Dear West Mercia Police,

I would like to make the following request under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, 2000.

Since at least 2000, the Government has authorised the use of juveniles as Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS), under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

I would like to know how many juvenile CHIS have been used by your force since 2000, if possible disaggregated by age range of child (under 16, and 16 and over), type of crime, and year.

I recognise that data about CHIS operations could potentially allow criminals to determine (or cause them to suspect) that a child has acted against them, posing a risk to children. Therefore if more specific details must be withheld, I would be satisfied with simply knowing how many juvenile CHIS have been used since 2000.

Yours faithfully,

Matthew Thompson

Information Compliance, West Mercia Police

Dear Mr Thompson

 

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST REFERENCE NOs: West Mercia Police 10177 and
Warwickshire Police 10178

 

I write in connection with your request for West Mercia Police and
Warwickshire Police information which was dated and received on 28^th
August 2018.

 

Your request will now be considered in accordance with the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (the Act).  You will receive a response within the
statutory timescale of 20 working days as defined by the Act, subject to
the information not being exempt or containing a reference to a third
party.  In some circumstances Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police 
may be unable to achieve this deadline.  If this is likely you will be
informed and given a revised time-scale at the earliest opportunity.

 

There may be a fee payable for the retrieval, collation and provision of the
information you request.  If this is the case you will be informed and the 20
working day timescale will be suspended until we receive payment from you. If
you chose not to make payment then your request will remain unanswered.

 

Some requests may also require either full or partial transference to
another public authority in order to answer your query in the fullest
possible way. Again, you will be informed if this is the case.

 

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please write
or telephone the Information Compliance Unit quoting the reference number
above.

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

Administrator – Information Compliance

Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police

01905 331 545

[1]www.warwickshire.police.uk

[2]www.westmercia.police.uk

 

References

Visible links
1. http://www.warwickshire.police.uk/
2. http://www.westmercia.police.uk/

Information Compliance, West Mercia Police

 
Dear Mr Thompson
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST REFERENCE NOs:  West Mercia Police 10177
and Warwickshire Police 10178
I write in connection with your requests for information which were
received on 28^th August 2018.  Please find below the responses to your
requests for West Mercia Police and Warwickshire Police information:
Since at least 2000, the Government has authorised the use of juveniles as
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS), under the Regulation of
Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
I would like to know how many juvenile CHIS have been used by your force
since 2000, if possible disaggregated by age range of child (under 16, and
16 and over), type of crime, and year.
I recognise that data about CHIS operations could potentially allow
criminals to determine (or cause them to suspect) that a child has acted
against them, posing a risk to children. Therefore if more specific
details must be withheld, I would be satisfied with simply knowing how
many juvenile CHIS have been used since 2000.
West Mercia Police 10177 and Warwickshire Police 10178 REPLY: Section 1 of
the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) places two duties on public
authorities.  Unless exemptions apply, the first duty at s1(1)(a) is to
confirm or deny whether the information specified in a request is held. 
The second duty at s1(1)(b) is to disclose information that has been
confirmed as being held.  Where exemptions are relied upon Section 17 of
the FOIA requires that we provide the applicant with a notice which: a)
states that fact; b) specifies the exemptions in question and c) state (if
that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption(s) applies.
 
The Alliance neither confirms nor denies that it holds information
relevant to this request by virtue of the following exemptions.
 
Section 23(5) Information supplied by, or concerning, certain Security
Bodies;
Section 24(2) National Security
Section 30(3) Investigations by virtue of Section 30(2)
Section 31(3) Law Enforcement
Section 38(2) Health and Safety
Section 40(5) Personal Information
 
Sections 23 and 40 are class based absolute exemptions and there is no
requirement to evidence the harm or consider the public interest.  With
regard to Section 40 please bear in mind that the changes brought about by
GDPR apply where you are considering whether the use of NCND is
appropriate inasmuch as determining that confirmation or denial would be
lawful and fair.  
 
