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Freedom of information request reference no: 01.FOI.22.024273
I note you seek access to the following information:
1. Has Scotland Yard ever been asked to investigate sexual assault links involving HRH Prince Andrew and or Jeffery Epstein or his partner Ghislaine Maxwell? 2. If so what are the date(s) of these investigations? 3. How long did each investigation last? 4. Why where each of the investigations dropped or stopped? 5. With the current civil court case against HRH Prince Andrew in the United States, and his name being produced in a book that was owned by Jeffery Epstein and any mentions in the flight manifests of planes being owned by the Late Mr Epstein, are there plans to reopen any past investigations or start new ones, with regards to HRH Prince Andrew and the depth of his relationships with the aforementioned people and the possiblility that atleast one child was trafficked to the UK, whether there is a positive outcome for the claimant in the law suit in the United States or not? 6. If not why not? 7. Were the Royal Protection squad (or any royal protection department funded by public money) or members of SO14 Royalty Protection Group on official duty with regards HRH Prince Andrew on 10 March 2001 in Woking? Especially but not limited too the area of Pizza Express in Woking U.K.
I have today decided to disclose some of the requested information. Some data has been withheld as it is exempt from disclosure and therefore this response serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) by virtue of the following exemptions:
Section 24(2) National Security Section 30(3) Investigations and proceedings Section 31(3) Law Enforcement Section 38(2) Health and Safety Section 40(5B)(a)(i) Personal Information
Reason for decision
I can today confirm that some information is held in relation to the now deceased individual, Jeffrey Epstein, and therefore answers can today be provided in response to questions 1 to 4 in relation to him.
However, in relation to potential investigations into other named individuals (with regards to questions 1 to 6), the MPS can neither confirm nor deny that it holds any pertinent information.
QUESTIONS ONE TO SIX (1-6)
Section 30(3) - Investigations and proceedings - The duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that, compliance with section 1(1)(a) would, or would be likely to, prejudice any of the matters mentioned in subsection (1).
Section 30 is a ‘class-based’ exemption and would apply to any ‘class’ of information that would, if held, have been held by the MPS for the purpose of an investigation that we have a duty to conduct. The harm in disclosing information relating to an investigation is inherent in the exemption.
‘In broad terms, the section 30 exemptions exist to ensure the effective investigation and prosecution of offences and the protection of confidential sources. They recognise the need to prevent disclosures that would prejudice either a particular investigation or set of proceedings, or the investigatory and prosecution processes generally, including any prejudice to future investigations and proceedings.’
Section 31(3) - Law Enforcement - Typically, where a request identifies an individual or an organisation as the possible subject of an investigation or a particular line of enquiry a public authority could be pursuing, the more chance there is that confirming the information’s existence would, or would be likely to, prejudice that investigation.
84. Clearly confirming there was, or had been, an investigation would not be prejudicial if there had already been official acknowledgement of its existence.
85. The example above demonstrates the need, in some circumstances, to apply the NCND provision consistently. Where confirmation or denial would reveal whether a particular person was under investigation and where this would, or would be likely to, prejudice such investigations, public authorities should be alert to the need to apply the NCND provision. If it is only applied where the requested information is held, this will become apparent over time and defeat the purpose behind the exemption.’
The MPS has a duty to conduct investigations with a view to ascertaining whether an offence has been committed, and if so, whether a person should be charged with that offence, and whether a person charged with an offence is guilty of it. Consequently the MPS as a public authority is entitled to rely upon Section 30(3) to the extent that the requested information, if held, would have been held for the purpose of any such investigations. If this information were held, it would be held in order to determine whether an offence had occurred, and whether named individuals may have been involved.
As outlined at the start of this response, it is necessary to use NCND exemptions consistently, regardless of whether the requested information is held or not. Consequently, citing this exemption in no way confirms or denies the existence of the information you seek, as this is the response that would be issued with regard to any request for whether information was held on any other individuals unless we had previously publicly commented for any reason.
