We received a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA):
I am writing to express my concerns and seek clarity regarding a recent incident involving the arrest of an autistic teenager in Leeds. It has come to my attention that there might have been procedural irregularities during the course of the arrest, which warrant further examination.
I wish to formally request the release of all relevant police body camera footage relating to the incident.
West Yorkshire Police are unable to provide you with the information requested as tis is exempt by virtue of Section 30(1)(a) Investigations and Proceedings Conducted by Public Authorities, Section 31 (1)(g)(2)(a)(b) Law Enforcement, Section 38(1)(a) Health and Safety and Section 40(2) Personal Information.
Please see Appendix A, for the full legislative explanation as to why West Yorkshire Police are unable to provide the information.
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 creates a statutory right of access to information held by public authorities. A public authority in receipt of a request must, if permitted, state under Section 1(a) of the Act, whether it holds the requested information and, if held, then communicate that information to the applicant under Section 1(b) of the Act.
The right of access to information is not without exception and is subject to a number of exemptions which are designed to enable public authorities, to withhold information that is unsuitable for release. Importantly the Act is designed to place information into the public domain. Information is granted to one person under the Act, it is then considered public information and must be communicated to any individual, should a request be received.
Your request for information has been considered and I regret to inform you that West Yorkshire Police cannot comply. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Section 17 of the Act provides:
(1) A public authority which, in relation to any request for information, is to any extent relying on a claim that information is exempt information must, within the time for complying with Section 1(1), give the applicant a notice which:-
(a) States the fact,
(b) Specifies the exemption in question, and
(c) States (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies.
REASONS FOR DECISION
The reason that we are unable to provide you with this information is covered by the following exemption(s):
Section 30(1)(a) – Investigations and Proceedings Conducted by a Public Authority
Section 31 (1)(g)(2)(a)(b) - Law Enforcement
Section 38(1)(a) – Health and Safety
Section 40(2)(a) – Personal Information
Section 40 is an absolute and class based exemption and so requires no harm or public interest test to be undertaken.
To disclose the requested information would breach principle 1 (fairly and lawfully processed) of the Data Protection Act 1998.
Section 30 is a qualified and class based exemption and therefore requires a public interest test to be conducted.
Section 31 and 38 are qualified, prejudiced based exemptions, I am therefore obliged to conduct a harm and public interest test on the information held.
Please find my considerations below;
This specific arrest attracted significant media interest with emotions of family, friends, witnesses and general members of the public running high. Disclosure of information under the Freedom of Information Act is a disclosure to the world at large, not only the person making the request, and West Yorkshire Police have a particular duty of care to those involved in the incident. Whilst there is information already in the public domain via media avenues, disclosure of any further information such as video/bodycam footage that is not already in the public domain has the potential to have adverse effects on the family, and such disclosures would be insensitive to them.
Public Interest Test
Some of the exemptions in the FOI Act, referred to as ‘qualified exemptions’, are subject to a public interest test (PIT). This test is used to balance the public interest in disclosure against the public interest in favour of withholding the information, or the considerations for and against the requirement to say whether the information requested is held or not. We must carry out a PIT where we are considering using any of the qualified exemptions in response to a request for information.
The ‘public interest’ is not the same as what interests the public. In carrying out a PIT we consider the greater good or benefit to the community as a whole if the information is released or not. The ‘right to know’ must be balanced against the need to enable effective law enforcement and to serve the best interests of the public.
Factors favouring disclosure under Section 30
Disclosure of the requested information would make for a better informed public and adhere to the basic
principles of openness and transparency. This specific arrest was a highly emotive subject area which attracted high profile media coverage. Disclosure of the information requested could provide reassurance to the general public that criminal investigations are conducted appropriately.
Factors favouring non-disclosure under Section 30
The specific information requested relates to information held for the purposes of an investigation. The information has not been placed into the public domain by West Yorkshire Police and if we were to disclose this information it has the potential to undermine any future appeals/proceedings which could arise. Additionally, this could damage the public’s confidence in the police’s ability to appropriately carry out investigations which are of high media interest.
Factors favouring disclosure under Section 31
There is a strong public interest in public authorities disclosing information relating to internal investigations. To disclose information would adhere to the basic principle of being open and transparent.
Factors favouring non-disclosure under Section 31
To disclose information prematurely, when an investigation into the conduct of an officer is still ongoing could potentially hinder the efficient running of the case. It is important to protect all investigative material to ensure that a full assessment of misconduct allegations can be made.
Factors favouring disclosure under Section 38
Disclosure of the requested information would make for a better informed public and develop public confidence that any information provided regarding crimes are dealt with appropriately and responsibly. This would demonstrate the openness and transparency of West Yorkshire Police.
Factors favouring non-disclosure under Section 38
Safety of individuals is of paramount importance, and whilst it is unclear what specific effects disclosure may have on those involved with the investigation, any disclosure which has the potential to cause them significant distress and put their wellbeing and/or mental health at risk will not be made.
In conclusion I consider that the factors favouring non-disclosure outweigh the factors favouring disclosure and, as such, I will not be disclosing specific information relating to criminal or internal investigations conducted by West Yorkshire Police.
Although disclosure would adhere to the basic principle of being open and transparent, I consider that, when weighed against the risk of prejudicing the efficient running of an investigation, the factors favouring non-disclosure take precedence.