Section 30 is a class based qualified exemption and consideration of the
public interest must be given as to whether neither confirming nor denying
information exists is the appropriate response.
With Sections 31, 24 and 38 being prejudice based and qualified there is a
requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or
not whether information is held as well as carrying out a public interest
test. 
 
Evidence of Harm in complying with Section 1(1)(a) – to confirm or not
whether information is or isn’t held
 
The public expect police forces and other law enforcement agencies to use
all powers and tactics available to prevent and detect crime or disorder
and maintain public safety.  There are a number of covert tactics
available and the use of informants (CHIS) is one of them.  Used
correctly, in line with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act
legislation, it is a proportionate, lawful and ethical tactic which
provides an effective means of obtaining evidence and intelligence.
 
There is considerable harm attributed to the confirmation or denial of any
information in relation to police receiving information from confidential
sources.  Such information would not exist had covert human intelligence
sources (CHIS) not been required to participate in the effective
investigation of criminal matters.  The information is only held because
it is obtained and recorded by the force for the purpose of its functions
in relation to criminal investigations. 
 
In this case, and irrespective of whether any information relating to this
request is or isn’t held, confirmation or denial that individuals under
the age of 18 are used as CHIS is likely to reduce the flow of information
to the Police Service and intelligence agencies and would have a
substantial prejudicial impact on the ability of such authorities to
collect reliable and accurate intelligence.   Furthermore, law enforcement
bodies would become dependent on more costly and time consuming methods of
collecting intelligence. 
 
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (regardless of their motivation) provide
information at particular personal risk to themselves and their families. 
As previous cases have shown, where a CHIS is identified it can result in
substantial physical harm, or mental trauma resulting from the threat of
physical harm.  This problem is particularly acute in cases relating to
serious crime and terrorism where the threat against individuals is
substantial.  To confirm or deny whether or not individuals under the age
of 18 years are used as CHIS by the Alliance would place those
individual(s), if any, at an increased risk from danger as detailed
above.  
 
At present the use of CHIS is regulated by the Regulation of Investigatory
Powers Act (soon to fall under the Investigatory Powers Act) which
requires authorities to take into account the provisions of the Human
Rights Act when using CHIS (and other covert techniques).  Police forces
are reminded of their obligation under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act
which requires them to protect human life.  This is further supported by a
High Court hearing Van Colle v Chief Constable Hertfordshire Police.  In
this case the force concerned failed to provide adequate protection to an
individual whose life was at risk because of the criminal acts of a third
party.  The witness was murdered by a person whom he was about to give
evidence against in a criminal trial.
 
It may be viewed by those not involved in the management of informants
that a statistical number in itself is unlikely to cause any such adverse
effects.  However, the subject has to be viewed more as a whole.
 
Those determined to identify informants have the ability to use small
pieces of information in order to build a more complete picture and it is
the cumulative effect of information disclosures that the Police Service
feel will lead to this prejudice being realised. 
 
Irrespective of what information is or isn’t held, numbers may be
extremely low and not all forces will have recruited children as CHIS.  To
state ‘no information held’ or cite a substantive exemption would confirm
which forces have individuals under the age of 18 recruited as covert
human intelligence sources (CHIS).  This in itself would be harm inasmuch
as it would potentially reveal CHIS activity and locations.
 
Public Interest Considerations
 
Section 24(2) National Security
 
Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirmation or denying
that any other information is held
 
The public are entitled to know how funds are spent and resources
distributed within an area of policing, particularly with regard to how
the police investigate terrorist atrocities.  To confirm whether
information exists would enable the general public to hold the Alliance to
account in relation to how all CHIS are recruited to ensure it is done so
in line with RIPA legislation and local force policies and procedures.
 
Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a)
 
Taking into account the current security climate within the United
Kingdom, no information which may aid a terrorist should be disclosed.  To
what extent confirmation or denial may aid a terrorist is unknown, but it
is clear that it will have an impact on a force’s ability to monitor
terrorist activity.
 
The public entrust the Police Service to make appropriate decisions with
regard to their safety and protection.  The only way of reducing risk is
to be cautious with what is placed into the public domain and in some
circumstances such as these, confirmation or denial that information is
held.
 
