Expenditure Statement (503_14)
Statement of Expenditure Under FOIA 2000, please can you provide me with:
Your “statement of expenditure” relating to incentive payments made under the Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme submitted to the Home Office for the financial year 2013/14. These were sent to Walter da Costa by police forces and bodies in the summer of 2014.
Please provide this information electronically and in a spreadsheet not a pdf. If you need any clarification then please email me.
Under your section 16 duty to provide advice and assistance I would expect you to contact me if you find this request unmanageable in any way so we can negotiate how best to proceed.
We can confirm that 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 see attached. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) for the breakdown of the amount of payments paid for individual initiatives, operations and training.
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 withheld information. The information is exempt by virtue of the following exemption
Section 31 (1) (a)
This exemption and explanatory notes are shown here:
In line with the above, I am required to complete a Prejudice Test/Public Interest Test (PIT) on disclosure.
The information withheld provides specific amounts paid for specific initiatives undertaken by West Midlands Police and their partner agencies. This work could relate to sensitive work, operations and training in specific areas.
To put this information into the public domain would provide knowledge of the use of certain law enforcement techniques and level of resources allocated to them. This information could undermine policing operations and would allow criminals to be more effective in avoiding detection and/or prosecution by altering their behaviour to counter the law enforcement response.
Therefore the information has the potential to assist those considering major crimes, which could lead to significant harm to members of the public and to the security of the country.
Considerations favouring release of the information
Disclosing this information would provide greater transparency in policing and the actions of a West Midlands Police. 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.
Police officers need to be properly equipped in order to meet the demands placed upon them. This information could go some way towards reassuring the public that the police service is prepared and effective and that public money i.e proceeds from criminal activity is being spent appropriately.
Considerations favouring withholding the information
Releasing this information into the public domain would compromise the current and future law enforcement role of the force. It would likely allow offenders to change their tactics in order to avoid detection and prosecution.
Where the 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 information on specific techniques and security measures would hinder the prevention and detection of crime.
There is an inherently strong public interest in public authorities carrying out investigations to prevent and detect crime. 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 investigate crime effectively and ensure that offenders are brought to justice. To release this information would provide offenders with an operational advantage over the WMP.
In considering the public interest in relation to Section 31(1) I have balanced the factors in relation to transparency and accountability against the public interest in ensuring that West Midlands Police are able to appropriately enforce the law and ensuring that offenders are prosecuted.
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.
We recognise that the public interest in being open and transparent is of great importance to all and release of information may assist in the public being more aware of the work that the police are carrying out. Where information does not impact on any future possible investigation, or where the detriment is not large, there is a public interest in providing information to ensure greater transparency.
However, while the public interest considerations favouring disclosure are noted, this must be balanced with the impact any release would have on the operational capability of the police. With respect to the release of this information it is considered that the wider public interest lies in protecting the ability of WMP to protect the public and enforce the law without compromising any investigation or law enforcement technique.
The Freedom of Information Act is applicant blind. This means that if we were to accede to the request, we would be obliged to make this information available to everyone. It has been well documented that criminals will use every advantage they can gain to successfully carry out their criminality. In this case this could encourage further offences to be committed by allowing criminals to counteract police measures by accurately predicting them.
Having considered the arguments for and against release, the public interest test favours non-release of material which directly impacts on West Midlands Police, future operations and investigations. The greater public interest is served in maintaining the integrity of the justice process, and this in turn favours maintaining the exemption in relation to the withheld material. West Midlands Police will not disclose information that could compromise the safety of the public or the future law enforcement role of the force.
In addition to the above, WMP 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 exemption:
Section 23(5) Information Supplied by, or concerning, certain Security Bodies
Section 23 and is a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest in this case.