Officer alleged sexual offences or domestic violence(190A/23)
- How many cases of alleged sexual offences or domestic violence involving your forces police officers and other staff are currently under live investigation?
- How many of your forces police officers and other staff are currently under live investigation for alleged sexual offences or domestic violence?
- How many of your forces police officers and police staff have been sacked over the past five financial years (2023/2022, 2022/2021, 2021/2020, 2020/2019, 2019/2018) for misconduct related to sexual or domestic abuse?
- For context: On 16thJanuary 2023, it was reported that the Metropolitan Police announced that a total of 1,633 cases of alleged sexual offences or domestic violence involving 1,071 officers and other staff are being assessed.
On 18thJanuary 2023, the Met released a clarification. They said ‘assessed’ in this context meant a review of already completed cases from previous years, and these cases were not live ongoing investigations. The full clarification is explained in this link:
Is your force currently carrying out a review of completed cases of alleged sexual offences or domestic violence involving officers and other staff?
If yes, what number of cases of alleged sexual offences or domestic violence involving what number of your police force’s officers and police staff is your police force currently reviewing?
In relation to Question 1 and 2. West Midlands Police will neither confirm nor deny that we hold any of the requested information as the following exemptions apply.
Section 30(3) Investigations;
Section 31(3) Law Enforcement;
Section 38(2) Health and Safety
Section 40(5) Personal Information
These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:
When citing Section 40(5), there is a requirement to consider whether disclosure would be fair. In this case release would not be fair and therefore Section 40(5) is classed as absolute and there is no requirement to consider the public interest.
In line with the above, I am required to complete a Prejudice Test/Public Interest Test (PIT) on disclosure. Please find this PIT below.
In relation to Question 3 and 4 please see the attached.
We want our officers to uphold the highest of standards so the public has the utmost confidence in them.
Sexual harassment and abuse are simply unacceptable but when it is done by a police officer – who holds a position of power and someone the public should trust – it must be rooted out and eliminated.
We must do everything we can to maintain public confidence and trust in policing.
This will provide reassurance to the public that we mean it when we say we’ll do all we can to preserve and rebuild trust.
Public Interest Test
Evidence of Harm:
Domestic abuse affects people from all walks of life in many different ways and can include coercive behaviour, physical and sexual abuse. This is a very emotive subject and the Police Service strive to deal with all aspects of it which includes dealing with police officers who commit this type of offending. The College of Policing publish their Authorised Professional Practice on Domestic Abuse which provides guidance to the Police Service when dealing with this offending. Furthermore, some police forces publish their force policy on how Domestic Abuse affects police officers and police staff, which includes a section where the perpetrators of domestic abuse are police officers/staff members and what will happen in that instance.
Should an officer who is currently being investigated for allegations of domestic abuse, or any other allegations of offending, such as misconduct or potentially criminal proceedings, it would likely ensue that in some cases formal charges may be made. However, we also need to consider that not all allegations are proven and may not lead to a formal charge. To confirm or deny that information is held would highlight that officers are or are not currently subject to an investigation into offences of domestic abuse, sexual offending, abusive behaviour, etc. Such an awareness would also highlight to suspects that their victims have either reported their offending to West Midlands police or not which either way could lead to further offending against their victims causing physical and/or emotional trauma.
Irrespective of whether information is or isn’t held, ongoing investigations would also be compromised if the offender were made aware an investigation into their behaviour is ongoing which would enable steps to be taken by them to destroy evidence, or put more pressure on their victims through coercive abuse to ensure their allegations are dropped.
Public interest Considerations:
Section 30 – Factors favouring complying with section 1(1)(a) confirming or denying information is held
Confirming or denying whether information exists relevant to this request would lead to a better-informed general public by identifying that West Midlands police robustly investigate all aspects criminal offending, including allegations made against their own officers and staff members. This fact alone may encourage individuals to provide intelligence in order to assist with investigations and promote public trust in providing transparency and demonstrating openness and accountability into where the police are currently focusing their investigations.
Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a)
Confirmation or denial that information is held for questions 1 and 2 would suggest West Midlands police take their responsibility to appropriately handle and manage intelligence supplied to them flippantly.
Under FOI there is a requirement to comply with s1(1)(a) and confirm what information is held. In some cases, it is that confirmation, or not, which could disclose facts which would undermine the investigative process and in such cases t West Midlands police takes advantage of its ability under FOI legislation to, where appropriate, neither confirm nor deny that information is or is not held.
Irrespective of what information is or isn’t held, any information which could be used to undermine prosecutions, aid offenders to continue with their abuse, is not in the public interest.
Section 31 – Factors favouring complying with section 1(1)(a) confirming or denying information is held
Disclosure would provide transparency in the way police officers are dealt with when suspected of carrying out criminal offending such as domestic/sexual abuse offences and may improve public debate into the credibility of how West Midlands police deals with these allegations within the force. It would also serve to demonstrate that West Midlands police is open and accountable.
Factors favouring not complying with section 1 (1)(a) confirming or denying information is held:
To confirm or deny that information is held would risk undermining the investigative process whilst determining whether any member of staff is responsible for improper conduct; including whether or not an allegation of this nature leading to police intervention was proportionate under the circumstances.
West Midlands police has a duty of care to the community at large and public safety is of paramount importance. If an FOI disclosure revealed information to the world (by citing an exemption or stating no information held) that would undermine an investigation and place the safety of an individual at risk, this could be used to offenders’ advantage which would compromise any potential victims and public safety generally. It may also encourage offenders to carry out further crimes as detailed within the harm.
West Midlands police relies on information being supplied by the public. Irrespective of what information is or isn’t held in relation to questions 1 and 2, by applying substantive exemptions would indicate that information is held and there are currently ongoing investigations. Such action would act as a deterrent to the public to provide intelligence to the force which would further undermine public safety, with repercussions that could hinder the prevention or detection of crime.
Section 38(2) Health and Safety
Factors favouring complying with s1(1)(a) confirming information is held
Confirmation of whether information is or isn’t held would provide reassurance to the general public that West Midlands police take all allegations seriously. This awareness could be used to improve any public consultations/debates in relation to this subject and also allow the public to take steps to protect themselves.
Factors against complying with s1(1)(a) confirming or denying that information is held
Confirming or denying that information exists could lead to the loss of public confidence in West Midlands police ability to protect the wellbeing of the community.
West Midlands police has a duty of care towards the general public per se and to reveal information via an FOI request which would place the safety of individuals in danger, is not in the public interest.
The points above highlight the merits of confirming, or denying, whether any information pertinent to questions 1 and 2 exists. The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve. As part of that policing purpose, various operations may or may not be ongoing. The Police Service will never divulge whether or not information pertinent to these questions does or does not exist, if to do so would place the safety of an individual(s) at risk, compromise an ongoing investigation or undermine the policing purpose in the effective delivery of operational law enforcement.
Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and investigations particularly in relation to West Midlands police own police officers, providing reassurance that the Police Service is appropriately and effectively investigating current allegations of offending against West Midlands police officers, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding the health and safety of individuals. As much as there is a public interest in knowing that policing activity into allegations against its own police officers is appropriate and balanced it will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances.
Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test for confirming, nor denying that information is held for questions 1 and 2 is appropriate.