Disclosure Details

Human Trafficking - 291/12

Dated: 30 Jul 2015

Date of request:   19/03/2012

Date of response:   16/04/2012

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

Thank you for your email dated 19 March 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: 

  1. Data showing the number of potential victims of trafficking for forced labour into, out of and around the UK by gypsy/traveller organised crime groups identified by your force since January 1, 2007, broken down by year. 
      
    Similar data was provided by police forces to the UK Human Trafficking Council (UKHTC) for early 2007 to early 2010, as part of a standalone piece of work by the UKHTC following the identification of this type of offending.

  2. Data showing the number of potential perpetrators of trafficking for forced labour into, out of and around the UK by gypsy/traveller organised crime groups since January 1, 2007, broken down by year. Additionally, please specify the types of potential offences and break down the data into the following categories: reported/suspected, arrested, charged, convicted.

  3. In answers to questions 1) and 2), please provide a breakdown of potential victims and perpetrators by nationality, ethnicity, gender and age. In each case, please specify the type of labour and the method, location and date of recruitment and forced labour.

  4. If time allows, please provide as much detail as possible of individual cases.

  5. Has the force had any contact with other police forces, in the UK or abroad, in relation to trafficking for forced labour into, out of and around the UK by gypsy/traveller organised crime groups since January 1, 2007? Please provide details.

Can I remind you that, as per the Palermo protocol (below), the recruitment of individuals for forced labour would usually be considered trafficking regardless of the extent to which victims are subsequently moved.  
  
" 'Trafficking in persons' shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs... The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth [above] shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth [above] have been used. "

I would like to make the following clarification in the light of a query and advice from ACPO.

Where in question 1 the request refers to "potential" victims, this means all victims of this type of offence who have been identified by the force since January 1, 2007, regardless of whether perpetrators have been identified and/or prosecuted.

In response:

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

Your request specifically relates to Human Trafficking.  It is well known that this is a high level national issue, as such it has been acknowledged that the UKHTC (Human Trafficking Centre) are tasked with overseeing such matters.  On April 1 2010, UKHTC came under the management of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).  SOCA is not listed in Schedule 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and as such is not obliged to respond to Freedom of Information requests.  SOCA is also not listed as a 'Scottish Public Authority' in the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.  Any information from, or relating to SOCA has an absolute exemption from disclosure by other public authorities, by virtue of Section 23 of the Act (as amended by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005).  From time to time SOCA will make limited information about it's role, aims and objectives available on the web site www.soca.gov.uk.  UKHTC regularly publish statistics on this website www.soca.gov.uk/about-soca/about-the-ukhtc-statistical-data (Note - this data is UK wide and is not broken down to regions or forces).

This refusal to confirm nor deny that any information exists relating to this body should not be taken as an inference that they are operating in this force area, it is simply a statement of legal fact that they are captured by the wording of your request.

The below link gives statistical data on victims of trafficking which may be of some use 
(Links can be provided on request).

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) states (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies.

Northumbria Police can neither confirm nor deny that it holds the information you requested as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply, by virtue of the following exemptions:

Section 23(5) Information relating to the Security bodies 
Section 30(3) Investigations 
Section 31(3) Law enforcement

Section 23 is an absolute class-based exemption and therefore there is no requirement to conduct a harm or public interest test.  Section 31 is a prejudice based qualified exemption and there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or not that the information is held as well as carrying out a public interest test.  Section 30 is a qualified class-based exemption and there is a requirement to conduct a public interest test.

Harm in Confirming or Denying whether information is held for Section 31 and Section 30

Modern-day policing is intelligence led, and intelligence changes on a day-by-day basis.  Disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act are disclosures to the world, not just to the individual making the request. 

Forces would not want to confirm or deny that they have any information on gypsy/traveller organised crime groups as to do so would highlight to those people that we are or are not aware of their activities.

It is standard policy not to disclose whether investigations have or have not taken place into certain groups.  To confirm or deny whether any information is held regarding gypsy/traveller organised crime groups, would disclose the levels of police activity and confirm that ongoing investigations are or are not taking place.  This would consequently be detrimental to our ability to be able deal with the on-going trafficking activity we face across the country.

To confirm or deny that this level of policing interest has or has not occurred in any specific area would also enable those engaged in criminal activity to identify the focus of policing targets.  The release of such information would reveal policing tactics regarding who was of interest to the police generally.  This would be to the detriment of providing an efficient policing service and a failure in providing a duty of care to all members of the public.  If any group knew they were being investigated, this would lead to the group going ‘underground’, destroying evidence or moving their operations to different locations and law enforcement would therefore be compromised.

To confirm or deny that any information was held regarding gypsy/traveller organised crime groups would enable offenders to map across the country where specific police investigations are/have taken place.  For example, to state that no information is held in one area and then exempt information held in another, would itself provide acknowledgement that investigations are being conducted at that second location.  This would have the likelihood of identifying location-specific operations, enabling individuals to become aware of whether their activities have been detected.

Any information identifying the focus of policing activity could be used to the advantage of criminal organisations.  Information that undermines the operational integrity of these activities will adversely affect public safety and have a negative impact on law enforcement.

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S31 - By confirming or denying whether any information is held on gypsy/traveller organised crime groups, the public would see where public funds are being spent and would be able to take steps to protect themselves.  Better public awareness may reduce crime or lead to more information from the public.

Factors against confirmation or denial for S31 - By confirming or denying whether any information is held on gypsy/traveller organised crime groups, law enforcement tactics would be compromised which would hinder the prevention and detection of crime.  More crime would be committed and individuals would be placed at risk, which would impact on police resources.

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S30 - By confirming or denying whether any information is held on gypsy/traveller organised crime groups would allow the public to see where their public funds are spent and have satisfaction that investigations are properly conducted into high profile or sensitive issues.

Factors against confirmation or denial for S30 - By confirming or denying whether any information is held on gypsy/traveller organised crime groups would prejudice an investigation and therefore undermine the right to a fair trial.  This would hinder the prevention and detection of crime.

Balance Test

The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve.  The reduction and detection of crime is of paramount importance and the Police service will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so would compromise law enforcement.  Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively allocating resources, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding the integrity of police investigations and operations in this highly sensitive area.

It is therefore our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for confirming or denying that information is held, is not made out.

Of course no inference can be drawn from these facts that any further information does or does not exist. 

You may be interested to know that Northumbria Police routinely publish information that has been disclosed by Northumbria Police in response to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 via the Disclosure Log.  The aim of the Disclosure Log is to promote openness and transparency by voluntarily placing information into the public arena.

Whilst it is not possible to publish all responses we will endeavour to publish those where we feel that the information disclosed is in the public interest.  The Disclosure Log will be updated once responses have been sent to the requester.  I have provided the relevant link below:-

http://www.northumbria.police.uk/foi/disclosurelog/index.asp

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 underour 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