3) Law Enforcement

 

Section 23 is a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest in this case.  Confirming or denying whether any 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 supplied by, or concerning, certain Security Bodies.

 

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

 

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

 

Harm in complying with Section 1(1)(a) – to confirm or not whether information is held

 

Any release under FOIA is a disclosure to the world, not just to the individual making the request.  To confirm or not that information is held pertinent to questions 3, 4, 5 and 6 would reveal whether or not WMP has alerted Security Services or Counter Terrorism agencies following an HGV theft; as well as identifying whether or not any protocols are in place to alert these agencies.

 

Police forces work in conjunction with other agencies and information is freely shared in line with information sharing protocols.  Modern day policing is intelligence led and this is particularly pertinent with regard to both law enforcement and national security.  The public expert police forces to use all powers and tactics available to them to prevent and detect crime or disorder and maintain public safety.

 

The prevention and detection of crime is the foundation upon which policing is built and the threat from terrorism cannot be ignored.  It is generally recognised that the international security landscape is increasingly complex and unpredictable.  The current UK threat level from international terrorism, based on intelligence, is assessed as of today’s date, as ‘Severe’ which means that a terrorist attack is highly likely, see below link:

 

https://www.mi5.gov.uk/threat-levels

 

In order to counter criminal and terrorist behaviour, it is vital that the police have the ability to work together, where necessary covertly, to obtain intelligence within current legislative frameworks to assist in the investigative process to ensure the successful arrest and prosecution of offenders who commit or plan to commit acts of terrorism.

 

To achieve this goal, it is vitally important that information sharing takes place between police officers, members of the public, police forces as well as other security law enforcement bodies within the United Kingdom.  Such an action would support counter-terrorism measures in the fight to deprive terrorist networks of their ability to commit crime.

 

The impact of providing information under FOI which aids in identifying whether or not WMP have consulted with the Security Services and/or Counter Terrorism Units; as well as identifying whether any protocols are in place to alert these agencies of missing HGVs, would provide those intent on committing criminal or terrorist acts with valuable information as to where the police are targeting their investigations.

 

In addition to confirm or deny whether information is held in this case has the potential to undermine the flow of information (intelligence) received from members of the public into the Police Service and other outside agencies relating to these types of offences thereby undermining national security and leaving the United Kingdom at risk of more terrorist attack.

 

Public Interest Considerations

 

Section 24(2) National Security

 

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

 

The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and resources distributed within an area of policing, particularly with regard to how the police investigate terrorist atrocities.  To confirm whether or not information exists in relation to questions 3, 4, 5 & 6 would enable the general public to hold WMP to account in relation to how they deal with these types of offences.

 

Furthermore, confirmation or denial may improve public debate and assist the community to take steps to protect themselves.

 

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

 

Taking into account the current security climate within the United Kingdom, no information which may aid a terrorist should be disclosed.  To what extent this information may aid a terrorist is unknown, but it is clear that it will have an impact on a force’s ability to monitor terrorist activity.

 

The public entrust the Police Service to make appropriate decisions with regard to their safety and protection.  The only way of reducing risk is to be cautious with what is placed into the public domain.

 

The cumulative effect of terrorists gathering information from various sources would build a picture of vulnerabilities within certain scenarios, as detailed within questions 3, 4, 5 & 6.  The more information disclosed over time will provide a more detailed account of the tactical infrastructure of not only a force area but also a country as a whole.

 

Any incident that results from such a disclosure would by default affect National Security.

 

Other organisations outside the Police Service are also widely engaged in targeting terrorism, see below links:

 

http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/news/news-listings/362-nca-unveils-campaign-to-disrupt-the-use-of-airfields-and-light-aircraft-by-organised-criminals

 

http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/publications/560-national-strategic-assessment-of-serious-and-organised-crime-2015/file

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/counter-terrorism

 

https://www.mi5.gov.uk/home/the-threats/terrorism.html

 

Therefore by confirming or denying that information exists relevant to this request would harm the close relationship that exists with such organisations, where trust and confidence has been build up.

 

Section 30(3) Investigations

 

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 WMP robustly investigate reported allegations of stolen/missing HGVs.  This fact alone may encourage individuals to provide intelligence in order to assist with investigations and would also promote public trust in providing transparency and demonstrating openness and accountability into where the police are currently focusing their investigations.

 

The public are also entitled to know how public funds are spent, particularly in the current economic climate.

 

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

 

Modern-day policing is intelligence led and WMP share information with other law enforcement agencies as part of their investigation process.  To confirm or not whether WMP has alerted security services/counter terrorism agencies of an HGV theft and whether or not a protocol is held, could hinder the prevention and detection of crime as well as undermine the partnership approach to investigations and law enforcement.

 

Should offenders take evasive action to avoid detection, police resources may well be diverted from frontline duties and other areas of policing in order to locate and apprehend these individuals.  In addition, the safety of individuals and victims would also be compromised.

 

Section 31(3) Law Enforcement

 

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

 

There is information within the public domain, such as information on international terrorism on the MI5 website, see below link, and this in itself favours confirming information is held.

 

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 and 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 the security of the national infrastructure, offenders, including terrorist organisations, could use this to their advantage which would compromise public safety and more worryingly encourage offenders to carry out further crimes.

 

By its very nature, information relating to whether or not the Security Services/Counter Terrorism Units have been contacted by police forces undoubtedly undermines the effective delivery of operational law enforcement.  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 harmful to members of the public, police officers, other law enforcement agencies and their employees.

 

Balancing Test

 

The points above highlight the merits of confirming, nor denying, whether any information pertinent to questions 3, 4, 5 & 6 exists.  The security of the country is of paramount importance and 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 with other law enforcement bodies may or may not be ongoing.  The Police Service will never divulge whether or not information is held if to do so would place the safety of individual(s) at risk or undermine National Security.

 

Whilst there is a public interest in appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat from criminals, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding National Security.  As much as there is a public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced in matters of National Security, this will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances.

 

The public entrust the Police Service to make appropriate decisions with regard to their safety and protection and the only way of reducing risk is to be cautious with any information that is released.  Confirming or denying whether information at questions 3, 4, 5 and 6 is or isn’t held would definitely reveal policing activity and would assist those intent on causing harm.  Any incident that results from confirmation or denial would, by default, affect National Security.

 

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 made out.

 

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

 

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