The cumulative effect of terrorists gathering information from various
sources would build a picture of vulnerabilities within certain scenarios,
such as the use of individuals under the age of 18 being recruited as
CHIS.  The more information disclosed over time will provide a more
detailed account of the tactical infrastructure of not only a force area
but also the country as a whole.
 
Any incident which results from such a disclosure would by default affect
National Security.
 
 
Section 30(3) Investigations
 
Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming that
information is held
 
Confirming or denying that any information exists would lead to a better
informed public, improving their knowledge and understanding of how the
Police Service utilise the use of Covert Human Intelligence Sources as
part of their investigative policing. 
 
The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and
detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve.  Confirming that
information exists could promote public trust in providing transparency
and demonstrating openness and accountability into how the investigation
took place.  It could also provide reassurance to the public that the
Police Service tasks all reports of a crime seriously and conducts
investigations appropriately.  To confirm information is held could allow
the public to have a better understanding of the effectiveness of the
Police Service.
 
Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming or denying that
information is held
 
However, by its very nature information held relating to informants is
sensitive in nature.  Under FOI there is a requirement to comply with
Section 1(1)(a) and confirm what information is held.  In some cases it is
that confirmation, or not, which could disclose facts harmful to
informants.  In some cases their mere existence can place individuals in
grave danger.  The only methodology which will provide the required degree
of protection to those individuals is if the force takes advantage of its
ability under FOI legislation to, when appropriate, not confirm or deny
that the information requested is, or is not held.  The Police Service
will never confirm or deny information is held if in doing so could
identify investigative activity and therefore undermine their
investigations.  To do so would hinder the prevention or detection of
crime.
 
Section 31 Law Enforcement
 
Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming information is
held
 
There is information within the public domain, such as Lord Trefgarne’s
Scrutiny Committee report into the use of juvenile CHIS by the Police
Service, see below link, and that in itself favours confirmation
information is held:
 
[1]https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld...
 
Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) neither confirming nor
denying that information is held
 
The Alliance has a duty of care to the community at large and public
safety is of paramount importance.  If an FOI disclosure reveals
information to the world by not adopting an NCND position, would not only
compromise and undermine the security of the national infrastructure, the
effective delivery of operational law enforcement would also be undermined
as offenders, including terrorist organisations, could use this knowledge
to their advantage which would compromise public safety and more
worryingly encourage offenders to carry our further crimes.
 
The Alliance relies on information being supplied by the public. 
Irrespective of what information is or isn’t held, by applying substantive
exemptions would indicate that information is held and therefore a
juvenile CHIS located within the Alliance jurisdiction.  Such action would
act as a deterrent to the public to provide intelligence to the force
which would further undermine public safety, with repercussions that could
hinder the prevention or detection of crime.
 
Section 38 Health and Safety
 
Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming information is
held
 
Confirming whether information is or isn’t held would provide reassurance
to the general public that the Alliance uses tactical options with regard
to the use of Covert Human Intelligence Sources as a means of acquiring
intelligence.  This awareness could be used to improve any public
consultations; debates in relation to this subject and also allow the
public to take steps to protect themselves.
 
Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming or denying that
information is held
 
Confirming or denying that information exists could lead to the loss of
public confidence in the Alliance`s ability to protect the wellbeing of
individuals recruited as CHIS as well as members of the community at
large.
 
The Alliance has a duty of care towards any individual who has been
recruited as a CHIS.  To reveal information via an FOI request which would
place the safety of individuals in grave danger, is not in the public
interest. 
 
 
Balancing Test
 
The points above highlight the merits of confirming, or denying, whether
any information pertinent to this request exists.  The Police Service is
charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and
protecting the communities we serve.  As part of that policing purpose,
various tactical options, including the use of juvenile CHIS, may or may
not be utilised.  The Police Service will never divulge whether or not
information pertinent to this request does or does not exist, if to do so
would place the safety of an individual(s) at risk, compromise an ongoing
investigation or undermine the policing purpose in the effective delivery
of operational law enforcement. 
 
Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing
operations and investigations, providing reassurance that the Police
Service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat from
criminals, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding the
health and safety of individuals.  As much as there is a public interest
in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced it will only
be overridden in exceptional circumstances. 
 
Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues
the balance test for confirming, nor denying that information is held is
appropriate.
 
No inference can be taken from this refusal that information does or does
not exist. 
 
Your attention is drawn to the below which details your right of
complaint.
Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please write
or telephone the Information Compliance Unit quoting the reference number
above.
Yours sincerely
 
Mrs R Williams
Information Compliance Unit
Warwickshire Police & West Mercia Police
PO Box 55
Hindlip
Worcester
WR3 8SP
01905 331545 / 331565
 
West Mercia Police in complying with their statutory duty under sections 1
and 11 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to release the enclosed
information will not breach the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
However, the rights of the copyright owner of the enclosed information
will continue to be protected by law. Applications for the copyright
owner’s written permission to reproduce any part of the attached
information should be addressed to The Force Solicitor, West Mercia Police
Headquarters, PO Box 55, Hindlip, Worcester, WR3 8SP.
COMPLAINT RIGHTS
Are you unhappy with how your request has been handled or do you think the
decision is incorrect?
You have the right to require West Mercia Police (WMP) to review their
decision.
Prior to lodging a formal complaint you are welcome and encouraged to
discuss the decision with the person that dealt with your request.
Ask to have the decision looked at again -
The quickest and easiest way to have the decision looked at again is to
contact the person named at the end of your decision letter.
That person will be able to discuss the decision, explain any issues and
assist with any problems.
Complaint
If you are dissatisfied with the handling procedures or the decision of
WMP made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) regarding
access to information, you can lodge a complaint with WMP to have the
decision reviewed. WMP must be notified of your intention to complain
within 20 working days of the date of its response to your Freedom of
Information request. Complaints should be made in writing and addressed
to:
West Mercia Police Headquarters
Information Compliance Unit
Hindlip Hall
Hindlip
PO Box 55
Worcester
WR3 8SP
or
Email:  [West Mercia Police request email]
In all possible circumstances, WMP will aim to respond to your complaint
within 20 working days.
The Information Commissioner
After lodging a complaint with WMP if you are still dissatisfied with the
decision you may make application to the Information Commissioner for a
decision on whether the request for information has been dealt with in
accordance with the requirements of the Act.
For information on how to make application to the Information Commissioner
please visit their website at [2]https://ico.org.uk/ Alternatively, phone
or write to:
Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Phone: 0303 123 1113 (local rate) or 01625 545745 if you prefer to use a
national rate number
Fax:    01625 524 510
 
 
 
 

References

Visible links
1. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld...
2. https://ico.org.uk/

Dear West Mercia Police,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of West Mercia Police's handling of my FOI request 'Use of Juveniles as Covert Human Intelligence Sources'.

I do not see how my simple request for the numbers of children involved since 2000 is able to be withheld under the exemptions you cite.

You cite the following sections as reasons for not responding to my request:
Section 23(5) Information supplied by, or concerning, certain Security Bodies;
Section 24(2) National Security
Section 30(3) Investigations by virtue of Section 30(2)
Section 31(3) Law Enforcement
Section 38(2) Health and Safety
Section 40(5) Personal Information

If I might take them by turn.

Section 23 applies to information supplied by or relating to security bodies. If I were requesting details of the individuals concerned this might apply. As I am asking merely for a headcount, this will be information held by your police force and not supplied by the security bodies. I also feel that the "relates to" exemption in this case does not apply, as the connection is too remote.

Sections 23 and 24 are mutually exclusive, and so cannot both apply to the same information. As I think 23 doesn't apply, I also suggest that 24 doesn't either. For Section 24 to apply there must be a real possibility that disclosure would undermine national security. This is manifestly not the case. I simply want numbers. Nothing more.

Section 30, as you will know, must be subject to a public interest test. It is my strong view that the use of children as spies may breach the Human Rights Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As such there is a strong public interest in disclosure. There would be no harm in releasing to me a simple number, over a period of 18 years. I will discuss this in further detail below.

