Protection of MP’s (12363/17)

Request

I am looking for statistics on the amount West Midlands Police have spent in the last three years, and so far this year on protecting members of parliament in the West Midlands.

1 – How much did West Midlands Police spend on police protection of members of parliament at their constituency surgeries in the last three years and so far this year (from January 2014 to December 2014, January 2015 to December 2015, January 2016 to December 2016 and January 2017 to October 2017)?  Please give separate figures for each year.

2 – In the last three years and so far this year (from January 2014 to December 2014, January 2015 to December 2015, January 2016 to December 2016 and January 2017 to October 2017) how many times has West Midlands Police been asked to provide visible policing outside an MP’s constituency surgery?

3 – At how many constituency surgeries in the West Midlands is this currently an ongoing request?

4 – How many complaints of abuse or intimidation has West Midlands Police received from MPs in the West Midlands in each of the last three years on record and so far this year – from January 2014 to December 2014, January 2015 to December 2015, January 2016 to December 2016 and January 2017 to October 2017. Please give separate figures for each year and apply a wide search criteria to include reports relating to all kinds of abuse or intimidation whether online (malicious communication) or in person (harassment, assault etc).

5 – In the last three years and so far this year (from January 2014 to December 2014, January 2015 to December 2015, January 2016 to December 2016 and January 2017 to October 2017) how many times has West Midlands Police been called out to an MP’s home relating to a report of abuse or intimidation of any kind? Please give separate figures for each year.

Response

This information is exempt by virtue of:

Section 24(2) – National Security
Section 31(3) – Law enforcement
Section 38(2) – Health & Safety

Overall Harm for Sections 24, 31 and 38

To confirm or deny that the force is/has or is not protecting certain individuals would enable those who sought to threaten the safety of such individuals to calculate who was most at risk and whom was in receipt of some type of protection.
The effect of this information being available to the applicant, and more importantly those who might wish to cause harm to those in receipt of protection, and these could include terrorists, criminals and fixated individuals, would be detrimental to those in receipt of protection. By highlighting issues relating to protection, would be placing in the public domain information which would be of benefit to those who intend to cause harm.
To ensure that those in receipt of protection are not subject to additional threat and to ensure the safety of the members of the public attending events, where these principals are present, would require a review and in all likelihood an increase in the number of protection officers employed and a full review of the protection arrangements. This would increase the costs to the public purse.

To confirm or deny that protection is afforded to any other individual, other than those which have been publicly stated previously, would have a negative effect on the safety of those being protected, should the release of information be used and manipulated to try and attack the protected individuals and establishments, for example through mapping protection across forces.

To confirm or deny that this protection exists may lead to an attack on establishments within locations where one force is viewed to lower costs per year on protection, as these locations may be viewed as a ‘weak/vulnerable target’ with less policing resources allocated to protection duties. Such an occurrence would harm individuals as well as result in the allocation of additional policing resources due to a FOI disclosure.

It remains the case that the publication of any information relating to an individual or a group of individuals who might or might not receive protection could potentially lead to harm to that individual or group, particularly if that information relates to the security arrangements for that individual(s) or formed any part of a protection package that might or might not be provided. Disclosure of these figures damages the need to ensure protection arrangements remain covert, purely in the interests of operational sensitivity.

It is important to note that the UK does face a serious and sustained threat from violent extremists and this threat is greater in scale and ambition than any of the terrorist threats in the past. Government reports suggest that at any one time the police and security agencies are contending with many terrorist plots, terrorist groups or networks and individuals who are judged to pose a threat to the well-being of the UK and or UK interests. While the plots may not necessarily all be directed at attacks on the protected individuals, the force bear in mind that an attack on members of government or significant individuals afforded protection would be of national significance to our country.

As previously explained above, in this current environment of an increased threat of terrorist activity, confirming or denying that information is held that could assist an extremist faction would undermine the safeguarding of national security.

