Disclosure Details

Anti terrorism - 408/14

Dated: 10 Jun 2014

Date of request:    13/05/2014

Date of response:  10/06/2014

Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')(FOIA)

Thank you for your email dated 13 May 2014  in which you made a request for access to certain information which may be held by Northumbria Police.

As you may be aware the purpose of the Act is to allow a general right of access to information held by a Public Authority (including the Police), subject to certain limitations and exemptions.

You asked: 

I am requesting the following information under the Freedom of Information Act:

1) The number of referrals your force received under the government's Channel/PREVENT anti-terrorism scheme in the full year until March 2014

2) How many people did this involve?

3) If this data is held, a breakdown of people referred by their age and/or gender and/or ethnicity and/or religion

4) The breakdown by agency (eg GP practice/school ) which referred people to your force under the scheme

5) If this data is held, what potential signs of vulnerability and indicators did agencies identify in people that they thought showed a propensity to terrorism-related activities?
 

In response:

We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
With regards to your queries at points 1-4 we shall not be disclosing any information at these parts by and by withholding we rely on the following exemptions

Section 31(1)(a)(b) Law Enforcement and Section 24(1) National Security
Overall harm for Sections 31 and 24
The publication of specific Channel data would provide information to those who seek to challenge the process, which would not be in the public interest. Allegations of ‘spying in the community’ and ‘targeting Muslims’ misrepresent and undermine the intention of Channel and ultimately the Prevent programme, which seeks to support those individuals vulnerable to being drawn into violent extremism. Figures on the ethnicity or age of participants, when compiled, may fuel perceived grievances such as the view that young Muslims are being targeted or that the issue of political extremists (e.g. the far-right) are not being tackled. Revealing detailed site specific statistics could lead to the identification of:

  • individuals who have been referred;

  • those who may have referred individuals to Channel in confidence;

  • 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
Channel is a multi-agency process, which aims to support those who may be vulnerable to being drawn into violent extremism.  It works by providing a mechanism for:

  • Identifying individuals who may be at risk of and vulnerable to being drawn into violent extremism.

  • Accessing the nature and extent of the risk

  • Where necessary, referring cases to a multi-agency panel which decides on the most appropriate support package to divert and support the individual at risk.

Channel aims to draw vulnerable individuals away from violent extremism before they become involved in criminal activity.  Effective information sharing is crucial in ensuring that delivery partners, such as education, children’s services, probation and local public health agencies and local community partners are able to build a comprehensive picture of an individual’s vulnerability, and therefore provide the appropriate type and level of support to safeguard the individual at risk.  This requires the local community to work in partnership with the police and other local agencies and to share information appropriately and responsibly.

The security of the country is of paramount importance and Northumbria Police  will not divulge any information which would undermine National Security or compromise Law Enforcement. Channel is part of the Prevent strand of CONTEST, the Governments’ Counter Terrorism Strategy, and the information held by Northumbria Police  in regards to Channel directly relates to counter-terrorism policing.  In addition, any prejudice to counter-terrorism policing directly impacts on the police support and the delivery of CONTEST.

Any detailed breakdown of the agencies, authorities or partners that made the referrals would lead to these partners disengaging from the referral process, as well as, potentially in some extreme cases, aid the identification of those involved in the referral process itself, or of those referred.

A list of local organisations and agencies who may be involved in Prevent can be found in the Prevent Strategy: An Updated Guide for Local Partners:
http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20120919132719/http://security.homeoffice.gov.uk/news-publications/publication-search/general/updated-guide-for-local-partners2835.pdf?view=Binary

The Channel Factsheet, produced by ACPO (TAM) Prevent Delivery Unit provides additional information about the partners and stakeholders:
http://www.acpo.police.uk/documents/TAM/2012/201210TAMChannelFactsheet.pdf

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 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 the Channel program. 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
Channel only operates in specific locations. 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 Channel and 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 the forces  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.

In order to assist I can provide the following information relative to question 5.  Please note this is general advice only on vulnerability and indicators.

There are a number of behaviours and other indicators that may indicate the presence of vulnerability.
 
Example indicators that an individual is engaged with an extremist group, cause or ideology include:

  • Spending increasing time in the company of other suspected extremists;

  • Changing their style of dress or personal appearance to accord with the group;

  • Their day to day behaviour increasingly centred around an extremist ideology, group or cause;

  • loss of interest in other friends and activities not associated with the extremist ideology, group or cause;

  • possession of material or symbols associated with an extremist cause (e.g. the swastika for far right groups);

  • attempts to recruit others to the group/cause/ideology; or

  • communications with others that suggest identification with a group/cause/ideology.

Example indicators that an individual has an intention to use violence or other illegal means include:

  • Clearly identifying another group as threatening what they stand for and blaming that group for all social or political ills;

  • using insulting or derogatory names or labels for another group;

  • speaking about the imminence of harm from the other group and the importance of action now;

  • expressing attitudes that justify offending on behalf of the group, cause or ideology;

  • condoning or supporting violence or harm towards others;

  • plotting or conspiring with others.

Example indicators that an individual is capable of contributing directly or indirectly to an act of terrorism include:

  • Having a history of violence;

  • Being criminally versatile and using criminal networks to support extremist goals;

  • having occupational skills that can enable acts of terrorism (such as civil engineering, pharmacology or construction);

  • Having technical expertise that can be deployed (e.g. IT skills, knowledge of chemicals, military training or survival skills).

The examples above are not exhaustive and vulnerability may manifest itself in other ways.  There is no single route to terrorism nor is there a simple profile of those who become involved.  For this reason, any attempt to derive a ‘profile’ can be misleading.  It must not be assumed that these characteristics and experiences will necessarily lead to individuals becoming terrorists, or that these indicators are the only source of information required to make an appropriate assessment about vulnerability.

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.


How to complain

If you are unhappy with our decision or do not consider that we have handled your request properly and we are unable to resolve this issue informally, you are entitled to make a formal complaint to us under our complaints procedure which can be found at: http://www.northumbria.police.uk/foi/disclosurelog/foicomprights.asp

If you are still unhappy after we have investigated your complaint and reported to you the outcome, you may complain directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office and request that they investigate to ascertain whether we have dealt with your request in accordance with the Act.

Downloads

FOI Complaint Rights Procedure_tcm4-67103