Can you tell me the total number of requests to use powers under Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) have been made over the last five years for your force.
Can you also tell me the total number of times RIPA requests were approved, how many were rejected, and how many times it was used over the last five years at your force.
Can you break down the figures per year.
Figures for Communications Data and Directed Surveillance are attached.
However I am not required by statute to release all of the information requested. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) for any other information regarding the number of requests for the use of powers under RIPA.
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.
All other information held is exempt by virtue of the following exemptions
Section 30 (1) (a) (b) and (2) (a) (i) investigations
These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:
In line with the above, I am required to complete a Prejudice Test/Public Interest Test (PIT) on disclosure.
Section 30 Public Interest Considerations
Factors favouring disclosure
There is information within the public domain confirming that police use RIPA to assist them with investigations and the effective delivery of law enforcement.
Disclosure would enhance the public’s knowledge about how information relating to RIPA is used by the Force and how the intelligence received assists in day to day investigations and operations to assist with the prevention and detection of crime; the apprehension and prosecution of offenders and the administration of justice.
Disclosure would also assist in stopping any incorrect rumours or falsehoods relating to how the police manage their RIPA applications.
Factors favouring non-disclosure
Disclosure of the information requested could identify intelligence required for the investigation of a crime within the force area. This would allow individuals to analyse the information and identify the focus of police activity, enabling those committing crime to move their operations, destroy evidence or go ‘underground’. This would hinder the prevention and detection of crime and consequently, the force’s law enforcement capabilities would be affected.
The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve and there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations to ensure investigations are conducted appropriately.
Modern-day policing is intelligence led and the Police Service share information with other law enforcement agencies as part of their intelligence gathering process. To disclose the requested information would hinder the prevention and detection of crime and undermine the partnership approach to investigations and law enforcement. Therefore, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test lies in favour of exempting the information.
In addition to the above response and attached file, West Midlands Police can neither confirm nor deny that it holds any other information relevant to your request as the duty in s1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply, by virtue of the following exemptions:
Section 23(5) Information relating to the Security bodies;
Section 24(2) National Security;
Section 30(3) Investigations;
Section 31(3) Law enforcement;
Section 23 is an absolute class-based exemption and therefore there is no requirement to conduct a harm or public interest test
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.
Section 30 is a qualified class-based exemption and there is a requirement to conduct a public interest test.
Every effort should be made to release information under FOI. However, to confirm or deny many of the police actions around RIPA and in particular specialist tactical areas, such as intrusive surveillance or the use of covert human intelligence sources would undermine on-going investigations, reveal policing techniques, risk the identification of individuals, the possibility of revealing involvement of any exempt bodies and the risk in undermining National Security.
Revealing information that specific tactics are used in certain circumstances (e.g. murder, kidnap, and drugs importation) would help subjects avoid detection, and inhibit the prevention and detection of crime. This could either lead to the identification of specific cases or in providing this level of information at force level is likely to result in significantly small authorisation numbers being published which presents a real risk of identifying the resources available to individual departments to covertly monitor groups or individuals likely to be committing offences under their remit
It is important that the Police Service discloses information regarding surveillance activity under RIPA where it is appropriate to do so but some authority information or specific covert law enforcement techniques are not disclosed for the above reasons. To do so would disclose tactical information to the detriment of those actual techniques. In any case due to the legal constraints under Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the RIPA legislation (interceptions) it may actually be a criminal offence to do so (under Section 19).
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.
It should be recognised that the international security landscape is increasingly complex and unpredictable. The UK faces 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.
Since 2006, the UK Government have published the threat level, based upon current intelligence and that threat has remained at the second highest level, ‘severe’, except for two short periods during August 2006 and June and July 2007, when it was raised to the highest threat ‘critical’. The current security level for England & Wales is set at Severe.
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 other information exists, other covert surveillance tactics will either be compromised or significantly weakened. If the Police Service denies a tactic is used in one request but then exempts for another, requesters can determine the ‘exempt’ answer is in fact a technique used in 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.
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 other information pertinent to this request exists could directly influence the stages of that process, and jeopardise current investigations or prejudice law enforcement.
Any information identifying the focus of policing activity could be used to the advantage of terrorists or criminal organisations. 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.
Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S24
The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and by confirming or denying that any other information relevant to the question exists could lead to a better-informed public that can take steps to protect themselves
Factors against confirmation or denial for S24
By confirming or denying that any other information relevant to the question exists would render Security measures less effective. This could lead to the compromise of ongoing or future operations to protect the security or infra-structure of the UK and increase the risk of harm to the public.
Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S31
By confirming or denying that any other information relevant to the question exists, would enable the public to see where public funds are being spent. Better public awareness may reduce crime or lead to more information from the public.
Factors against confirmation or denial for S30
By confirming or denying that any other information relevant to the question exists, law enforcement tactics could be compromised which could hinder the prevention and detection of crime. More crime could be committed and individuals placed at risk.
Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S30
By confirming or denying that any other information relevant to the question exists would enable the public to obtain satisfaction that all investigations are conducted properly and that their public money is well spent.
Factors against confirmation or denial for S30
By confirming or denying that any other information relevant to the question exists, would hinder the prevention or detection of crime, undermine the partnership approach to law enforcement , which would subsequently affect the force’s future law enforcement capabilities.
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 could undermine National Security or compromise law enforcement. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and in this case providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by the criminal fraternity, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in this area.
As much as there is public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced in matters of national security this will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances. Therefore it is our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for confirming or denying whether any other information relevant to your request exists is not made out.
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.
None of the above can be viewed as an inference that any other information does or does not exist.