Section 31. I simply do not see how the disclosure of a simple number would have any prejudicial impact on any of the areas listed in this Section. Again I repeat, I am asking not for detailed information on dates, or any personal information. As detailed in my request, I am asking for a simple minimum, of a number of children used over a period of 18 years. It is not at all clear to me how the disclosure of that number will have any negative impact, other than from a PR standpoint, which is not what the exemptions exist for.

Section 38 does not apply in my view for much the same reason. Asking for a number that could relate to any investigation over a period of nearly two decades would not endanger any individual. It is far too broad a period of time, and too limited in detail to identify any individual. Again, as it is a qualified exemption, I believe the public interest in disclosure is much greater than the negligible risk to an individual.

Finally, Section 40. I cannot see any reasonable definition whereby the disclosure of a headcount constitutes personal information. I believe this has been misapplied.

In light of all of the above, I would ask you to reconsider, and please disclose to me the number of children used as CHIS from the year 2000 to the present.

Yours faithfully,

Matthew Thompson

Information Compliance, West Mercia Police

Dear Mr Thompson
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST REFERENCE NOs:  West Mercia Police 10177
and Warwickshire Police 10178. Review Request
I acknowledge receipt of your correspondence dated 28th September 2018
requesting that West Mercia Police and Warwickshire Police review its
response regarding your recent Freedom of Information request.
Please be advised that this matter has been referred for Internal Appeal.
Every effort will be made to respond to you by 1st November 2018.
Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter in the
meantime, please write or telephone the Information Compliance Unit
quoting the reference number above.
Mrs R Williams
Information Compliance Unit
Warwickshire Police & West Mercia Police
PO Box 55
Hindlip
Worcester
WR3 8SP
01905 331545 / 331565
 
 

Information Compliance, West Mercia Police

 
Dear Mr Thompson
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST REFERENCE NOs:  West Mercia Police 10177
and Warwickshire Police 10178. Internal Request
I write in response to your correspondence dated 28th September 2018
requesting that West Mercia Police and Warwickshire Police review its
response regarding your recent Freedom of Information request.
The two force Alliance responded that they would neither confirm nor deny
that it holds information in relation to your request to supply how many
juvenile CHIS have been used since 2000,  disaggregated by age range of
child (under 16, and 16 and over), type of crime and year, by virtue of
the following exemptions.
 
Section 23(5) Information supplied by, or concerning, certain Security
Bodies;
Section 24(2) National Security
Section 30(3) Investigations by virtue of Section 30(2)
Section 31(3) Law Enforcement
Section 38(2) Health and Safety
Section 40(5) Personal Information
 
The response has now been reviewed and the forces maintain that your
request was refused on a proper basis, and the listed exemptions were
applied appropriately. This position is upheld for the reasons outlined
within the response provided on 18th September 2018 because irrespective
of what information is or isn’t held, numbers may be extremely low for
some forces and not all forces will have recruited children as CHIS. This
means that those determined to identify informants have the ability to use
small pieces of information in order to build a more complete picture and
it is the cumulative effect of information disclosures that the Police
Service believe will lead to individuals and CHIS location and activity
being identified with the resultant risks to CHIS safety, investigations
and policing capability.
 
 
Your attention is drawn to the below which details your right of
complaint.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Mrs R Williams
Information Compliance Unit
Warwickshire Police & West Mercia Police
 
Complaint
The Information Commissioner
After lodging a complaint with WMP if you are still dissatisfied with the
decision you may make application to the Information Commissioner for a
decision on whether the request for information has been dealt with in
accordance with the requirements of the Act.
For information on how to make application to the Information Commissioner
please visit their website at [1]https://ico.org.uk/ Alternatively, phone
or write to:
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
 
Tel: 0303 123 1113 (local rate) or 01625 545 745 if you prefer to use a
national rate number
Fax: 01625 524 510
 
 
 
 

References

Visible links
1. https://ico.org.uk/

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