Disclosure Details

Female Genital Mutilation - 800/12

Dated: 09 Nov 2012

Date of request:      16/10/2012

Date of response:   08/11/2012

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

Thank you for your email dated 16 October 2012 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: 

Full details of investigations into allegations of female genital mutilation in each year since 2003.

I would like the response to information on the number of reports/allegations received by the force during the period, the ages of the women and/or girls involved, the injuries suffered and the source of referral to the police - e.g. families, health workers, schools, etc.

I would also like details of the actions taken as a result – e.g. advice given, charges laid, court action taken.

In response:

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

Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) places two duties on public authorities.  Unless exemptions apply, the first duty at Section 1(1)(a) is to confirm or deny whether the information specified in a request is held.  The second duty at Section 1(1)(b) is to disclose information that has been confirmed as being held.  Where exemptions are relied upon Section 17 of FOIA requires that we provide the applicant with a notice which: a) states that fact, b) specifies the exemption(s) in question and c) state (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies.

Northumbria Police neither confirms nor denies that it holds any other information relating to this request by virtue of the following exemptions:-

Section 40(5) Personal Information;
Section 30(3) Investigations;
Section 31(3) Law Enforcement and
Section 38(2) Health and Safety

Section 40 subsections (1) and (2) is a class based absolute exemption, however Section 40(5) is not, as it is not listed in the schedule of absolute exemptions in Section 2(2).  When citing Section 40(5), there is a requirement to articulate the public interest to the applicant.  This is to ensure that neither confirming nor denying that other information exists is the appropriate response.

Section 30 is a class based qualified exemption and consideration of the public interest must be given as to whether neither confirming nor denying that any other information exists is the appropriate response.

With Sections 31 and 38 being prejudice based and qualified exemptions there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or not whether any other information is held as well as carrying out a public interest test.

I have set these out below.

Harm in complying with Section 1(1)(a) – to confirm or not whether information is held:

The Code of Practice on the Management of Police Information, as recommended by the Bichard Inquiry and associated guidance, sets national standards for the management of police information, including intelligence material, its physical security and the security of sensitive material, such as personal information.  They are the authority on all questions of integrity of intelligence material and must be included as part of the operational protocols of the National Intelligence Model.

The National Intelligence Model is adhered to by all police forces across England and Wales.  It is a business process with an intention to provide focus to operational policing and to achieve a disproportionately greater impact from the resources applied to any problem.  It is dependent on a clear framework of analysis of information and intelligence allowing a problem solving approach to law enforcement and crime prevention techniques.

The impact of confirming or denying whether any other information is held relating to female genital mutilation (FGM) offences has the potential to undermine the flow of information (intelligence) received from members of the public into the Police Service and undermining both ongoing investigations and the Management of Police Information guidance.  This could in turn lead to police officers having to be removed from their frontline duties in order to increase manpower on an investigation.

Disclosure of information detailing a source of referral to the police, no matter how generic, becomes more meaningful if there is a risk of a person or persons being identified.  While this is unlikely to happen amongst the general population, those involved in carrying out FGM offences, are often known to the victims, and on occasions are family members themselves, and these individuals may be able to draw a significant conclusion from any generic information disclosed.  Such an action could lead to the informants being identified or even misidentified and the health and safety of those individuals placed at risk.

Public Interest Considerations:

Section 40(5) Personal Information

The duty to neither confirm nor deny under this section of the Act arises where the disclosure of the information into the public domain would contravene any of the data protection principles or Section 10 of the Data Protection Act 1998 or would do so if the exemptions in Section 33A(1) of that Act were disregarded.

Irrespective of what other information Northumbria Police may or may not hold, any request which has potential to identify a third party, by citing an exemption, would attract a neither confirm nor deny response by virtue of Section 40(5) as it constitutes personal data of an individual other than the applicant and disclosure would contravene the first data protection principle which states in part that personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully.

Section 30(3) Investigations

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) – confirming information is held:
Confirming or denying that any other information exists relevant to this request would lead to a better informed public that Northumbria Police robustly investigate offences of FGM which may encourage individuals to provide intelligence in order to assist investigations and reduce crime.  Confirmation or denial would highlight where police resources are being targeted and the public are entitled to know how public funds are spent, particularly in the current economic climate.

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) – neither confirming nor denying that information is held:
Confirmation or denial that information is held in this case would suggest that Northumbria Police take their responsibility to appropriately handle and manage information provided by individuals to assist with criminal investigations flippantly and dismissively resulting in the force’s future law enforcement capabilities being affected.

Section 31 Law Enforcement

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) – confirming information is held:
There is a vast amount of information within the public domain relating to this subject, examples of these can be found below:

http://www.who.int/topics/female_genital_mutilation/en/

http://www.childinfo.org/fgmc.html

http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/victims-witnesses/honour-abuse/fgm/index.asp

However, irrespective of what information is or is not held, confirmation that any other information exists relevant to FGM offences within a force area would lead to a better informed public which may encourage individuals to provide intelligence relating to offences which could assist the investigative process.

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) – neither confirming nor denying that information is held:
Confirmation or denial that any other information is held in this case would suggest that Northumbria Police take their responsibility to protect the safety of individuals seriously.  It could also adversely affect public safety if offenders are provided with detail as to whether a family has reported an offence of FGM to the police.

The Police Service relies on information being supplied by the public.  Confirming or denying that information is held would act as a deterrent to the public to provide information (intelligence) to the force which would undermine public safety.

Section 38 Health and Safety

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) – confirming information is held:
Confirming or not that other information is held would provide reassurance to the general public that information provided to Northumbria Police is dealt with appropriately and investigation undertaken to target offenders who carry out FGM offences.  This awareness could be used to improve any public consultations/debates in relation to this subject.

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) – neither confirming nor denying that information is held:
Confirmation or denial that other information is held could lead to the loss of public confidence in Northumbria Police's ability to protect the wellbeing of the community.

Irrespective of whether other information is or is not held, intelligence is used as a vital tool in ensuing all avenues and enquiries are carried out and exhausted with relates to reported offences.  The safety and anonymity of members of the general public which provide this information is of paramount importance and any disclosure which could place the safety of those individuals at increased risk is not in the public interest.

Confirmation that any other information is held relating to who is the source of referral in FGM offence cases could lead to those individuals being targeted and physical harm caused to them by the offenders.  In addition, information that causes speculation, eg misidentification of an informant, has in the past caused innocent people to be targeted.

Balancing Test

The points above highlight the merits of confirming or denying that any other information pertinent to this request exists.  The Police Service relies heavily on the public providing information to assist in criminal investigations and has a duty to protect and defend vulnerable individuals.  The public has an expectation that any information they provide will be treated with confidence.  Anything which places that confidence at risk, no matter how generic, would undermine any trust or confidence individuals have in the Police Service.

In addition, the effective delivery of operational law enforcement is of paramount importance to Northumbria Police in their duty to ensure the prevention and detection of crime is carried out and the effective apprehension or prosecution of offenders is maintained.
 
Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test for confirmation or denial that information is held is not made out.

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

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_tcm4-28029