Added by Freedom of Information Team on 03 May 2016 at 11:00
1. In the 2015 calendar year how many times did your force make a request to Twitter for information relating to a user in connection with a criminal case?
2. How many of these requests were complied with by Twitter and how many were refused?
3. How many of these requests were made in connection with inquiries in relation to (i) homicides and (ii) terrorism offences.
3. (i) None
With regard to questions 1, 2 and 3(ii) we can neither confirm nor deny whether any information relevant to this request in relation to terrorism offences is held by virtue of S23(5), S24(2), S31(3) and S30(3).
Section 23 is an absolute and class based exemption which means that there is no requirement to identify and evidence the harm that would be caused by disclosure or consider the public interest.
Section 30 is a qualified and class based exemption which means that there is no requirement to identify and evidence the harm that would be caused by disclosure, however there is a requirement to consider the public interest.
Section 24 and 31 are qualified and prejudice based exemptions which means there is a requirement to identify and evidence the harm that would be caused by disclosure and consideration given to the public interest.
The threat of terrorism cannot be ignored. It should be recognised that the international security landscape is increasingly complex and unpredictable. The UK faces a sustained threat from violent terrorists and extremists. Since 2006 the UK Government have published the threat level based upon current intelligence and that threat level has remained at the second highest level ‘severe’, except for two short periods during August 2006 and June and July 2007, when it was raised to the highest threat ‘critical’ and July 2009, when it was reduced to ‘substantial’. The current threat level to the UK is ‘severe’.
The disclosure of the requested information would undermine individual forces policing capabilities which consequently would be detrimental to their ability to deal with the on-going terrorist threat we face. By providing the number of terrorism offences being investigated by an individual force would allow comparison between forces across the country and enable terrorists to build a picture of what resources are in place and where they are deployed. It is felt that the disclosure of this information would prejudice the effectiveness of the national counter terrorism effort and would allow inferences to be drawn about force level counter-terrorism activity and identify vulnerability around the country.
Public Interest Test
Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S24
The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and by confirming or denying that this information is held would allow the public to see where money is being spent and know that forces are doing as much as they can to combat terrorism.
Factors favouring neither confirming or denying for S24
The disclosure whether this information is or is not held would render security measures less effective which would compromise ongoing or future operations to protect the security and infrastructure of the UK. The risk of harm to the public would be elevated if areas of the UK which appear vulnerable were identified which would also provide the opportunity for terrorist planning. Ongoing or future operations to protect the security and infrastructure of the UK would be compromised as terrorists could map the level of counter-terrorist activity across the country, thus providing them with the knowledge of individual force capability.
Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S31
To confirm or deny that this information is held would make members of the public more aware of the threat of terrorism and allow them to take steps to protect themselves and families. Improved public awareness may lead to more intelligence being submitted to police about possible acts of terrorism as members of the public will be more observant to suspicious activity which in turn may result in a reduction of crime. The Home Office regularly publish national statistical data on terrorism arrests.
Factors favouring neither confirming or denying of S31
To confirm or deny that the requested information is held could compromise law enforcement tactics which would hinder the Police force’s ability to prevent and detect terrorist crimes. The threat of terrorism will increase as more crimes are committed as a result of terrorists gaining knowledge about the capabilities of individual forces and therefore the public will be placed at a greater risk. A fear of crime will be realised as terrorists identify vulnerable areas and target and exploit these areas resulting in the public being in fear of more terrorist activity occurring. There would be an impact on police resources from confirming or denying that terrorism offences are being investigated by individual forces as forces may need to increase their resources to reassure and protect the surrounding community.
Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S30 – Ongoing investigations would be high-profile or national and the public are entitled to know how public funds are spent. By confirming or denying that terrorists are being monitored or terrorist acts are being investigated, would force closure and proceedings to be completed.
Factors against confirmation or denial for S30 – By confirming or denying that terrorists are under investigation, the force’s future investigative capabilities would be affected which would hinder the prevention or detection of crime. This would impact on police resources and more crime would be committed, placing individuals at risk.
The Home Office regularly publishes data in relation to terrorism offences and arrests.
I have supplied the link to the information supplied by the Home Office below
To confirm or deny that investigations have been conducted in relation to terrorism breaks down the terrorism data to a refined force level which would start to indicate levels of policing activity at force level which could allow individuals to exploit what may be considered as less active or resourced areas, by assessing patterns of police activity and deployments over time, ultimately to avoid detection.
The security of the country is of paramount importance. The police will not divulge any information that would place the safety of an individual at risk or undermine national security. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing, and in this case providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by terrorist activity, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in the highly sensitive subject of terrorism.
As much as there is a public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced in matters of national security this will be overridden in exceptional circumstances. Police force’s capabilities of combating terrorism are sensitive issues of intelligence value to the terrorist and therefore it is our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for confirming or denying that this information is held, is not made out.
However, this should not be taken as necessarily indicating that any information that would meet your request exists or does not exist.
FOI reference: 400/16