Since 1 April 2013 have any police officers and/or members of police staff employed by your force, during the course of their duties/roles/responsibilities, delivered counter-terrorism security advice to any museum or art gallery? Please answer `Yes’ or `No’?
West Midlands Police will neither confirm nor deny that we hold any of the requested information. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act).
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 West Midlands Police will neither confirm nor deny the existence of any relevant data by virtue of
Section 31(3) Law Enforcement
Section 24(2) National Security
These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:
Sections 24, and 31 are prejudice based qualified exemptions and there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or not that the information is held as well as carrying out a public interest test, please see below.
Overall harm for the NCND
The threat from terrorism cannot be ignored. It should be recognised that the international security landscape is increasingly complex and unpredictable. The UK faces a sustained threat from violent terrorists and extremists. The current threat level to the UK is ‘severe’.
The security of the country is of paramount importance and West Midlands Police force 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 posed by a terrorist attack, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in the highly sensitive areas of which they work.
Modern-day policing is intelligence led, and intelligence changes on a day-by-day basis.
Confirming or denying whether any information is held relevant to the request would show where policing interest has or has not occurred in any specific area which would enable those engaged in criminal activity to identify the focus of policing targets. Any information identifying the focus of this activity could be used to the advantage of terrorists or criminal organisations to plan an attack on the more vulnerable parts of the UK.
Information that undermines the operational integrity of these activities will adversely affect public safety and have a negative impact on both national security and law enforcement.
The Police Service is committed to demonstrating proportionality and accountability regarding surveillance techniques to the appropriate authorities. However, if the Police Service were to either confirm or deny that any information exists, covert surveillance tactics will either be compromised or significantly weakened. If the Police Service denies surveillance is used in one request but then exempts for another, requesters can determine the ‘exempt’ answer is in fact that surveillance has been used in that area of policing. The impact could undermine national security, any on-going investigations and any future investigations, as it would enable targeted individuals/groups to become surveillance aware. This would help subjects avoid detection, and inhibit the prevention and detection of crime. Even though the request is only asking for statistical information, by confirming or denying the number of terrorists that are under surveillance would highlight to those criminals that they could be under investigation which would allow them to change tactics, destroy evidence or move their operations to another part of the country
The prevention and detection of crime is the foundation upon which policing is built and the police have a clear responsibility to prevent crime and arrest those responsible for committing crime or those that plan to commit crime. To do this the police require evidence and that evidence can come from a number of sources, some of which is obtained through covert means. Having obtained sufficient evidence offenders are charged with offences and placed before the courts. By confirming or denying that any information pertinent to this request exists could directly influence the stages of that process, and jeopardise current investigations or prejudice law enforcement.
In order to counter criminal and terrorist behaviour it is vital that the police and other agencies have the ability to work together, where necessary covertly, in order to obtain intelligence within current legislative frameworks to ensure the successful arrest and prosecution of those who commit or plan to commit acts of terrorism. In order to achieve this goal, it is vitally important that information sharing takes place with other police forces and security bodies within the UK and Internationally in order to support counter-terrorism measures in the fight to deprive international terrorist networks of their ability to commit crime.
Public Interest Test
Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S24
Confirmation or denial that information exists relevant to the request would lead to a better informed public. The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent especially with regards to safeguarding national security
Factors against confirmation or denial for S24
By confirming or denying that any information exists relevant to the request would harm the close relationship that exists between West Midlands Police force and other organisations. To confirm or deny whether the force hold any information relevant to the request 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 would enable terrorists or organized criminal groups to take steps to counter intelligence, 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 infrastructure of the UK and increase the risk of harm to the public.
Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S31
By confirming or denying whether any information is held in respect to this request would allow the public to see where public funds are being spent. Better public awareness may reduce crime or lead to more information from the public as they would be more observant in reporting suspicious activity.
Factors against confirmation or denial for S31
By confirming or denying whether information is held in respect to this request, law enforcement tactics would be compromised which would hinder the prevention and detection of crime. This would result in more risk to the public and consequently require the use of more police resources.
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 West Midlands Police force will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so would place the safety of an individual at risk, compromise law enforcement or undermine National Security.
Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and providing assurance that West Midlands Police force is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat from terrorists, 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.
There is also no requirement to satisfy any public concern over the legality of police operations and the tactics we may or may not use. The force is already held to account by independent bodies such as The Office of the Surveillance Commissioner and The Interception of Communications Commissioners Office. These inspections assess each constabulary’s compliance with the legislation and a full report is submitted to the Prime Minister and Scottish Ministers containing statistical information. Our accountability is therefore not enhanced by confirming or denying that any other information is held.
It is for these reasons that the Public Interest must favour neither confirming nor denying that the requested information is held. However, this should not be taken as necessarily indicating that any information that would meet your request does or does not exist.