Any potential information generated by an investigation needs to be treated with sensitivity. In some cases, it is the confirmation, or otherwise, about whether specific information is held that may reveal who may be the subject of any such investigations or reviews. This would disclose facts that would prejudice the evidence gathering within an investigation.
In addition, it would not be in the public interest to disclose information (even inadvertently, through a confirmation or denial) which could identify our investigative activity, and subsequently undermine those processes. To do so would hinder the prevention or detection of crime, and apprehension and prosecution of offenders.
Section 30 and Section 31 are often used in conjunction when applying the neither confirm nor deny stance in order to protect whether or not an investigation or review may have been conducted.
To confirm or deny whether information is held in relation to any allegations other than those relating to Epstein would be likely to prejudice our law enforcement functions of preventing and detecting crime, and apprehending and prosecuting offenders. Issuing confirmation or denial responses in relation to allegations against or investigations / reviews into other individuals, except for those that have already been publicly confirmed, would enable the public to build up a picture of who may have been subject of any allegations. This would be prejudicial to our policing functions, as individuals may be less willing to come forward or assist with our enquiries if they were to believe that this information may become public. Even victims, who believed they might be identified if the alleged perpetrator was made public, may not be as inclined to come forward.
To confirm or deny that law enforcement holds the information in question would inadvertently reveal whether any other named individual was subject to any potential criminal investigation or proceedings. This would have the potential to damage the Met’s ability to prevent and detect crime or apprehend or prosecute offenders in any associated allegations or cases.
Section 40(5B)(a)(i) – Personal Information - The release of information under Freedom of Information (FOI) is a release into the public domain and not just to the individual requesting the information. Once information is disclosed under the Act there is no control or limits as to who or how the information is shared with other individuals. Therefore a release under FOI is considered a disclosure to the world in general.
To confirm or deny that the MPS hold or do not hold information about a named individual would disclose information about that living, identifiable individual – especially given the media coverage around this matter. This would amount to a release into the public domain of personal information about an individual – namely whether or not this named person was in any way linked to any allegations of wrongdoing. The individuals in question would have no expectation that this information would be released into the public domain, and therefore their rights under the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) would be breached by release.
To clarify, the Freedom of Information Act only allows the processing of personal data if that processing would be compliant with the Data Protection principles. These principles are outlined under section 34 of the DPA 2018 and under Article 5 of the GDPR.
In this instance, processing this information (by issuing a confirmation or denial) would breach the first principle, that of ‘lawful, fair and transparent’ processing. When balancing the legitimate interests of the public against the interests of the individual and the harm and distress that would be caused by a confirmation or denial, the processing of information in this way becomes unlawful and Section 40(5A)(a)(i) is made out.
I consider that the benefit that would result from issuing a confirmation or denial does not outweigh the considerations favouring the neither confirm nor deny response. This is namely because of the impact it would have on the individuals and the impact it would have on the ability of the MPS to fulfil our law enforcement functions and conduct any potential investigations, either now or in the future.
To confirm or deny whether we hold this information would do little to further the public interest arguments, and in fact would have a negative impact upon our ability to protect public safety and the promise of confidentiality inherent in our communications with those assisting with our enquiries. It is because of this that I feel the balance falls in favour of the maintenance of this stance, and why these exemptions are engaged and made out in this case.
QUESTION SEVEN (7)
Finally, with regard to the last question (7), the MPS can neither confirm nor deny that any information.
Section 24(2) - National Security Section 31(3) – Law Enforcement Section 38(2) – Health & Safety
As explained above, disclosures under the Act are considered to be a release to the world, as once the information is published the public authority has no control over what use is made of that information. Whilst not questioning the motives of any applicant, information around who may or may not be subject to police protection could be of valuable importance and use to those who seek to cause harm to specific individuals.
