Prevent Scheme & Criminal Convictions - 319/22

Date Responded 21 March 2022

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.

You asked:

Could you please provide the total number of people who have been referred to the Prevent scheme and then subsequently:

a) Been convicted of a TACT offence (please provide these figures annually, for 2017 through to 2021, or the last year for which you have data).

In Response:

Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted with the Crime Department of Northumbria Police.  We can neither confirm or deny that the information you have requested is held by Northumbria Police, in doing so we rely on the following exemptions.

 

Section 24(2) National Security

Section 31(3) Law Enforcement

 

Sections 24 and 31 are prejudice based qualified exemptions and there is a requirement to evidence the harm in disclosure and consider the public interest to ensure neither confirming or denying that information is held is appropriate.

 

Harm in confirming or Denying that Information is held

 

Any release under FOIA is a disclosure to the world, not just to the individual making the request.  Prevent is a government-led, multi-agency programme which aims to stop individuals becoming terrorists.  To confirm or not that information is held pertinent to this request would reveal whether or not a person referred to the Prevent programme went on to commit an offence of/or related to terrorism, which would undermine counter terrorism strategy and aims.

 

The prevention and detection of crime is the foundation upon which policing is built and the threat from terrorism cannot be ignored.  It is generally recognised that the international security landscape is increasingly complex and unpredictable.  The current UK threat level from international terrorism, based on intelligence, is assessed as ‘SUBSTANTIAL’, which means that a terrorist attack is likely.

 

In order to counter criminal and terrorist behaviour, it is vital that there are programmes such as Prevent, responding to the ideological challenge faced from terrorism, aspects of extremism, and the threat we face from those who promote these views.  To achieve this Prevent depends on a successful integration strategy.  Communities and local authorities have a key part to play in this strategy.  The impact of providing information under FOI which aids in identifying whether Prevent is successful as a counter strategy would risk undermining public confidence in its purpose, and could dissuade others from engaging with it.  The net effect of this would be where the public fail to raise concerns, which for whatever reason could result in a potentially dangerous situation that could well be turned around through awareness and intervention.

 

Confirmation or denial would undermine the effective delivery of operational law enforcement by highlighting which strategies may or may not have failed in countering terrorism and criminality.  Furthermore, intelligence would be weakened thereby undermining national security and leaving the United Kingdom at risk of more terrorist attacks.

 

Public Interest Test

 

Section 24(2) - Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming that information is held

Confirming that information is or is not held that simply relates to national security and disclosure would not actually harm it.  The public are entitled to know how successful counter terrorism strategies are at achieving their aims.

 

Section 24(2) - Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a)

To confirm or deny whether any information is held risks prejudicing national security.  The disclosure as to whether this information is or is not held would render counter strategies less effective, thus effecting security measures.  The result of this would compromise ongoing or future operations which protect the security or infrastructure of the UK by undermining the need to use the NCND approach to such requests consistently.

 

Confirming or denying whether any information is held would dramatically weaken the police’s ability to safeguard national security in the fight against terrorism or criminal behaviour on a local and national scale.

 

Irrespective of what information is or is not held, the public entrust the Police Service to make appropriate decisions with regard to their safety and protection and the only way of reducing risk is to be cautious with what is placed into the public domain.  It therefore remains the case that there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding our ability to enforce the law and by extension maintain national security.

 

Other organisations outside the Police Service are also widely engaged in strategies to counter and prevent terrorism.  Therefore by confirming or denying that information exists relevant to this request would harm the close relationship that exists with such organisations, where trust and confidence has been built up.

 

Section 31(3) - Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming information is held

There is speculation and comment within the public domain that, and this in itself favours confirming information is held.

 

Section 31(3) - Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) neither confirming nor denying that information is held

Northumbria Police has 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 (by citing an exemption or stating no information held) that would undermine the security of the national infrastructure; offenders, including terrorist organisations, could use this to their advantage which would compromise public safety and more worryingly encourage offenders to carry out further crimes.

 

Balancing Test

 

Whilst there is a public interest in keeping everyone informed about security strategies and measures, there is also a duty to ensure public safety.  To confirm or deny whether any information is held in relation to Prevent and a person who went on to be convicted of terrorism, or a related offence could be detrimental to the very purpose the strategy seeks to achieve.  The overall effect of this could render security measures less effective.  Therefore, after weighing up the competing interests I have determined that the balancing test favors’ neither confirmation or denial.

 

No inference can be taken from this refusal that information does or does not exist.

 

If you decide to write an article / use the enclosed data we would ask you to take into consideration the factors highlighted in this document so as to not mislead members of the public or official bodies, or misrepresent the relevance of the whole or any part of this disclosed material.

 

Due to the different methods of recording information across 43 forces, a specific response from one constabulary should not be seen as an indication of what information could be supplied (within cost) by another.  Systems used for recording these figures are not generic, nor are the procedures used locally in capturing the data.  For this reason responses between forces may differ, and should not be used for comparative purposes.

 

The information we have supplied to you is likely to contain intellectual property rights of Northumbria Police.  Your use of the information must be strictly in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (as amended) or such other applicable legislation.  In particular, you must not re-use this information for any commercial purpose.

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