- How many individuals are known to be living in the West Midlands suspected of at least one or more of the below crimes in Rwanda in 1994:
– Genocide or crime against humanity (Home Office code 1/1) (International Criminal Court Act 2001 Sec 51 & 53)
– Attempted genocide or crime against humanity (Home Office code 2) (International Criminal Court Act 2001 Sec 52. 53 & 55)
– Conspiring, aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring or inciting commission of genocide or crime against humanity (Home Office code 3/2) (International Criminal Court Act 2001 Sec 52, 53 & 55)
– Concealing commission of genocide or crime against humanity (Home Office code 3/3) (International Criminal Court Act 2001 Sec 52, 53 & 55)
Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) places two duties on public authorities. Unless exemptions apply, the first duty at Section 1(1)(a) is to confirm or deny whether the information specified in a request is held. The second duty at Section 1(1)(b) is to disclose information that has been confirmed as being held. Where exemptions are relied upon Section 17 of FOIA requires that we provide the applicant with a notice which a) states that fact b) specifies the exemption(s) in question and c) state (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemptions apply.
West Midlands Police (WMP) neither confirms nor denies that it holds information relevant to this request by virtue of Section 23(5) Information supplied by or concerning certain Security Bodies; Section 24(2) National Security; Section 27(4) International Relations; Section 30(3) Investigations; Section 31(3) Law Enforcement and Section 40(5) Personal Information
Section 23 is an absolute class-based exemption and there is no requirement to conduct a harm or public interest test.
Sections 24, 27, and 31 are prejudice based qualified exemptions and there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or denying that any other information is held as well as carrying out a public interest test.
Section 30 requires a public interest test only.
Harm for the partial NCND
As you may be aware, disclosure under FOIA is a release to the public at large. Whilst not questioning the motives of the applicant, confirming or denying that any information is held by forces would show areas of police vulnerability.
Although there is some information within the public domain regarding war criminals (see below link) any release under FOIA is a disclosure to the world, not just to the individual making the request.
Police forces work in conjunction with other agencies and information is freely shared in line with information sharing protocols. Modern day policing is intelligence-led and this is particularly pertinent with regard to both law enforcement and national security. The public expect police forces to use all powers and tactics available to them to prevent and detect crime or disorder and maintain public safety.
It is vital that the police have the ability to work together, where necessary covertly, to obtain intelligence within current legislative frameworks to assist in the investigative process to ensure the successful arrest and prosecution of offenders.
To achieve this goal, it is vitally important that information sharing takes place between police officers, members of the public, police forces as well as other security law enforcement bodies within the United Kingdom and abroad.
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 Neither Confirming Nor Denying for Section 24
The information if held simply relates to national security and confirming or denying whether it is held would not actually harm it. The public are entitled to know what public funds are spent on and what security measures are in place, and by confirming or denying whether any other information regarding the location of war criminals would lead to a better-informed public.
Factors against Neither Confirming Nor Denying for Section 24
By confirming or denying whether any other information is held would render Security measures less effective. This would 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 S27
There is a clear public interest in making appropriate information available to the public. The release of such information would act to reinforce the commitment of the police service to investigate, as an open and transparent organisation, serving to maintain public confidence police service. Moreover, use of public money as well as the income generated by public bodies is also a matter of strong public interest.
Irrespective of what information may or may not be held, confirming information is held would provide openness and transparency by highlighting that the force is proactively engaging with Governmental Departments and other law enforcement agencies both at home and abroad as part of global crime prevention initiatives.
Factors against confirmation or denial for S27
To confirm whether or not information is held relating to the request is very likely to prejudice relations between the United Kingdom and Rwandan authorities.
Disclosure of the requested information would be very likely to be seen as a breach by the UK of the trust and confidence fundamental to such international relations, which would in turn compromise the ability of the UK to promote and protect its interests abroad whilst also undermining the ability of the UK to effectively engage with foreign states in order to investigate offences that have been committed abroad.
Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S30
There is a high accountability factor in confirming whether or not the information exists; this is of huge public interest and any ongoing investigation would be emotive. To provide information highlighting whether or not such detail is known to the constabulary, will assist the public in identifying where public funds are being spent.
Factors against confirmation or denial for S30
By confirming or denying that any other information relevant to the request exists, would hinder the prevention or detection of crime, and undermine the partnership approach to law enforcement, which would subsequently affect the force’s future law enforcement capabilities.
Modern-day policing is intelligence led and, as stated within the harm, to confirm or not whether information is held relevant to this request would hinder the prevention and detection of crime as well as undermine the partnership approach to investigations and law enforcement.
Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S31
By confirming or denying whether any relevant information is held, would allow the public to gain a greater understanding of where public funds are being spent. Better public awareness may lead to more information from the public.
Factors against confirmation or denial for S31
Confirming or denying whether any information is held in relation at this time would not be in the public interest and has potential to undermine any ongoing investigation. This would ultimately hinder the prevention and detection of crime.
The public entrust the Constabularies to handle information they provide appropriately and in line with legislative guidelines, e.g. Data Protection Act. To reveal detail of whether or not such information is known to the Constabulary would act as a deterrent to the public to provide information to the force and also hinder the prevention or detection of crime.
Police forces rely on information being supplied by the public. Irrespective of what other information is or isn’t held, by applying substantive exemptions would indicate that information is held and is currently being investigated. 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.
The points above highlight the merits of confirming or denying whether information pertinent to this request exists. The security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve.
The Police Service will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so would place the safety of an individual at risk or undermine national security. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and investigations, providing assurance that the Police Service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat from criminals, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police operations when delivering effective operational law enforcement to ensure the prevention and detection of crime is carried out and the effective apprehension or prosecution of offenders is maintained.
This is also relevant in relation to information sharing among Governmental Departments and other law enforcement agencies both within the UK and abroad. Anything which places that confidence at risk would undermine the trust members of the public, as well as other agencies have in the Police Service.
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.
In addition any disclosure by WMP that places the security of the country at risk, no matter how generic, would undermine any trust or confidence individuals have in us. Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test favours neither confirming nor denying that information exists.
No inference can be drawn from this refusal that information is or isn’t held.