Arrest Warrants (13220_17)

Request

Under the Freedom of Information Act (2000), I would like to request the following information:

The number of outstanding arrest warrants issued for suspects connected to crimes in Wolverhampton

 

Of these, please list the 20 arrest warrants which have been outstanding for the longest period of time (the ones with the earliest issue date)

 

For each of these, please state:

  1. The alleged crime(s) the suspect is wanted in connection with
  2. The date the warrant was issued
  3. The date the alleged crime took place
  4. The location the alleged crime took place in
  5. The name, DOB and address of the suspect

Response

We can confirm that 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. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) for the information not provided

 

West Midlands Police actively update, publish and make available information in relation to current active campaigns.

 

These can be viewed via the following website.

 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/westmidlandspolice/albums

 

This provides the public with direct access to current up-to-date information which will help to locate those offenders who are wanted or missing.  The decision to place this material into the public domain is made by the officer in charge (OIC) of the case where they believe that it will help bring that (alleged) offender to justice.

 

Where publication of this material would not help to bring that offender to justice it is not published on this site.  I am exempting this material – that is the information that is not already in the public domain – as I consider that the exemptions 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 exemption:

 

Section 40 (2) Personal Information

Section 30 (1) Investigations and Proceedings conducted by Police Authorities.

 

This exemption and explanatory notes are shown here:

 

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

 

Section 40 (2) allows for personal data to be withheld where release would breach the third party’s data protection rights. It would be unfair to release this information where release would not achieve a policing purpose (i.e. lead to their arrest).

 

Section 30 (1)(a) is a qualified and class based exemption and thus a consideration of the public interest must be provided upon disclosure. Please see the reasoning below.

 

Harm

 

West Midlands Police (WMP) wants to encourage the public to be open and truthful without fear that information they provide will be released into the public domain.

 

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.


Releasing information collected during the course of an investigation should always be handled sensitively because providing information gathered as part of an investigation could potentially risk identifying specific incidents and victims.  To reveal our intelligence could highlight to potential offenders that they are under investigation. We would not want to reveal intelligence to offenders which would enable them to change their method of operation to avoid detection.

 

Victims should be assured that their safety is of paramount concern and that WMP would not put information out into the public domain that may lead to harm.

 

Considerations that favour disclosure – Section 30

 

There is a clear public interest in ensuring that authorities are investigating important matters. Releasing information held in relation to investigations would confirm to the public that the police are investigating appropriately.

There is a public interest in authorities acting in as transparent a manner as possible. It is important that the public are kept informed of investigations that affect them and are allowed to make decisions based upon relevant information. Where members of the public may be able to identify the location of offender, and thereby help bring them to justice, there is a strong public interest in releasing the information into the public domain.

 

The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and the release of this information shows the extent of the measures that are being taken in this area.

 

Considerations against disclosure – Section 30

 

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.

 

Where a current investigation may be compromised by the release of information, it is unlikely to be in the interest of the public. Releasing specific intelligence into the public domain may alert offenders to our knowledge of their activities, if an offender was identified by any release of information it may jeopardise court proceedings and compromise the future prevention and detection of crime.

 

The public must be confident that WMP are committed to ensuring that information provided during the course of an investigation will only be used for relevant purposes. We do not want to discourage the reporting of crime, or discourage openness and transparency.

 

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 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.

 

West Midlands Police would never release information that would compromise an ongoing investigation or interfere with the future law enforcement role of the force. Furthermore the prevention of crime is a key role of the police and the release of information that may compromise the safety of individuals which is not in the interests of the public.

 

To releasing information such as this would 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.

 

Therefore, on balance, it is considered that the public interest in providing the information is outweighed by the potential impact release would have on individuals, the community and future law enforcement activities.

The FOI Act places a number of legal constraints upon us and therefore this letter answers only those obligations. Disclosure under FOI is disclosure into the public domain without restriction.  In some circumstances information can be made available for specific purposes and would not be subject to these constraints. Therefore, you may wish to contact our corporate communications team who may be able to provide further information in relation to this subject outside of the Freedom of Information Act.

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