Firearms Invoices (5751/18)

Request

Under the FOI I would like a copy of all invoices relating to the purchase of firearms during the last calendar year from the date of this request (02/05/18)

Response

This information is exempt by virtue of:

S24(1) National Security

S31(1)(a)(b) Law Enforcement

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) for Section 24 and Section 31 on disclosure. Please see below.

Overall Harm for Section 24 and Section 31

Harm

To disclose the amount the force spends on the purchase of firearms would undermine individual forces policing capabilities which consequently would be detrimental to their ability to protect the public and prevent crime. By confirming or denying that information is held by an individual force would allow comparison between forces across the country and it would enable the criminal fraternity to build a picture of what resources are in place. Consequently, this would prejudice the effectiveness of the police service as it would allow inferences to be drawn about force level capability and would identify vulnerability around the country.

Factors favouring disclosure of the information S24

The public are entitled to know what public funds are spent on and what security measures are in place, and by confirming or denying the requested information would lead to a better-informed public.

Factors favouring non-disclosure of the information S24

To disclose this information would render security measures less effective which would compromise ongoing or future operations to protect the security and infrastructure of the UK. The risk of harm to the public would be elevated, if areas of the UK which appear vulnerable were identified which would also provide the opportunity for terrorist planning. This would lead to the compromise of ongoing or future operations to protect the security or infra-structure of the UK.

Factors favouring disclosure of the information S31

By providing the requested information regarding the purchase of firearms would provide an insight into the Police Service. This would enable the public to have a better understanding of the effectiveness of the police service.  It would greatly assist in the quality and accuracy of public debate, which could otherwise be steeped in rumour and speculation. Where public funds are being spent, there is a public interest in accountability and justifying the use of public money.

Factors favouring non-disclosure of the information S31

By applying exemptions to the requested information inhibiting its disclosure would prevent law enforcement tactics from being compromised and would retain the Police force’s ability to prevent and detect terrorist crimes. It is given that the threat of terrorism will increase as more crimes are committed as a result of terrorists gaining knowledge about the capabilities of individual forces and therefore the public will be placed at a greater risk, however, by exempting the information those with the inclination to commit acts of terrorism will not have knowledge regarding the vulnerability of specific areas and therefore the increase of threat will be prevented and a fear of crime will not be realised as terrorists will not know which areas to target and exploit .

In addition, disclosure of the information would have an adverse impact upon police resources as forces that could be perceived as vulnerable may need to increase their resources to reassure and protect the community.

It has been recorded that FOIA releases are monitored by criminals and terrorists and so to release the information would lead to law enforcement being undermined and would hinder the prevention or detection of crime. The Police Service would not wish to undermine the law enforcement and investigative process as this would place individuals at risk.

Balance Test

To indicate levels of policing activity in particular areas of the country, which could allow individuals to exploit what may be considered as less active or resourced areas, by assessing patterns of police activity and deployments over time, ultimately to avoid detection.
The security of the country is of paramount importance. The police will not divulge any information that would place the safety of an individual at risk or undermine national security. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing, and in this case, providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by terrorist activity, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in the highly sensitive subject of terrorism.

As much as there is a public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced in matters of national security, this will be overridden in exceptional circumstances. A police force’s capabilities of combatting terrorism is a sensitive issue with intelligence value to terrorists and therefore, it is our opinion that for these issues, the balancing test for this information is not made out.

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