Individuals who may be subject to protection (or believed to be subject to protection) are, by their very nature, of some significance – for example, members of the Royal Family, members of government etc. To confirm or deny that the MPS is or is not protecting named individuals would enable those who sought to threaten the safety of such individuals to create a list of those with protection and those without – thereby enabling them to calculate who was most at risk and who may be considered an easier target.
The effect of this information being available to the applicant, and more importantly those in the public domain who might wish to cause harm to those significant individuals who may be in receipt of protection (including but not limited to terrorists, criminals and fixated individuals) would be detrimental to those in receipt of protection, and potentially more worryingly those who are confirmed as not being in receipt of protection.
Confirming who was in receipt of protection, even if not disclosing details, would result in us having to confirm who was not in receipt of protection, as unless a neither confirm nor deny approach is issued consistently it is ineffectual. To ensure that those in receipt of protection are not subject to additional threat and to ensure the safety of the members of the public attending events where these individuals are present, would require a review and in all likelihood an increase in the number of protection officers employed and a full review of the protection arrangements. In addition, individuals currently not the subject of police protection may have to then be protected in order to counter any potential threat this would cause. This would significantly increase the costs to the public purse, diverting resources from other significant areas of the policing budget.
To confirm or deny whether protection exists for specific individual(s) by providing a copy of police officer assignment logs for protection duties on 10 March 2001, if held, could be used to try and work out how resources are allocated within the Royalty and Specialist Protection Command, and to gain an understanding of how much security and the number of officers who are allocated to those who may or may not be receiving protection.
Those with the necessary criminal intent, inclination and capacity could use the information to begin to try and map costs for protection across forces. This would then provide them with an operational advantage over the MPS and other forces as the information can indeed be viewed as operational 'intelligence' and operationally sensitive. To confirm or deny that protection is afforded to any individual, other than those which have been publicly stated by the MPS, would have a negative effect on the safety of those being protected (and those not), should the release of information be used and manipulated to try and attack the protected individuals and establishments, for example through mapping protection across forces.
To confirm or deny that this protection exists may lead to an attack on establishments within locations where one force is viewed to lower costs per year on protection, as these locations may be viewed as a 'weak/vulnerable target' with less policing resources allocated to protection duties. Such an occurrence would harm individuals as well as result in the allocation of additional policing resources due to a FOI disclosure.
It remains the case that the publication of any information relating to an individual who might or might not receive protection could potentially lead to harm to that individual, particularly if that information relates to the security arrangements for that individual or formed any part of a protection package that might or might not be provided. Disclosure of this information damages the need to ensure protection arrangements remain covert, purely in the interests of operational sensitivity.
It is important to note that the UK does face a serious and sustained threat from violent extremists and this threat is greater in scale and ambition than any of the terrorist threats in the past. Government reports suggest that at any one time the police and security agencies are contending with many terrorist plots, terrorist groups or networks and individuals who are judged to pose a threat to the well-being of the UK and or UK interests. While the plots may not necessarily all be directed at attacks on the protected individuals, the MPS bear in mind that an attack on members of government or significant individuals potentially afforded protection would be of national significance to our country. To provide information regarding security arrangements for protected establishments and individuals is likely to place them at serious risk due to their prominence across the globe.
As previously explained above, in this current environment of an increased threat of terrorist activity, confirming or denying that information is held that could assist an extremist faction would undermine the safeguarding of national security.
ICO guidance emphasises there is no definition of national security and refers to the Information Tribunal (EA/2006/0045) who summarised:
• “National security” means the security of the United Kingdom and its people;
• The interests of national security are not limited to actions by an individual which are targeted at the UK, its system of government or its people;
• The protection of democracy and the legal and constitutional systems of the state are part of national security as well as military defence;
• Action against a foreign state may be capable indirectly of affecting the security of the UK;
• Reciprocal co-operation between the UK and other states in combating international terrorism is capable of promoting the United Kingdom’s national security.