The ICO guidance also states ‘safeguarding national security also includes protecting potential targets even if there is no evidence that an attack is imminent…the Commissioner also recognises terrorists can be highly motivated and may go to great lengths to gather intelligence. This means there may be grounds for withholding what seems harmless information on the basis that it may assist terrorists when pieced together with other information they may obtain.’

Based on this definition national security encompasses a wide spectrum and it is our duty to protect the people within the UK. Public safety is of paramount importance to the policing purpose and must be taken into account in deciding whether to disclose any requested information.

Public Interest Test

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S24

The information simply relates to national security and disclosure would not actually harm it. Confirming or denying that the information is held would allow individuals to contribute to more accurate public debate on matters that are of public relevance – in this case information pertinent to protection and the use of public funds.

Factors against confirmation or denial for S24

By confirming or denying any policing arrangements which refer to the personal protection of specific individuals would render security measures less effective.  Personal protection is provided to a number of people where it is in the national interest or where intelligence (information) suggests protection is necessary. Specific protection arrangements are applied in order to safeguard national security by ensuring that appropriate safety and security is provided to key figures such as the Queen and the Prime Minister. The disclosure of any other information would ultimately increase the risk of harm to those afforded personal protection and to the general public within that vicinity.

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S31

Confirming or denying whether information is held in relation to protection would allow the public to see where public funds are being spent.

Factors against confirmation or denial for S31

Confirming or denying that any information is held in relation to the security or protection of individuals would lead to law enforcement tactics being compromised which would ultimately hinder the prevention and detection of crime. Security arrangements and tactics are re-used and have been monitored by criminal groups, fixated individuals and terrorists. Protection is provided in a number of forms after careful evaluation of the threat and risks posed to those individuals by operational experts in this field of policing. By confirming or denying that information is held would create new media stories, leading to more in depth analysis relating to protection issues, which could allow those with a criminal intent to gain a greater insight. It therefore follows that anything that would negate the benefits of that protection would place individuals at risk. This would be the individuals receiving protection, the police officers providing the protection and any member of the public in the vicinity of the principal.

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S38

The public are entitled to know what areas of criminal activity the police service allocate public funds therefore by confirming or denying the provision of protection, would lead to better informed public awareness and debate. Confirmation or denial would assist communities to be more aware of the level of protection afforded to them.

Factors against confirmation or denial for S38

Confirming or denying that information is held in relation to the protection of any individual would have the effect of increasing the threat to those individuals who are in receipt of protection and in addition to those who do not receive protection and might therefore appear to be soft targets. The risks to individuals are significant as evidenced and there would be a loss of confidence in the police service to protect the well-being of the community. Furthermore, if an individual/group decides to counter the protection arrangements and target a principle, members of the public within the vicinity could be exposed to either physical or psychological harm.

Overall Balance Test

The security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police service will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so would place the safety of an individual in receipt of protection 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 area of terrorism prevention.

The public interest is defined not as what the public might find interesting but there must be some tangible benefit to the public in the disclosure of the interest. In this case the net result of publishing the information would be that a review would need to be conducted, plans changed to ensure that the threat level was effectively challenged and development of a new protection plan that would in all likelihood require additional resources to be provided and probably the extension of protection to those who had not been in receipt of it before the release of the requested information.

Security arrangements for MPs are taken very seriously and are kept under constant review by the police and the Parliamentary Security Department (PSD). In January this year, a new security package for MPs and additional funding from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) was introduced.

On June 20 2016, the Home Secretary hosted a meeting with the police, IPSA and the Parliamentary Security Department to which all MPs were invited to discuss security concerns following the horrific murder of Jo Cox.

After listening to the concerns of MPs and in the light of recent events, a number of changes have been made to existing and planned security measures to help make it simpler and clearer for MPs to access security advice and funding. This has been communicated to all MPs. It would not be appropriate to discuss the detail of these in public.

Security measures for Members will be kept under review, and the police continue to work to ensure that appropriate security measures are taken to protect elected representatives.

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