I am writing to request anonymous information about recorded racially or religiously motivated hate crime offences that have been reported and recorded by your constabulary between 1st January 2012 and 31st December 2015. In particular, I am interested in a breakdown of these offences according to the primary offence category and the number of these offences which were linked to far-right activism, political demonstrations or other extreme right-wing events or membership.
West Midlands Police is determined to support people who suffer as a result of hate incidents and actively encourage people to report them. We will not tolerate crimes of hate and prioritise local engagement with those communities who feel vulnerable. We did not see a significant rise in hate crime in the days immediately following the referendum result but the situation is being carefully monitored. We have had some incidents and events that are being treated seriously and investigated.
We can confirm that information is held by West Midlands Police. However, while some 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 find attached. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) for the information not provided
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 redacted parts of the attached document]. The information is exempt by virtue of the following exemptions
Section 40 (2) Personal Data
Section 30 (1) Investigations
These exemptions 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. Please find this PIT attached
Section 40(2) allows for personal data to be withheld where release would breach the third party’s data protection rights. It would be unfair to release this information where any person could be identified from the data and in this case the right to privacy outweighs any public interest in release.
In line with Section 30 above, I am required to complete a Public Interest Test on disclosure. Please find this as follows:
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. As a consequence, any ongoing or subsequent court proceedings could be jeopardised where release of information regarding an individual was identified.
Considerations that favour disclosure
Disclosing information about investigations would provide a greater transparency in the investigating process and the actions of a public authority. 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.
Considerations that favour non-disclosure
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. The Police Service needs 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.
It would not be in the public interest to release information that may interfere with court proceedings or prevent an individual from being brought to justice. The right to a fair trial is of paramount importance and any disclosure which could enhance media attention prior to any proceedings could compromise an individual’s right to a fair trial under the Human Rights Act.
For a public interest test, issues that favour disclosure 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.
I 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. However, while the public interest considerations favouring disclosure are noted, this must be balanced with the impact any release would have on individuals’ privacy and future law enforcement activities.
Having considered the arguments for and against disclosure, it is my view that the public interest test favours withholding the exempt information.
At this time, it would not be in the public interest to release this information. West Midlands Police will not disclose information that could reveal personal information or could compromise the future law enforcement role of the force.