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Speech:

Prevent Referrals - 1310/20

Date Responded 14 September 2020

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:

  1. How many Prevent referrals were made by Northumbria police force to the Channel program in the years 2012; 2013; 2014; 2015; 2016; 2017; 2018; 2019?
  2. How many Prevent cases were managed by Northumbria police force in the years 2012; 2013; 2014; 2015; 2016; 2017; 2018; 2019?
  3. Please provide a copy of Northumbria police forces policy regarding Prevent referrals.

Explanatory Notes:

‘Prevent’ and ‘Channel’ refers to the Governments counter terrorism strategy

In Response:

We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.

1-2.  The information requested at these points will not be provided and we will rely on the following exemptions:

Section 24(1) - National Security

Section 31(1)(a)(b) - Law Enforcement

These exemptions are prejudiced based and qualified which means the legislators have identified that evidence of the harm disclosure would have, as well as the public interest considerations, need to be articulated to the applicant.  I have set these out below.

Harm

The publication of specific Prevent data would provide information to those who seek to challenge the process, which would not be in the public interest.  This would aid and assist those wishing to misrepresent and undermine the intention of the Prevent programme, which seeks to support those individuals vulnerable to being drawn into violent extremism.  Revealing detailed site specific statistics could lead to the identification of: individuals who have been referred, local organisations who are working with us to protect and safeguard those at risk and ongoing cases which could lead to the withdrawal of individuals from the process and thus threaten the successful conclusion of a case.  This would bring the process into disrepute, destroy trust and damage Prevent at a National level.

Public Interest Test

Factors favouring disclosure of information for Section 31

There may be a public interest in the release of this information because it may reassure the public that there are effective processes in place to ensure that people showing signs or indicators that they are intent to use violence or other illegal means are monitored effectively and assessed for the presence of vulnerability.  Disclosure of the information would provide reassurance to the public that the Police have in place protocols to deal with these types of incidents and offences.  The Home Office regularly publishes national statistical data on Prevent data.  It would also reassure the public that the Police have protocols in place to protect children from being drawn into violent extremism.

Factors against disclosure of information for Section 31

Disclosure of the information would mean that law enforcement tactics would be compromised which would hinder the prevention and detection of crime.  More crime would be committed because criminals would know which forces are focusing on this programme. A fear of crime would be realised because if the terrorists identified more vulnerable areas, they would target and exploit these areas and the public would be in fear of more criminal/terrorist activity occurring.  There would be an impact on police resources because if the measure used by forces to detect terrorist activities and safeguard children is disclosed and some areas are deemed to be 'softer' at managing this threat, terrorist cells may move to these areas in order to continue their operations and target vulnerable individuals.  There could be local implications with wrongful identification of children and families which in turn could lead to further offences being committed in the community.

Factors favouring disclosure of information for Section 24

The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and by disclosing this information the public would be able to see where public money is being spent and know that forces are doing as much as they can to combat terrorism and radicalisation.  Revealing this information would enable the public to have some reassurance that the Governments Counter Terrorism strategy is robust.  This is an issue high on the public agenda and therefore the release of this information would contribute to an informed public debate.

Factors against disclosure of information for Section 24

Revealing detailed statistics may increase interest in cases which could ultimately lead to the identity of individuals and the organisations we work with, which may assist others intending to counter such work.  Identification of those working locally to deliver the aims and objectives of Channel could enable those wishing to counter such work to engage in activity to disrupt and jeopardise the successful delivery of ongoing work.  This could threaten the successful delivery of the government's counter terrorism strategy and lead to the public being at increased risk from terrorism.  There is also a potential for such data to be used to increase community tensions in an area which would not be in the public interest

Any information shared between agencies (intelligence) has the potential to cover all aspects of criminal activity, be it threats to National Security, future planned robberies or intelligence relating to terrorist activity.  Disclosure of the information would enable those intent on engaging in terrorist activities to determine on a National level which areas within the UK may be a vulnerable area to target.

Balance Test

The security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police service will not divulge information 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, information gathering and in this case providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively safeguarding those who are vulnerable to radicalisation and targeting the cells behind the radicalisation, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in the highly sensitive area of terrorism.

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.  Whilst there is a strong public interest in the transparency of policing programmes and in this case, providing assurance that the police service and other stakeholders are appropriately and effectively engaging with one another, combating the threat posed by individuals with the intent to use violence and other illegal means, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of the stakeholders within the programme.

Northumbria Police will not divulge information if it is likely that it will compromise the work of the Police Service or place members of the public at risk.  It is known that terrorist cells will try to radicalise people and children so that they believe in their ideology in order to encourage them to commit acts of terror.  Disclosure of the requested information would highlight which forces may have individuals who are more susceptible to radicalisation and how each force tackles this within their communities.  This will adversely affect Northumbria Police ability to detect this type of crime as it may alter the behaviours of those preying on vulnerable individuals.  This in itself could put the individual's life at risk along with that of National Security.  It is therefore our belief that the balance test lies in favour of not disclosing the information.

3.  No information held - we do not have such a policy.  We follow the national process.

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