Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')
As you may be aware the purpose of the Act is to allow a general right of access to information held at the time of a request, by a Public Authority (including the Police), subject to certain limitations and exemptions.
I would like to request the following under the FOI with regards to the Prevent Case Management Database, held centrally by Counter Terrorism Policing HQ:
1) The total number of entries made by the force to the PCM database as at the time this request is responded to
2) The total number of Police Prevent Practitioners working for the force who have access to the PCM database
We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
This information will not be considered for release and in withholding we rely on the following exemptions.
Section 31(1)(a)(b) Law Enforcement
Section 40(2) Personal Information.
Section 40(2) is a class based absolute exemption and as such legislators have identified that there would be harm in disclosure and there is no requirement to evidence this or consider the public interest test
Section 31 is a prejudice based qualified exemption, both evidence of harm and public interest considerations need to be articulated .
Harm in disclosure
Policing is an information-led activity, and recording of all offences, including terrorist offences, forms part of a fundamental day-to-day delivery of effective operational law enforcement.
Although purely statistical data is requested, such detail would reveal investigative activity enabling terrorists and other offenders to identify force areas which may be ‘safer’ to carry out their offending. This information would be extremely useful to those involved in terrorist activity which would ultimately undermine law enforcement.
Furthermore, to make such a discourse would have the potential to undermine the flow of information (intelligence) received from members of the public into the Police Service relating to these types of offences. This would have a significant impact law enforcement and ultimately could undermine investigations leaving the United Kingdom at risk of more terrorist attack.
Factors favouring disclosure.
Confirming what information is held regarding the total number of entries made by the force to the PCM database, and the total number of Police Prevent Practitioners working for the force who have access to the PCM database would lead to better informed public which may encourage individuals to provide intelligence in order to reduce offences. It would also provide transparency as to the resources available to each force.
Factors against disclosure.
To breakdown these figure at force level will potentially allowing mapping of force operational capabilities in regards to Prevent which may encourage offenders to target forces with smaller numbers. We have a duty of care to the community at large and public safety is of paramount importance. If an FOI disclosure revealed information to the world that would undermine Law Enforcement , offenders, including terrorist organisations, could use this to their advantage which would compromise public safety and encourage offenders to carry out further crimes.
The points above highlight the merits of disclosing the details requested against non disclosure of the details requested.
The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve. As part of that policing purpose, information is gathered which can be highly sensitive relating to high profile investigative activity. Weakening the mechanisms used to monitor any type of criminal activity, and specifically terrorist activity would have a detrimental impact on law enforcement and place the security of the country at an increased level of danger.
Anything that places the public at risk, no matter how generic, or would undermine any trust or confidence individuals have in the Police Service should be avoided.
Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test favours non-disclosure of the information requested.
You should consider this to be a refusal under section 17 of the Act for your request.