I would like to ask – under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 – the following questions about West Midlands Police:
1) Does your department (or any unit within it) currently use or hold a subscription to any World-Check product? (Note: World-Check is a subscription-only database provided by Thomson Reuters. To be sure about the product I have in mind, more details can be found here:
2) If YES to Q1, what is the name of the World-Check product(s)?
3) If YES to Q1, what is the total annual subscription cost your department (or any unit within it) pays? If the cost is not a fixed amount, please provide the total paid to World-Check for services in 2015.
4) If YES to Q1, how long has it held a subscription to or used World-Check?
5) Please specify which units within your department hold the subscription
5) If NO to Q1, has your department (or any unit within it) ever previously used or held a subscription to any World-Check product?
6) If YES to Q5, what was the name of the World-Check product?
7) If YES to Q5, what is the last total annual subscription cost it paid? If the cost is not a fixed amount, please provide the total paid to World-Check for the last available year
8) if YES to Q5, how long did it use or hold a subscription to World-Check?
9) Please specify which units within your department previously held the subscription
West Midlands Police will neither confirm nor deny that we hold any of the requested information. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act).
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 West Midlands Police will neither confirm nor deny the existence of any relevant data by virtue of:
Section 24 (2) National Security
Section 31 (3) Law Enforcement
These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:
Section 24 and Section 31 are both qualified, prejudice-based exemptions and so I am required to complete a Prejudice Test/Public Interest Test (PIT) on disclosure. Please see below:
Factors not favouring neither confirming or denying – Sec 24.
There is substantial public interest in recent terrorist attacks around the world and the threat posed to the UK from those traveling back from the Syrian conflict. The public constantly seek to understand the tactics used by the police service in protecting local communities and individuals. The confirmation or denial of any information as to how or what products we use to gather valuable intelligence in our fight against terrorism would assist the public to understand and support the proactive work being undertaken in confronting radicalization through intervention programs such as Prevent and Channel.
Factors favouring neither confirming or denying – Sec 24.
The confirmation or denial of whether UK police forces use specific intelligence gathering tools or products would provide terrorists with valuable information in being able to conduct their own disruptive or avoiding techniques and allow them an opportunity to launch cyber security attacks on identified websites or products used by the police service.
Factors favouring neither confirming or denying – Sec 31.
The confirmation or denial of whether such information is held would allow the public to recognise the covert tactics used within the police service in providing necessary reassurance during on-going police operations or investigations.
Factors not favouring neither confirming or denying – Sec 31
The police service must retain an element of surprise and operate with a more forward thinking approach in tackling criminal activity further “upstream” as opposed to only reacting to security threats when actually landing on our doorstep when it’s too late. As a result, the police service must continue a rigid approach in applying a neither confirm nor deny approach when specifically asked about investigative techniques or models they employ, or in this case, subscribe to, particularly as these are regularly re-used to great success.