Land and premises owned and occupied
Here you can find the register of land and premises ‘owned’ or occupied by the police and crime commissioner (as an elected local policing body).
The estate strategy sets out how the organisations building portfolio will support the delivery of the Police and Crime Plan and it explains how the estate will assist the Force in achieving its mission to detect and prevent harm; protect the vulnerable and reduce crime. The police and crime commissioner's estate supports the operations of some 5,800 officers and staff across 110,000m2 of space.
The rationalisation programme which underpins the strategy is part of the response to the prevailing economic situation whereby the property portfolio must become more efficient than it has ever been before. The estate will therefore support the core objectives within the Police and Crime Plan, to be efficient and provide long term security, whilst ensuring that the service which operates from it is well placed to provide high quality, accessible help for the victims of crime.
Register of land and premises (as of February 2016).
Although the police and crime commissioner legally 'owns' police property and land, the majority are occupied and managed by the police force.
This information is published in part. The details relating to administration buildings used for the purposes of discreet or covert policing work are redacted in accordance with Section 31(1)(a) – prevention and detection of crime, of the Freedom of Information Act.
Section 31 requires the application of prejudice test and a public interest test before it can be claimed. The prejudice and public interest tests have been applied as follows:
Prejudice (harm) test
Disclosure of details relating to administration buildings used for the purposes of discreet or covert policing work would be harmful to those employees working within those buildings and to the work they are conducting.
The success of criminal investigations is very often dependent on the use of covert techniques and methodology. The individuals involved in this type of activity, or any individual suspected by the criminal fraternities of being so involved, would have their safety put at risk, if information were released that could identify any individual or policing activity.
Many criminals are constantly active and astute in their assessment of police capabilities and will capitalise on any information they can glean about police activities. Using the information to compromise policing methods will assist their offending behaviour. For example, disclosing that a particular site, which a criminal has seen an associate enter, is occupied by the police could compromise that person be they an undercover officer or someone supplying information to the police.
Disclosing the locations of discreet or covert police buildings would lead to those premises being targeted by criminals in a bid to disrupt the policing activity taking place and gain access to information that would enable them to avoid detection, apprehension and subsequent prosecution. If these buildings were compromised it would undermine current operations and initiatives, covert policing tactics and sources.
Although the request does not ask for personal data the interests of third parties, i.e. police officers in covert roles, could still be jeopardised by the release of this information. To disclose that a building that from the outside does not appear to have anything to do with the police, houses Devon and Cornwall Police employees would lead to those individuals being identified as working for this organisation. Not only is it of paramount importance to an investigation/operation that the identity of employees working in discreet or covert positions is kept secret, their physical safety would be put in danger if their association with the police is discovered.
Public interest test
Disclosure of this information would be of interest to the public as it will provide a more complete picture of how Devon and Cornwall Police resources are spread throughout the region. This would enable the public to judge whether they consider this organisation to be spending public funds effectively in terms of estate management and distribution.
Where current or future law enforcement of the force may be compromised by the release of information the public interest is likely to favour non-disclosure as it is in the public’s interest to have criminals brought to justice. In order to secure the most appropriate conviction and sentence the police must be able to obtain sufficient high quality evidence unimpeded.
Disclosure of this information would have a negative impact on the effectiveness of current and future operations for dealing with offenders that require the use of the police service’s most sophisticated law enforcement tactics as these buildings would become targets of crime. If these buildings were put under surveillance or broken into, the information obtained would lead to an increase in high profile crime due to the advantage such information would give the criminal fraternity and this would not be in the public’s interest.
Devon and Cornwall Police would not be able to employ the tactics and resources undermined by this disclosure as those tactics and/or officers being used or involved could no longer be deployed for reasons of safety and ineffectiveness as a covert intelligence gathering asset. This would not be in the public interest as any harm caused to this area of policing would be a waste of the public funds spent on closed or current operations up to that point in attempting to bring those offenders to justice. Such setbacks in specific investigations and general policing efficiency and effectiveness would give criminals an advantage, which is counterintuitive to the purpose of the police.
There may be occasions where the release of information relating to public safety may not be in the public interest. In this case, information that potentially thwarts an investigation or causes more crime and so impacts negatively on Devon and Cornwall Police’s ability to effectively enforce the law will adversely affect public safety. Public safety is of paramount importance to the police service and must be considered in respect of every release.
The only argument identified that favours disclosure of this information is the point made regarding accountability for the spending of public funds. When this is compared to the detrimental impact disclosure of police buildings used for the purposes of discreet or covert policing would have on Devon and Cornwall Police’s capability to effectively enforce the law in all areas, it is clear that the public interest cannot favour disclosure. The police service cannot and will not disclose information which will place the public at risk or undermine law enforcement thereby assisting those intent on committing crime. Providing such individuals with an advantage over those with the responsibility to prevent their activities would be counterintuitive.
Also, as was firmly established at an information tribunal case of the Guardian Newspaper versus the Information Commissioner and the Avon and Somerset Constabulary, the public interest in disclosure of information which is exempt by virtue of a qualified exemption, is not justified just because it is what interests the public. Information released under FOIA, where exemptions apply, will only be done where there is a tangible community benefit which is more powerful than the harm that could be done. This does not apply in this case.
On balance, and from the harm evidenced above, the information should be protected and exemptions applied.