Acid Attacks (4355/17)

Request

  1. In relation to the (i) 2015 calendar year and (ii) the 2016 calendar year please state how many reports you have recorded where an individual has been assaulted with acid or another corrosive substance.
  2. For the last three recorded incidents in 2016 please provide me with a copy of the crime report with all identifying factors redacted so as to comply with S.40 of the FOI Act.Clarification

    Just the MO notes will be required for question 2.

Response

Please find attached our response.

4355_ATTACHMENT_02.pdf provides the number of offences involving Acid, Boiling Water and Cigarette-Burning for the required time periods.  These data are the closest we hold to your request and should be interpreted with caution. Comparing numbers of incidents/crimes can be misleading and does not necessarily indicate the likelihood of someone being a victim of crime. In addition, the number of incidents/crimes recorded in an area over a period of time can be influenced by a number of factors. Consequently statistics on incidents/crimes for one period may not necessarily be a good indicator of future incidents in that area.

Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from a number of data sources used by forces for police purposes. The detail collected to respond specifically to your request is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when interpreting those data.

The figures provided therefore are our best interpretation of relevance of data to your request, but you should be aware that the collation of figures for ad hoc requests may have limitations and this should be taken into account when those data are used.

If you decide to write an article / use the enclosed data we would ask you to take into consideration the factors highlighted in this document so as to not mislead members of the public or official bodies, or misrepresent the relevance of the whole or any part of this disclosed material.

With respect to question two, we can confirm that some relevant 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 a redacted document. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) for the parts of the document that have not been released.

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 redacted parts of the attached document. The information is exempt by virtue of the following exemptions

Section 40(2) – Personal Information

Section 30 (1) – Investigations and Proceedings

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

When citing Section 40(2), there is a requirement to consider whether disclosure would breach one of the Data Protection Principles, and in this case the first principle of fairness would be breached. In these circumstances Section 40(2) is classed as absolute and there is no requirement to consider the public interest.

Please find following detailed reasoning on the application of section 30 (1).

For further information and data on West Midlands Police see our publication scheme and disclosure log

http://foi.west-midlands.police.uk/

Your attention is drawn to your right to request a re-examination of your case under West Midlands Police review procedure, which can be found at:

http://foi.west-midlands.police.uk/reviews-and-appeals/

Please note that such an appeal must be received within 20 working days of the date of this correspondence. Any such request received after this time will only be considered at the discretion of the FOI Unit.

If you require any further information, then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Section 30 (3)

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 on-going or subsequent court proceedings could be jeopardised where release of information regarding an individual was identified.

Considerations that favour confirming or denying

Transparency

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. Providing details of 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.

 Accountability

There is a clear public interest in ensuring that public authorities do not act outside their authority by investigating matters which fall outside their remit. By making certain that public authorities provide information in relation to investigations, this should provide the necessary safeguards and satisfy the public interest in this matter.

Considerations against confirming or denying

Fair Treatment of an Individual or organisations

The interest of the public is best served by the non-disclosure of information which adversely affects the reputation of an individual e.g. whether they are involved in a police investigation.

Public Confidence

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 provide information that would breach confidentiality.

Law Enforcement

Where current or future law enforcement role of the force may be compromised by the release of information, then this is unlikely to be in the interest of the public.  In this case, for the reasons outlined above, providing detailed information regarding an investigation could jeopardise future police operations and compromise the future prevention and detection of crime.

Efficient and Effective Conduct of the Service

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.

Legal Proceedings

It would not be in the public interest to provide information that may be of assistance to offenders/prevent an individual from being brought to justice.  The right to a fair trial is of paramount importance and any disclosure which could enhance media attention prior to any proceedings could compromise an individual’s right to a fair trial under the Human Rights Act.

Balancing Test

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.

The issues of transparency and awareness are noted. However, on balance it is considered that the public interest in providing the redacted material is outweighed by the potential impact release would have on individual’s privacy and on future law enforcement activities.

Although releasing the information might provide a 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 public authority to conduct an effective investigation and consider the outcome.

Having considered the arguments for and against, the public interest test favours maintaining the exclusion of the duty to confirm or deny whether the information exists. West Midlands Police will not disclose information that could reveal personal information or could compromise the future law enforcement role of the force.

Attachments

4355_attachment_01

4355_attachment_02

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