Weapons in Schools (6837_15)

Request

1 Recorded crime where the primary location is ‘educational’ the Location field is school or school is mentioned in the MO notes and field ‘weapons used’ completed

2. The type of weapon used
3. The age and gender of the offenders and whether they were charged.
4. The name of the school

DECISION UNDER THE TERMS OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT

We can confirm that information is held by West Midlands Police. However, while some information is provided (see attached) I am afraid that 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 line by line data and the name of the school.

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 line by line data and the names of the schools involved. The information is exempt by virtue of the following exemptions

Section 40(2) Personal data
Section 30 (1) (a) (b) Investigations

These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:

http://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) (a) (b) Investigations

This 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 find this PIT below

Harm

The Freedom of Information Act makes it a legal requirement that an authority has to not only provide information, unless it is exempt, but to also confirm whether or not that information is held unless to do so would in itself provide exempt information.

In this case, while I can confirm that information is held, Section 30 (1) (2) of the Freedom of Information Act prevents it from being released. The release of information provided to authorities in confidence, may affect the public’s perception of the investigative process and make people more reluctant to report crime in the future. Under-reporting leads to an increase in undetected crime which has an adverse affect on the community. Therefore to allow a situation to occur whereby the details provided during reporting of an incident are routinely disclosed would likely to prejudice the ability of the public authority to carry out investigations.

Considerations Favouring Disclosure

Disclosing information about reported incidents involving crime in a particular school would provide greater transparency about what type of incidents are reported to the West Midlands Police where a school is involved. Disclosing information about investigations would provide a greater transparency in the investigating process and the actions of a public authority. It is clear that there is a public interest in public authorities operating in as transparent a manner as possible, as this should ensure they operate effectively and efficiently.

Considerations Favouring Non-Disclosure

The release of information provided to authorities in confidence, may affect the public’s perception of the investigative process and make people more reluctant to report crime in the future. This would impact on the level of service the police are able to provide to the local community.

Under-reporting leads to an increase in undetected crime which has an adverse affect on the community. Therefore to allow a situation to occur whereby the details provided during reporting of an incident are routinely disclosed would likely to prejudice the ability of the public authority to carry out investigations.

Conclusion

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.

I recognise that the public interest in being open and transparent is of great importance to all and release of information may assist in the public being more aware of the work that the police are carrying out. However, while the public interest considerations favouring confirmation or denial are noted, this must be balanced with the impact any response would have on the operational capability of the police.

Therefore it is my view protecting the ability of West Midlands Police to carry out investigations is greater importance than the advantage of public confidence from the disclosure of this information.

At this time, it would not be in the public interest to release this information. West Midlands Police will not disclose information that could harm the public or that could compromise the future law enforcement role of the police.

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Attachments

6837_ATTACHMENT_1

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