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FOIA_UK_CPS

FOIA_UK_CPS

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Published by swedenversusassange
UK Crown Prosecution Service denies FOIA request on the grounds it might damage UK's relations with other countries.
UK Crown Prosecution Service denies FOIA request on the grounds it might damage UK's relations with other countries.

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Published by: swedenversusassange on Feb 11, 2012
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02/11/2012

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Our ref: 2574

Refusal Notice under section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) The purpose of this refusal notice is to explain why your request for information in connection to the extradition of Julian Assange is being refused under s.27(1), 30(1) (c) and 40(2) FOIA. Section 27(1) FOIA – International Relations Information is exempt information under s. 27(1)(a) if its disclosure under the FOIA would, or would be likely to, prejudice relations between the United Kingdom and any other State. This is a prejudice based exemption and therefore the information engaging the exemption is subject to the public interest test. The public interest test for disclosure must outweigh the favour in protecting the information. When considering the balance of the public interest test for this exemption, we have taken in account there is a clear public interest in the way the CPS carries out its function as the principle prosecuting authority in England and Wales, and how it interconnects with other criminal justice systems within the European Union (EU) and across the world. We also note there is a strong public interest in CPS policy on prosecuting criminal offences and how it delivers an open and transparent prosecution service. However, on balance we consider that the grounds for disclosure do not outweigh the prejudice that would arise if correspondence in relation to the extradition of Julian Assange was to be released into the public domain. There is a vital public interest in maintaining good relations between the UK and other States to enable effect to be given to international commitments and treaty obligations in relation to criminal justice. Disclosure would certainly prejudice the UK’s reputation for honouring its commitments and obligations, a diminishment of the UK’s reputation would lead to less confident relations with other States as they may consider that their exchanges in information with the UK might not be respected, if this were to happen formal law enforcement procedures such as extradition would be at risk. Section 30(1)(c) FOIA – Investigations and Proceedings conducted by public authorities As set out at s. 30(1)(c) FOIA, information held by a public authority is exempt information if it was obtained or recorded by the authority for the purposes of its functions relating to criminal proceedings which the authority has power to conduct. Extradition proceedings are criminal proceedings, the authority for this is R v Governor of Brixton Prison ex p Levin [1 Cr App R 22]. The correspondence held in connection to the extradition of Julian Assange is therefore specifically held for the purposes of "criminal proceedings which the authority (CPS) has power to conduct".

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This exemption is subject to the public interest test at section 2(2)(b) and therefore we are required to consider whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information. When considering the competing public interest for and against disclosure, we have acknowledged that disclosure would enable transparency of the decision making process in relation to the extradition matter, we have also taken into account that it would increase public understanding the decision making process and allow the public to assess the CPS’ decision making. However the CPS considers the reasons for disclosing do not outweigh the public interest in maintaining the exemption. It is important to note that the right of access should not undermine the investigation and prosecution process of criminal matters, this principle was recognised by the Information Tribunal, in the case of Mr A DigbyCameron v the Information Commissioner EA/2008/0023 &0025; 26 January 2009, in this instance the case against Julian Assange is yet to be concluded and we consider that disclosure would undermine the extradition process. If communications were to be released into the public domain, officials within the criminal justice arena would feel inhibited to freely justify and maintain their thought process when making decisions. It is vital that officials are able to engage in discussion and debate with other criminal justice Departments with the object of achieving better prosecution decisions as possible, lack of candour in the decision making process would have adverse ramifications on the integrity of the extradition process we have in place. Section 40(2) FOIA – Personal Information Turning to s.40(2) FOIA, which exempts personal data relating to third parties being released into the public domain. Information released under the Freedom of Information Act is released into the public domain, not just to the individual requesting the information and therefore due diligence must be given personal data belonging to living individuals. The material you have requested concerns the extradition of Julian Assange. Much of the material held is personal data as defined by s.1 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA 1998). A proportion of this personal data is sensitive personal data as it concerns an alleged commission of a criminal offence. Personal data can only be released if to do so would not contravene any of the data protection principles contained within the DPA 1998. The first principle states: Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and, in particular, shall not be processed unless— (a) at least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 is met, and (b) in the case of sensitive personal data, at least one of the conditions in Schedule 3 is also met. For this request, a condition in both Schedule 2 and 3 must be met before data can be released to you, however upon review we believe that none of the criteria are met in either schedule and therefore releasing personal data to you would breach the principles of the DPA 1998.

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