Female Homicide (3650_17)

Request

Please could you provide us with a list of all female victims of homicide killed between 1 January 2016 and 31 December 2016 which your authority has been responsible for investigating and, for each victim:

¿              the date of the homicide;

¿              the age of the victim;

¿              the ethnicity/race of the victim;

¿              the names of the victims and the accused;

¿              the relationship between the accused and the victim; and

¿              if identified, the way in which the victim was killed

Response

We can confirm that some relevant information is held by West Midlands Police.  I am afraid that I am not required by statute to release all of the information requested. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) information that is not already in the public domain ( please see attached document)

 

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 data that has not been released.

 

Offender data, where the data have not already been released, are exempt by virtue of Section 40 (2). When citing Section 40(2), there is a requirement to consider whether disclosure would breach one of the Data Protection Principles, and in this case the first principle of fairness would be breached. In these circumstances Section 40(2) is classed as absolute and there is no requirement to consider the public interest.

 

The information regarding victims is exempt by virtue of the following exemptions:

 

Section 30 (1) (a) (b) (c) (Investigations and Proceedings)

Section 38 (1) (a) (Health and safety)

Section 40 (2) (Personal Information)

 

These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:

 

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

 

In line with the above, I am required to complete a Prejudice Test/Public Interest Test (PIT) on disclosure. Please find this PIT below.

 

Harm

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. However this information contains information about a deceased person the release of which may have a negative impact on the family or friends of the deceased and other people involved and their families.

 

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. To place the information into the public domain under FOIA could undermine any current or future criminal investigation and seriously compromise the investigative process.  As a consequence any ongoing or subsequent court proceedings could be jeopardised and may result in an individual not being brought to justice.

 

It is also likely that actual or perceived breaches of confidentiality would adversely affect the public’s perception of the process and cause harm to the community as a whole. Victims’ details are provided to the police for the purposes of an investigation.  Disclosure into the public domain may make people more reluctant to report crime in the future.  Underreporting leads to an increase in undetected crime which has an adverse affect on the community.

 

Issues that favour disclosure

 

Accountability

When information disclosed relates directly to the efficiency and effectiveness of the force or its officers there is a public interest in its disclosure.  In respect of this request, the force and its officers are accountable to the public for their actions in respect of any investigations they undertake and any subsequent action that is taken.

 

Issues that favour non-disclosure

 

The force’s responsibility to any member of the public whose relatives are deceased

The public has a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the information that West Midlands Police holds about them or their family. This expectation applies as much to those who are alive as to those who are dead.

 

Efficient and Effective Conduct of the Service

There is an inherently strong public interest in public authorities carrying out investigations to prevent and detect crime. This ensures that offenders are brought to justice and that the necessary checks and balances are in place to safeguard public funds and resources. 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 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.

 

Public confidence

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. Therefore they should be assured that West Midlands Police would never release information that would breach confidentiality.

Inappropriate release of information would act as a deterrent to people to provide information to the force.  With this relationship impeded, it would be more difficult for the force to gather information required to perform its public service functions.  When information is provided to a police force on the understanding that it is confidential, e.g. when a statement is given to the police, the force is obliged to ensure that confidence is upheld.

 

Conclusion

 

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.

 

Although the issue of awareness is noted, on balance it is considered that the public interest in disclosing these data is outweighed by the potential impact release would have on the bereaved family and on the future reporting of crime.

 

It is reasonable to assume that any persons reporting a crime would not expect information that could indicate their involvement to be disclosed to others. West Midlands Police have a responsibility to treat dutifully all the information it holds, whether the information is about people who are alive or deceased.

 

Having considered the arguments for and against the release of the information requested the balance in the public interest test favours non-disclosure. West Midlands Police will not disclose information that could cause distress to individuals or that could compromise the future law enforcement role of the force.

 

Attachments

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