Public Indecency (13336_18)

Request

  1. Details of every Outraging Public Indecency offence reported to West Midlands Police in 2017 and 2018 so far.

o          For each offence please supply the full incident log, as it was reported to West Midlands Police, with any identifiable aspects redacted (e.g. A man named as [REDACTED] was spotted masturbating outside a branch of Ladbrookes. The women who reported it chased the man down the road but he escaped).

o          For each offence, please also supply the post code in which the offence took place (if recorded), and the date of the report.

o          In order to comply with Section 31 (c) of the Freedom of Information Act, I am not asking for details of any offence that is awaiting or undergoing due process in the criminal courts. For these incidents, please confirm only that an offence has taken place, and the date of the offence in question.

  1. What action, if any was taken by the West Midlands Police (e.g. charge, arrest, no suspect identified, evidential difficulties etc) in relation to the offences described in Question 1?

Response

Please find attached our response.

 

Please note that these data should be interpreted with caution. Comparing numbers of incidents/crimes can be misleading and does not necessarily indicate the likelihood of someone being a victim of crime. In addition, the number of incidents/crimes recorded in an area over a period of time can be influenced by a number of factors. Consequently statistics on incidents/crimes for one period may not necessarily be a good indicator of future incidents in that area.

 

Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from a number of data sources used by forces for police purposes. The detail collected to respond specifically to your request is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when interpreting those data.

 

The figures provided therefore are our best interpretation of relevance of data to your request, but you should be aware that the collation of figures for ad hoc requests may have limitations and this should be taken into account when those data are used.

The withheld information is exempt by virtue of the following exemptions

 

Section 30 (1) Investigations

Section 40 (2) Personal Data

 

These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:

 

https://www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/information-management/freedom-of-information/#freedom-of-information-exemptions

 

In line with the above, I am required to complete a Prejudice Test/Public Interest Test (PIT) on disclosure.

 

Evidence of Harm

 

Inappropriate disclosure of information about an investigation can interfere with that

investigation by allowing suspects to change their behaviour, destroy evidence or prepare

alibis based on their knowledge of the information known by West Midlands Police.

 

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 on-going or subsequent court proceedings could be jeopardised where

release of information regarding an individual was identified.

 

Factors favouring 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.

 

Factors against 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.

 

It would not be in the public interest to provide information that may be of assistance to

offenders/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 release 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.

The issue of transparency is noted. However, on balance it is considered that the public

interest in providing the information exists is outweighed by the potential impact release

would have on individual’s privacy and on future investigations.

 

Although provision of the requested information might provide a greater transparency in

the investigating process, there are already a number of checks and balances on authorities

to assess whether investigations are conducted appropriately. There are legal processes in

place to ensure that all parties are given access to all the appropriate information at the

time of any trial and subsequently through court records. In addition if a person feels that

they have been treated inappropriately by the police there are clear processes in place to

ensure that matters are investigated thoroughly and appropriately.

 

Releasing information outside of such a schedule could undermine the smooth running of

these processes and would impact on future judicial proceedings. Therefore the wider

public interest lies in protecting the ability of the public authority to conduct an effective

investigation and consider the outcome.

 

Having considered the arguments for and against, the public interest test favours

withholding the information. West Midlands Police will not disclose information that could

reveal personal information or could compromise the future law enforcement role of the

force

 

Section 40(2) is an absolute and class based exemption if to release the information exists would breach the third party’s data protection rights.  In this case to release this personal information would not constitute fair processing of the data. As this exemption is class based I am not required to identify the harm in disclosure and in this instance I believe that the right to privacy outweighs any public interest in release.

Attachments

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