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Reported Incidents Involving Drones since April 2013

Question

1. Please can you tell me how many incidents involving drones have been recorded by your police force in the last 3 financial years (Apr 2013 - Apr 2014, Apr 2014 – Apr 2015 and Apr 2015 – 2016)?

2. Please can you tell me how many incidents involving drones have been recorded by your police force from April 2016 to the end of November 2016?

3. Please can you tell me how many prosecutions your police force has carried out involving drones in the last 3 financial years (Apr 2013 - Apr 2014, Apr 2014 – Apr 2015 and Apr 2015 – 2016)?

4. Please can you tell me how many prosecutions your police force has carried out involving drones from April 2016 to the end of November 2016?

5. Please can you give me detail about which statutes the incidents involving drones were prosecuted under. For example Air Navigation Order 2009, Public Order Act, 1988, Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Sexual Offences Act 2003, Terrorism Act 2000, Likely to lead to a Breach of the Peace, Public Nuisance.

Answer

1. In the last three financial years we have recorded six incidents which mention drones.

2. From 1st April 2016 to 30th November 2016 April 2016 we have recorded three incidents.

3 – 5. There have been no prosecutions related to the above incidents.

In addition, in relation to prosecutions under the Terrorism Act 2000, I can neither confirm nor deny that any further information is held by virtue of the following exemptions:

24(2) – National Security

31(3) – Law Enforcement

Harm in disclosure

The threat from terrorism cannot be ignored. It should be recognised that the international security landscape is increasingly complex and unpredictable. The United Kingdom faces a sustained thereat from violent terrorists and extremists. Since 2006, the government has published the threat level, based upon current intelligence, and that threat has remained at the second highest level, ‘sever’, except for two short periods during August 2006 and June and July 2007, when it was raised to the highest threat, ‘critical’, and in July  2009, when it was reduced to ‘substantial’. The current threat level for international terrorism in the UK is ‘severe’. 

Confirming or denying that any further information is held would undermine our counter terrorism capabilities which would consequently be detrimental to our ability to be able to deal with the on-going terrorist threat that we face. To confirm or deny that any further information is held in relation to prosecutions under the Terrorism Act 2000 for offences involving drones is held within Avon and Somerset, could allow a comparison across the country and allow terrorist to build a picture of what resources are in place and where they are deployed nationally. It is felt that confirmation or denial would prejudice the effectiveness of the national counter terrorist effort, and would allow inferences to be drawn about our force level Counter Terrorism activity.

Confirmation or denial below a national figure would start to indicate levels of policing activity over time, ultimately to avoid detection. This would infer counter terrorist policing resources, and by analysing similar data from around the country we might allow criminals to understand national counter terrorist policing activity. For example, this would enable terrorists to make judgments concerning where they perceive there to be a greater vulnerability, lower staff levels and lesser probability of being apprehended. The release of figures would increase the advantage to the terrorist and increase the risk and vulnerability to the security of the UK from terrorist attack.

Factors favouring confirming or denying that further information is held:

The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and confirmation or denial that this information is held, would enable the public to see where public money is being spent and know that forces are adequately equipped and have the available resources to deal with this area of policing. By confirming or denying that information is held the public would see where public funds are being spent and would be able to take steps to protect themselves and their families. Better public awareness may reduce crime or lead to more information from the public as they would be more observant in reporting suspicious activity.

Factors favouring neither confirming or denying that further information is held:

To confirm or deny that this information is 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, providing them with the knowledge of individual force capability as well as valuable knowledge concerning the vulnerability of individual force areas.

Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and providing assurance that Avon and Somerset Constabulary is appropriately and effectively dealing with crime, there is a strong public interest in safeguarding the integrity of police investigations and operations and in maintaining confidence in the Police Service. Confirmation or denial that any further information relevant to the request is held would undermine any investigative process and compromise the integrity of any operations.

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 as vulnerable forces may need to increase their resources to reassure and protect the surrounding community.

Balancing test

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 and are of intelligence value to terrorists and therefore it is our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for confirming or denying that this information is held, not made out.

However, this should not be taken as necessarily indicating that any further information that would meet your request exists or does not exist.

FOI reference: 1446/16.

Date of request: 29.11.16.