How many current investigations into children’s care homes is your force involved in? “Children’s care homes” is defined as “provides care and accommodation wholly or mainly for children” (Section 1, Care Standards Act 2000).
Could you detail both the number of investigations and the number of homes this involves.
I am writing to inform you that we have searched our records and there are no current investigations into children’s care homes in West Midlands Police, therefore no information is held. It should be noted however that these data are dynamic and could change on a daily basis if cases are opened or closed.
In addition, West Midlands Police can neither confirm nor deny that it holds any other information as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply by virtue of the following exemptions:
Section 23(5) Information supplied by, or concerning, certain Security Bodies
Section 30(3) Investigations (by virtue of subsection 30(2))
Section 31(3) Law Enforcement (by virtue of subsection 31(1))
Section 23 is a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest in this case. Confirming or denying the existence of information held would contravene the constrictions laid out within Section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, in that this stipulates a generic bar on disclosure of any information supplied by, or concerning, certain Security Bodies.
Section 30 is a class based qualified exemption. There is a requirement to consider the public interest to ensure neither confirming nor denying that information is held is appropriate.
Section 31 is a prejudice based qualified exemption which means the evidence of harm ‘prejudice’ needs to be evidenced and the public interest considered to ensure neither confirming nor denying information is held is appropriate.
Harm in Confirming or Denying that Information is held (Section 31)
Any release under the Freedom of Information Act is a disclosure to the world, not just to the individual making the request. To confirm or not that information is held with regards to currently active investigations by West Midlands Police into children’s care homes, would be inappropriate as it would reveal actual policing activity.
In this case it is identified that the impact of confirming or denying information is held has potential to undermine ongoing investigations. In addition, the partnership approach between national agencies and law enforcement agencies would also be compromised which would affect the effective delivery of operational law enforcement by all partnerships involved in an investigation.
If this request was received nationally, confirming or denying that information exists would reveal a national activity schedule for investigations into children’s care homes and could lead to offenders destroying evidence to avoid apprehension and going ‘underground’ by moving to another area which they feel would be ‘safer’ to carry out their offending behaviour. This would ultimately place the safety of individuals at an increased risk.
Public Interest Considerations
Factors favour complying with Section 1(1)(a)
The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve. Confirming that information exists could promote public trust in providing transparency and demonstrating openness and accountability into where the police are currently focusing their investigations. It could also provide reassurance to the public that West Midlands Police conduct investigations appropriately. Confirmation may allow the public to have a better understanding of the effectiveness of the Police Service.
Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a)
Modern-day policing is intelligence led and West Midlands Police share information with other law enforcement agencies as part of their investigative process. To confirm or not where investigations into children’s care homes are active, could hinder the prevention and detection of crime as well as undermine the partnership approach to investigations and law enforcement.
Should offenders take evasive action to avoid detection police resources may well be diverted from frontline duties and other areas of policing in order to locate and apprehend these individuals. In addition the safety of individuals and victims would be compromised.
Public safety and the ability to deliver effective law enforcement are of paramount importance. Confirmation or denial (by citing an exemption or stating no information held) would undoubtedly compromise both law enforcement and the health and safety of an individual. Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balancing test against confirming whether information is or isn’t held is not made out.
No inference can be taken from this refusal that the information you have requested does or does not exist.