Rape Offences (ref 1398/16)
1. How many rapes (including allegations of rape) have been reported across your force over the last three years?
Please provide the information in calendar years (January-December, for i)2013 ii)2014 and iii)2015)
This request relates to the year in which the rape was reported to your force, even if this took place at an earlier time. The information requesting all relates to crimes and/or allegations that have been reported, regardless of whether the crime has been solved.
2. For each year separately (the same years as above), please break down by the location where the incident was alleged to have taken place.
For instance, private home, train, school, park, nightclub etc. ¿ depending on how your force logs this information.
We can confirm that the information is held by West Midlands Police. However, while the majority of the information is provided below I am afraid that I am not required by statute to release all of the information requested. Please find attached a redacted document.
This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) for the parts of the document that have not been released.
Please note that the redacted locations are included at the end of the table. They have not been grouped into an ‘other’ category, as this category already exists on our systems.
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 a small number of location descriptions. The information is exempt by virtue of the following exemptions
Section 30 (1) (a) (Investigations)
Section 40 (2) (Personal Information)
These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:
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 the above with respect to Section 30, I am required to complete a Public Interest Test (PIT) on disclosure. Please find this PIT below.
Providing information gathered as part of an investigation could potentially risk identifying specific incidents and victims. Victims should be assured that their safety is of paramount concern and that WMP would not put information out into the public domain that may lead to them being identified.
Releasing information provided by the public, collected during the course of an investigation should always be handled sensitively. Release into the public domain of information provided by or about individuals may affect the public’s perception of the investigative process and make people more reluctant to report crime in the future. Under-reporting leads to an increase in undetected crime which has an adverse effect on the community. West Midlands Police (WMP) wants to encourage the public to be open and truthful without fear that information they provide will be released into the public domain.
Furthermore if an offence has not yet been detected it is possible that releasing this information would give offenders useful information on police activity. We would not want to reveal intelligence to offenders which would enable them to evade justice or change their method of operation to avoid detection.
Considerations that favour disclosure – Section 30
There is a clear public interest in ensuring that authorities are investigating important matters. Releasing information held in relation to investigations would confirm to the public that the police are investigating appropriately.
There is a public interest in authorities acting in as transparent a manner as possible. It is important that the public are kept informed of investigations that affect them and are allowed to make decisions based upon relevant information.
The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and the release of this information shows the extent of the measures that are being taken in this area.
Considerations against disclosure – Section 30
Where a current investigation may be compromised by the release of information, it is unlikely to be in the interest of the public. Releasing specific intelligence into the public domain may alert offenders to our knowledge of their activities. If an offender was identified by any release of information it may jeopardise court proceedings and compromise the future prevention and detection of crime.
Conversely, if a location was not on the list, an offender may be able to ascertain that their activities were undetected. Therefore they may be encouraged to commit more offences.
The public must be confident that WMP are committed to ensuring that information provided during the course of an investigation will only be used for relevant purposes. Release into the public domain of information provided by or about an individual may affect the public’s perception of the investigative process and make people more reluctant to report crime in the future. We do not want to discourage the reporting of crime, or reduce the trust required for openness and transparency. This would impact on the level of service the police are able to provide to the local community.
Victims and witnesses would be deterred from reporting crimes if they believed that it could be released into the public domain at a future date. Under-reporting leads to an increase in undetected crime which has an adverse effect on the community. Therefore to allow a situation to occur whereby details of encounters and/or statements concerning individuals have taken place are routinely disclosed would be likely to prejudice the ability of the public authority to carry out investigations.
The issues of accountability and transparency are noted. However, West Midlands Police would never release information that would compromise an on-going investigation or interfere with the future law enforcement role of the force. Furthermore the prevention of crime is a key role of the police and the release of information that may compromise the safety and well-being of victims is not in the interests of the public.
Therefore to provide the location for the small number of locations that have been withheld would not add to the public’s knowledge sufficiently to warrant the possible compromise of the police role.
Therefore, on balance, it is considered that the public interest in providing the information is outweighed by the potential impact release would have on victims, the community and future law enforcement activities.