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Coronavirus (COVID-19): the policing response and what you need to know

Homicide 2008-2020

Date of request: January 25, 2021
Reference: 101/21

Request

I would like to know the following information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for your police force area between the month of January 2008 and month of December 2020 (both inclusive).

1) the precise location, i.e., either A.) Road name plus village/town/city plus postcode or B.) Six digit grid reference number, of each established homicide (that is incidents of murder, manslaughter or infanticide).

2) The date of the respective incident (if not available, then the date of reporting).

3) The name of the victim or victims for each homicide.

 

Response

Please find the information you have requested attached.

Please note, the locations of offences have been provided as recorded. For the purpose of the Act, information that is already recorded or documented at the time of the request can be disclosed (subject to any relevant exemptions). Information will not be held for the purposes of the Act where it relates to, for example, understanding, knowledge and opinion; and is not recorded.

There is no obligation for the constabulary to create information to satisfy a request. In this instance we would need to research the location of these offences to identify a specific road name or grid reference, therefore create an answer to your question. As such the information requested is not recorded as new information would be created in order to answer this question.

Please also note, the information collated for this request is recorded on two separate crime recording systems. It is therefore susceptible to the inherent data quality issues present in any large scale recording process where duplication takes place.

Some of the data requested has been considered for disclosure and I can confirm it has been exempt. It is therefore withheld by virtue of the following exemptions:

  • Section 30(1)(a)(b)(c) – Investigations and proceedings conducted by a public authority.
  • Section 38(1) – Health and Safety.
  • Section 44(1)(a) – Prohibitions on Disclosure.

Section 30 is a qualified class based exemption and as such requires a public interest test to be conducted, which is as follows:

Public Interest Test

Considerations favouring disclosure:

Disclosure of the requested information may go some way to demonstrating that the force is efficient, effective and accountable for the actions that it takes including its’ decision making process. 

Considerations favouring non-disclosure:

It is the Association of Chief Police Officers’ approach that information relating to an investigation will rarely be disclosed under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.  As the investigation is ongoing disclosure of any of the requested details would prejudice the investigation, and the right to a fair trial would therefore be undermined.

The current and future role of the constabulary effectively being able to conduct investigations and proceedings may be compromised by the release of information.  Disclosure could highlight investigative methods to an individual which could potentially undermine future investigations resulting in potential damage to the service and the wider community as this may hinder the prevention or detection of crime.

Balancing test

After weighing up the competing interests, I have determined that the disclosure of the above information would not be in the public interest. I believe the importance of the factors favouring non-disclosure outweigh those considerations favouring disclosure.  At this time the potential harm to current investigations outweighs any public benefit. There is no further tangible community benefit in complying with section 1(1)(b) of the Act at this time.

Section 38 is a qualified and prejudice based exemption therefore as well as considering the public interest in disclosure, there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused by disclosure. Please see this below:

Harm in disclosure

The information requested relates to investigations into murder cases. Releasing information about any children involved would likely endanger their physical or mental health as it would alert members of the public to them. It may also cause pain to members of the victims / offenders friends and family who may relive distressing memories related to the event.

Public Interest Test

Considerations favouring disclosure:

Disclosure could lead to a better awareness of this type of investigation and enable a better informed debate to be undertaken.

Considerations favouring non-disclosure:

Release of the information is likely to expose individuals to distressing memories thus risking harm to their mental well-being. This would be relevant to the close friends and family of the victim as well as any other individual involved in the investigation. The constabulary takes their responsibility to protect both the physical and mental health and safety of the communities we serve seriously and any information that could jeopardise this will not be released. The public would lose confidence in our commitment to protecting the wellbeing of our community.

Balancing test

After weighing up the competing interests, I have determined that the disclosure of the above information would not be in the public interest. Although the information requested would be considered interesting to some members of the public, it is not in the public interest to disclose this. I believe the importance of the factors favouring non-disclosure outweigh those considerations favouring disclosure.

Section 44 is an absolute and class based exemption therefore there is no requirement to conduct a harm or public interest test.

This section states than any information is exempt from disclosure if it is in contravention of any other enactment. The Children Act 2004 states that all persons have a responsibility to safeguard children. As some of the information requested is regarding children, Avon and Somerset Constabulary have a duty to protect their anonymity.

This therefore acts as a partial refusal notice for the data relevant to your request regarding ongoing investigations, children and any information that may cause a health and safety risk to members of the public.

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