Weapons in Schools (5748_16)
The number of the following offences, Committed in the Calendar Years; 2013, 2014 and 2015, where Role Type recorded as Defe (Defendant), Resp (Responsible) or Susp (Suspect) AND their age was 18 years or under:
8/27 – Having an article with a blade or point on school premises.
8/28 – Possession of other offensive weapon on school premises without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.
For each incident above please provide the following information:
- a) Date of confiscation
- b) Type of school (i.e. primary or secondary)
- c) Name of school
- d) Type of weapon/s confiscated
- e) Age of child carrying weapon
I can confirm that we hold information with regard to parts (c) and (e) of your request, but do not have a ‘confiscation date’ field on our central crime recording system; therefore for parts (a) and (d) we have searched using ‘date committed’. It is important to note though that although we have recorded an offence of possession, it does not necessarily mean that a weapon was confiscated in each case. Type of school (b) is not a recording category on our crime database and therefore we are unable to supply this.
However, while the majority of this information is attached to this email (5748_attachment_01.pdf), I am afraid that I am not required by statute to release all of the information requested. This email serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) for the information that has not been released.
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 email represents a Refusal Notice for the names of the schools and the exact date that the offence was committed. The information is exempt by virtue of the following:
Section 40(2)(a)(b) – Personal Information
Section 30(1)(a)(b) – Investigations and proceedings Conducted by Public Authorities
These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:
Section 40(2) is an absolute and class based exemption if to release the information that exists would breach the third party’s data protection rights. It is my view that it would be possible to identify individuals by releasing all of the information requested. This would not constitute fair processing of the data and therefore would breach the first of the principles within the Data Protection Act 1998. 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.
In line with Section 30(1)(a)(b) above, I am required to complete a Prejudice Test/Public Interest Test on disclosure. Please find this as follows:
Releasing information provided by the public, collected during the course of an investigation should always be handled sensitively. The release of information provided to authorities in confidence, 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.
Factors in favour of disclosure:
Disclosing information about reported incidents involving crime in a particular school, would provide greater transparency about the type of incidents reported to West Midlands Police involving schools. There is a clear public interest in authorities acting in as transparent a manner as possible and it is important that the public are kept informed of investigations that may affect them so that they can make decisions based upon relevant information.
Factors in favour of non-disclosure:
The public must be confident that West Midlands Police 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 individuals 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. Under-reporting leads to an increase in undetected crime which has an adverse effect on the community. To allow a situation to occur, whereby the details provided during the reporting of an incident are routinely disclosed, is therefore likely to prejudice the ability of the public authority to carry out investigations.
For a Public Interest Test, factors that favour disclosure need to be weighed against factors that favour non-disclosure. The public interest is not what interests the public, or a particular individual, but what would be for the greater good, if released to the community as a whole.
I recognise that the public interest in being transparent is of great importance to all and release of information, may assist the public in being more aware of the work that the police are carrying out and how it may affect them.
However, while the public interest considerations favouring disclosure are noted, this must be balanced with the impact any release would have on the the community and the law enforcement capabilities of West Midlands Police.
I believe that releasing this information would discourage the reporting of crime. Under-reporting leads to an increase in undetected crime which has an adverse effect on the community. West Midlands Police will not disclose information that could harm the public or compromise the future law enforcement role of the police.
Therefore at this point in time, it is my view that the balance of the public interest does not favour release of the information that has been withheld.