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Convert Human Intelligence Source Payments Since 2012/13

Question

First part:

For the financial years 2012/2013, 2013/2014, 2014/2015, 2015/2016, 2016/2017 and available data for 2017/2018, I would like to know how much money the police force has paid out to informants. Please provide a breakdown for each financial year.

Second part:

If possible and if easily retrievable, please indicate how much the highest paid informant has received from the police force.

Answer

Please find below the total amount paid to Covert Human Intelligence Sources for the last 5 financial years.

2012/13 - £76,711.00

2013/14 - £76,598.53

2014/15 - £59,996.62

2015/16 - £57,709.90

2016/17 - £73,755.00

With regards to the 2017/18 this year is not complete the information to date would attract and engage an exemption, namely section 30 concerning investigations and proceedings.

With regards to the second part of your request concerning the amount received by the current highest paid informant has been considered and the information has been deemed exempt by virtue of section 30(2)(a)(i)(b) concerning investigations and proceedings. 

Public interest test

Factors favouring disclosure

It is publicly acknowledged that police forces provide financial reward to covert human intelligence sources on receipt of intelligence and there is a call for openness and transparency. Details of the amount paid to date so far this financial year and the details of the payments made to the highest paid informant would aid the accuracy of public debate and demonstrate that the Constabulary is accountable and transparent with regards to the amount of financial gain provided to these individuals.  

Factors favouring non-disclosure

Disclosure of the information requested could identify informant activity within a force area. Over a period of time if several disclosures were made, concerning differing date ranges for example individuals could analyse the information and identify informant activity. This would hinder the prevention and detection of crime and also prejudice our ability to maintain confidential sources.

Consequently, the force’s future law enforcement capabilities would be affected.  Provision of information about informants, other than that already published on a financial yearly basis, would deter informants from approaching the Police in the future and damage relations. Additionally, it would deter future informants from coming forward with invaluable information.

Disclosure would undermine the effective relationship held between informant and Constabulary, eroding the trust formed and damaging the entire informant system, causing harm to retention and recruitment.

Disclosure of this information would not materially advance the public interest as the information already in the public domain satisfies the public interests with regards to Public funds and accountability.

The Police utilise the use of Informants for useful background and contextual information as well as other types of information in advance of the commission of an offence. Informants are an extremely versatile and invaluable resource, one that cannot be mirrored by existing Policing tactics.

Any disclosure that would undermine this law enforcement tactic would not be made out. Although it has been argued that factors favouring disclosure relates to accurate indications on expenditure, on the contrary, information in relation to informants is confidential information used for the Policing Purpose. There is a significant amount of regulation in place to regulate the Police use of informants including the audit Commission Act 1998 and RIPA 2000, which already ensures the Forces are held to account.  Onward disclosure therefore of this highly sensitive data, which is already managed effectively, would not meet the Publics best interest.

In addition, there are significant regulations concerning the police use of informants and police expenditure ensuring the police are accountable to various regulatory bodies, including the audit commission (under the Audit Commission Act 1998) and the Surveillance Commissioner (under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000).

The public interest will therefore be served by the provision of information on a financial yearly basis, and the knowledge that this process is meticulously regulated.

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.

This therefore allows us to then engage Section 30(2)(b) as it clearly states that information is exempt if ‘it relates to the obtaining of information from confidential sources’. The key word in this section is ‘relates’ which is not clearly defined within the legislation, nor by any case law. We would therefore seek to rely on the clear English understanding of this word, which in the Cambridge Dictionary is [relates – to connect]. The sole reason for the existence of the requested information is to give the police access to covert and sensitive information in order to assist any criminal investigation.

This statement is particularly pertinent when requests are submitted that ask specific questions about informants. In this case the information requested is at force level, is not specific to a particular geographic location below force level but is asking for a further breakdown by actual amount of payment to an individual. This could potentially lead to an individual being identified; therefore Section 40(2) Personal Information will be relevant.

Balancing Test

There is information within the public domain confirming that police use covert human intelligence sources to assist them with investigations and the effective delivery of law enforcement. The Police Service is tasked with protecting the community we serve and solving crime and there is a public interest argument in ensuring we are open and transparent with regard to policing investigations and operations. There is no doubt that for the issues outlined above any disclosure relating to sensitive informant information would jeopardise those important roles.

As has been mentioned, informants play a vital role in assisting the police and are based very much on relationships built on trust and the expectation of complete confidentiality.

Disclosure of payments at Force level on a financial year basis satisfies the Public interest in disclosure, and further breakdown of these figures by whatever means, would have a significant impact on retention, recruitment, operational vulnerability and identification.

Disclosure of payments at Force level on a financial year basis satisfies the Public interest in disclosure, and further breakdown of these figures by whatever means, would have a significant impact on retention, recruitment, operational vulnerability and identification.

Forces would never disclose information, which would compromise our police tactics or jeopardise issues of national security. It is therefore our opinion that the balance lies in favour of non-disclosure of the information.

FOI reference: 990/17.

Date of request: 10.08.17.