Terrorism Offences in Prisons (2430_15)

Request

Subject: Terror in prisons

1) For each of the last three years and 2015 so far, how many arrests have been made for terrorism offences inside prisons?

2) For each year (2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 so far), please provide a breakdown of which prison each person was arrested in, what offence they were suspected of, and the date the arrest happened.

Response

We can confirm that some relevant information is held by West Midlands Police. However, we are withholding that information since we consider that the exemption(s) outlined below apply to it.

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 the information is exempt by virtue of the following exemptions

Section 24(2) – National Security

Section 31(3) – Law Enforcement

These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:

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

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

Overall Harm for Section 24 and Section 31

The threat of terrorism cannot be ignored. It should be recognised that the international security landscape is increasingly complex and unpredictable. The UK faces a sustained threat from violent terrorists and extremists. Since 2006 the UK Government have published the threat level based upon current intelligence and that threat level has remained at the second highest level ‘severe’, except for two short periods during August 2006 and June and July 2007, when it was raised to the highest threat ‘critical’ and July 2009, when it was reduced to ‘substantial’. The current threat level to the UK is ‘severe’.

The disclosure of the requested information would undermine individual forces policing capabilities which consequently would be detrimental to their ability to deal with the on-going terrorist threat we face. By proving the number of arrests specifically conducted by an individual force would allow comparison between forces across the country and enable terrorists to build a picture of what resources are in place and where they are deployed. In addition the disclosure of the number of terrorist threats received and the number of successful terrorist attacks in a force area, could suggest the level of resourcing a force has, as it may be deduced that a high number of attacks/threats equals a high level of resources. It is felt that the disclosure of this information would prejudice the effectiveness of the national counter terrorism effort and would allow inferences to be drawn about force lever counter-terrorism activity and identify vulnerability around the country.

Factors favouring disclosure for S24

The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and by disclosing this information the public would be able to see where money is being spent and know that forces are doing as much as they can to combat terrorism.

Factors favouring non-disclosure for S24

The disclosure of this information would render security measures less effective which would compromise ongoing or future operations to protect the security and infrastructure of the UK. The risk of harm to the public would be elevated if areas of the UK which appear vulnerable were disclosed which would also provide the opportunity for terrorist planning. Ongoing or future operations to protect the security and infrastructure of the UK would be compromised as terrorists could map the level of counter-terrorist activity across the country, providing them with the knowledge of individual force capability.

Factors favouring disclosure for S31

The disclosure of the information would make members of the public more aware of the threat of terrorism and allow them to take steps to protect themselves and families. Improved public awareness may lead to more intelligence being submitted to police about possible acts of terrorism as members of the public will be more observant to suspicious activity which in turn may result in a reduction of crime. The Home Office regularly publish national statistical data on terrorism arrests.

Factors favouring non-disclosure of S31

The disclosure of this information could compromise law enforcement tactics which would hinder the Police force’s ability to prevent and detect terrorist crimes. The threat of terrorism will increase as more crimes are committed as a result of terrorists gaining knowledge about the capabilities of individual forces and therefore the public will be placed at a greater risk. A fear of crime will be realised as terrorists identify vulnerable areas and target and exploit these areas resulting in the public being in fear of more terrorist activity occurring. In addition confirmation that there have been any successful terrorist attacks in a given area may lead to the residents taking matters into their own hands with regard to people they suspect of being involved in terrorism as they may feel the threat to be more imminent. There would be an impact on police resources from the disclosure of information relating to terrorist attacks and arrests, as vulnerable forces may need to increase their resources to reassure and protect the community.

Balance Test

The security of the country is of paramount importance. The police will not divulge any information that would place the safety of an individual at risk or undermine national security. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing, and in this case providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by terrorist activity, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in the highly sensitive subject of terrorism.

As much as there is a public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced in matters of national security this will be overridden in exceptional circumstances. Police force’s capabilities of combating terrorism are sensitive issues of intelligence value to the terrorist and therefore it is our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for disclosing the requested information is not made out.

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