Informants’ secrecy slowly peeling awayPosted on January 6th, 2010 No comments
Police forces look as if they are going to be forced to disclose yet more information about the amount of money they pay their “sources” for information about criminals.
The police service has always attempted to maintain a robust defence to protect data about so called Covert Human Intelligences Sources (CHIS). However, that protection had a huge chunk taken out of it last year in a Decision Notice in relation to informants paid by Northumbria Police [link] and has now been further nibbled away at in a ruling against the Metropolitan Police Service [link].
Arguments have been fairly routine in that the police have acted to protect the confidentiality of their informants and to this end refused to release any meaningful data about the amounts handed over to their “grasses”.
Forces have claimed S.30 (investigations) and S.38 (health and safety). In summary it is claimed by forces that disclosure of the amounts paid to informants as a whole could lead to the identification of individuals which could be a disincentive for sources to come forward in the future and could lead to attacks on the informant.
The counter claim has been that the detail of information that is being asked for – normally the annual figure paid to informants in a wide geographical area – is not going to lead to any individual being identified and therefore the exemptions are not relevant.
The significance of the most recent judgement is the geographical area that the data covers. The request was for the amount paid to informants in Croydon, one of the London boroughs served by the Metropolitan Police Force(MPS).
Lawyers for the MPS stated that in the Northumbria Police decision the potential pool of people (the population of the Northumbria Police area) was 1.5million, whereas Croydon covers just 300,000 people.
The Information Commissioner rejected this argument and obviously felt that the informants within the 300,000 population of the south London borough would still have their anonymity assured even if the total payment figures were disclosed.
The passage of this ruling has a similar history to that relating to the details of the numbers of registered sex offenders in each police area. Initially police would only give the number registered in each force but following a Decision Notice [link] on the subject they were made to give out the numbers by police divisions within each force area.
UPDATE 9.1.10: It would appear from an article in the Times that it is the Police’s intention to appeal the decision to the Information Tribunal.Decisions Croydon, Informants, Metropolitan Police, Northumbria Police, S.30 (Investigations), S.38 (Health and Safety)
Leave a reply