Brexit Planning (16650_18)

Request

Please consider this request under the FOI Act for information generated after 1st April 2017 on the following topics:

 

– Any planning by the force for a no deal Brexit.

– Any planning by the force for other Brexit scenarios.

– Any planning for the period immediately before and after Brexit day itself (29th March 2019).

Response

Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) places two duties on public authorities. Unless exemptions apply, the first duty at Section 1(1)(a) is to confirm or deny whether the information specified in a request is held. The second duty at Section 1(1)(b) is to disclose information that has been confirmed as being held. Where exemptions are relied upon Section 17 of FOIA requires that we provide the applicant with a notice which a) states that fact b) specifies the exemption(s) in question and c) state (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemptions apply.

 

West Midlands Police neither confirms nor denies that it holds information relevant to this request by virtue of; Section 23(5) Information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters, Section 24(2) National security, Section 27(4) International relations, Section 31(3) Law enforcement and Section 38(2) Health and safety.

 

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

 

Section 23(5) is a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to articulate the harm, or consider the public interest findings, as to whether neither confirming nor denying information is held is appropriate.

 

In line with sections 24(2), 27(4), 31(3) and 38(2) above, I am required to evidence the harm (prejudice) in confirming or denying and consider the public interest. Please find this as follows:

 

Evidence of Harm

 

The UK’s exit from the EU is an incredibly complex and evolving situation. Assumptions cannot be made about what the European Commission / individual Member States and other third countries know about police contingency planning, UK vulnerabilities or potential negotiating positions across the full range of police related issues that are being discussed. It is therefore of vital importance that any information released into the public domain is done so only after careful assessment, and at the appropriate time, when UK government considers that it is unlikely to harm those negotiations or the UK’s interests abroad.

 

FOI is a public disclosure regime not a private one and information released under the Act is release to the world to confirm or deny whether information is or isn’t held in respect of contingency/emergency planning, impact assessments, etc., in preparation for leaving the EU, would reveal which forces have plans in place and which forces do not. Disparities between forces is a public interest consideration that is recognised, but does not swing the balance away from an NCND approach.

 

This knowledge would enable criminals and terrorists to geographically map force areas which are ‘vulnerable’ thereby rendering them easy targets this relates not only to terrorists but to organised crime groups and other criminals; anything that might relate to national security

 

The public expect police forces to use all powers and tactics available to them to prevent and detect crime or disorder and maintain public safety.

 

Public Interest Considerations

 

Section 24(2) National Security

 

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(1) 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 in relation to contingency planning by confirming or denying West Midlands Police would be held to account where large scale policing may be required to combat community unrest and terrorist activity.

 

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming or denying that information is held

 

Security measures are put in place to protect the community that we serve. As evidenced within the harm to confirm detail of specific contingency/emergency plans within individual force areas, would highlight to terrorists and individuals intent on carrying out criminal behaviour, planned policing tactics with regard to security and crime prevention techniques.

 

 

Section 27(4) International Relations

 

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

 

Irrespective of what information may or may not be held, confirming information is held would provide openness and transparency by highlighting that West Midlands Police is proactively engaging with Governmental Departments and other law enforcement agencies both at home and abroad as part of global crime prevention initiatives.

 

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming or denying that information is held

 

The importance of building and maintaining goodwill within international relations cannot be underestimated. By confirming or denying that West Midlands Police has received communications from other global law enforcement agencies relating to contingency plans for a no deal Brexit, would undermine the relationship and trust built up between police forces and international agencies.

 

Section 31(3) Law Enforcement

 

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

 

By confirming or denying whether West Midlands Police have contingency/emergency plans to target community unrest and disorder following a no deal Brexit would lead to better public awareness and reassurance which would assist public debate on this subject.

 

Factors favouring non-compliance with Section 1(1)(a)]

 

Public safety is of paramount importance and although the Civil Contingencies Act stipulates that the public should be advised of any impending danger, to do so at a time when the planning may or may not be in progress would undermine the tactical options available and compromise the effective delivery of operational law enforcement.

 

Section 38(2) Health and safety

 

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

 

Irrespective of what information is or isn’t held, confirmation would provide reassurance to the general public that West Midlands Police robustly research and plan policing events in association with Governmental Departments both within the United Kingdom and abroad to safeguard their wellbeing.

 

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming or denying that information is held

 

Confirming or denying that information exists could lead to the loss of public confidence in West Midlands Police’s ability to protect the wellbeing of the community.

 

Balancing Test

 

The points above highlight the merits of confirming or denying whether information pertinent to this request 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 contingency plans for a no deal Brexit may or may not have been compiled.

 

The Police Service will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so would place the safety of an individual at risk or undermine national security. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and investigations, providing assurance that the Police Service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat from criminals, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police operations when delivering effective operational law enforcement to ensure the prevention and detection of crime is carried out and the effective apprehension or prosecution of offenders is maintained.

 

This is also relevant in relation to information sharing among Governmental Departments and other law enforcement agencies both within the UK and abroad. Anything which places that confidence at risk would undermine the trust members of the public, as well as other agencies have in the Police Service.

 

As much as there is public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced in matters of national security, this will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances.

 

In addition any disclosure by West Midlands Police that places the security of the country at risk, no matter how generic, would undermine any trust or confidence individuals have in us.

Therefore, at this moment in time, it is my opinion that for these issues the balance test favours neither confirming nor denying that information exists.

 

No inference can be drawn from this refusal that information is or isn’t held.

 

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