Under the provision of the Freedom of Information Act could you please supply me with the following information.
What is the amount that was paid to Police Informants (covert human intelligence sources) by the West Midlands Police during the following periods.
April 2013 – March 2014
April 2014 – March 2015
April 2015 – March 2016
01/04/13 to 31/03/14 -183,152
01/04/14 to 31/03/15 – 161,415
01/04/15 to 31/03/16 – 193,698
Additionally, West Midlands Police can neither confirm nor deny that it holds any other information with regard to an exempt body 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 24 (2) National Security
Section 23 is a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest in this case.
Section 24 is a prejudice based qualified exemption and there is a requirement to consider the public interest in this case.
Disclosure of informants data could impact on the recruitment and retention of CHIS in general, due to the perception of (rather than the actual) risk of identification. In an Information Tribunal case relating to the payments made to CHIS in Croydon (EA/2010/0006), it was accepted that this argument applied as much to CHIS providing intelligence in relation to national security concerns as to CHIS engaged in countering more traditional criminal threats. In this way, the disclosure of the requested information would damage national security through discouraging current national security CHIS from cooperating with the police service in other geographical areas, or preventing the recruitment of national security CHIS in the future – regardless of whether the area in question actually currently runs CHIS reporting on serious crime, terrorist or other threats.
Public Interest test
Factors favouring confirming or denying that any other information is held for Section 24
Confirmation or denial that any other information exists relevant to the request would lead to a better informed public and the public are entitled to know how public funds are spent. The information simply relates to national security and disclosure would not actually harm it.
Factors against confirming or denying that any other information is held for Section 24
Other organisations outside the police service are also widely engaged in rewarding informants in a number of ways, and therefore by confirming or denying that any other information exists relevant to the request would harm the close relationship that exists with such organisations, where trust and confidence in this specific area has been built up in the exchange of information and financial assistance during the Criminal Justice process.
To confirm or deny whether West Midlands Police hold any additional information would allow inferences to be made about the nature and extent of national security related activities which may or may not take place in a given area. This could enable terrorist groups to take steps to avoid detection, and as such, confirmation or denial would be damaging to national security
By confirming or denying any policing arrangements of this nature would render national security measures less effective. This would lead to the compromise of ongoing or future operations to protect the security or infra-structure of the UK and increase the risk of harm to the public.
Balance test for Section 24
The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve. The security of the country is of paramount importance and 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 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 investigations and operations in this highly sensitive area. 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.
It is therefore our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for confirming or not that information is held is not made.
By its very nature information held relating to informants is sensitive in nature. Under FOI there is a requirement to comply with S1(1)(a) and confirm what information is held. In some cases it is that confirmation, or not, which could disclose facts harmful to informants. In some cases there mere existence can place individuals in grave danger. The only methodology which will provide the required degree of protection to those individuals is if the force takes advantage of its ability under FOI legislation to, when appropriate, not confirm or deny that the information requested, is or is not held. The Police Service will never disclose information which could identify investigative activity and therefore undermine their investigations. To do so would hinder the prevention or detection of crime.
Informants play a vital role in assisting the police and the process is based very much on relationships built on trust and the expectation of complete confidentiality. West Midlands Police would never disclose information which would compromise our tactics
It is therefore our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for confirming or not that information is held, is not made
This should not be taken as an inference that there is or is not any further information to that which has been disclosed to you in responding to this request