The ICO guidance also states that ‘safeguarding national security also includes protecting potential targets even if there is no evidence that an attack is imminent…the Commissioner also recognises terrorists can be highly motivated and may go to great lengths to gather intelligence. This means there may be grounds for withholding what seems harmless information on the basis that it may assist terrorists when pieced together with other information they may obtain.’
Based on this definition, national security encompasses a wide spectrum and it is our duty to protect the people within the UK. Public safety is of paramount importance to the policing purpose and must be taken into account in deciding whether to disclose any requested information.
Confirming or denying any policing arrangements, which refer to the personal protection of specific individuals, would render security measures less effective. Personal protection is provided by the MPS to a number of people where it is in the national interest or where intelligence (information) suggests protection is necessary. Specific protection arrangements are applied in order to safeguard national security by ensuring that appropriate safety and security is provided to key figures such as the Queen and the Prime Minister. The disclosure of any other information would ultimately increase the risk of harm to those afforded personal protection and to the general public within that vicinity, as well as those confirmed not to be in receipt of such protection.
Persons/groups would be able to ascertain which individuals the MPS considers to be currently at most harm, and therefore which threats or campaigns to undermine UK security the police believe to be most pertinent.
Confirming or denying that any information is held in relation to the security or protection of individuals would lead to law enforcement tactics being compromised which would ultimately hinder the prevention and detection of crime. Security arrangements and tactics are re-used and have been monitored by criminal groups, fixated individuals and terrorists. Protection is provided in a number of forms after careful evaluation of the threat and risks posed to those individuals by operational experts in this field of policing. It therefore follows that anything that would negate the benefits of that protection would place individuals at risk. This would be the individuals receiving protection, the police officers providing the protection and any member of the public in the vicinity of the principal.
To confirm or deny that an individual is in receipt of protection and therefore associated costs exist, would allow anyone to map protection costs and thus ultimately calculate how many officers had been assigned to protect that individual. This would then again place the individual and officers at risk in the event that they were targeted by criminals/terrorists.
Confirming or denying that information is held in relation to the protection of any individual would have the effect of increasing the threat to those individuals who are in receipt of protection and in addition to those who do not receive protection and might therefore appear to be ‘soft targets’. The risks to individuals are significant as evidenced and there would be a loss of confidence in the police service to protect the well-being of the community should individuals be successfully targeted. Furthermore, if an individual/group decides to counter the protection arrangements and target an individual, members of the public within the vicinity could be exposed to either physical or psychological harm.
Section 40(5A)&(5B)(a)(i) – Personal Information - Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 is designed to address information that is covered by the Data Protection Act 2018.
Under section 40(5), the MPS is not required to comply with the requirements of section 1(1) (a) i.e. the duty to inform the applicant whether or not the information is held.
In most cases Personal Data is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act as I will explain below.
To confirm or deny whether personal information exists in relation to your specific request would publicly reveal information about an identifiable individual, thereby breaching the right to privacy afforded to persons under the Data Protection Act (DPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2018.
Where an individual is requesting third party personal data, such as in this case, the MPS must ensure that any action taken adheres to the principles of the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR. To clarify, the Freedom of Information Act only allows disclosure of personal data if that disclosure would be compliant with the principles for processing personal data. These principles are outlined under section 34 of the DPA 2018 and under Article 5 of the GDPR, as explained in the relevant section above.
In respect of question 7 of your request, I consider that the benefit that would result from issuing a confirmation or denial does not outweigh the considerations favouring the neither confirm nor deny response.
The security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police Service will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so would place the safety of an individual at risk or undermine National Security. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by a terrorist attack, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in the highly sensitive area of terrorism prevention.
The public interest is defined not as what the public might find interesting but what tangible benefit there is to the public if such a disclosure were to occur.
In this case, although the request is specifically about security arrangements for a named individual on a particular date; the net result of publishing that information would be that a review would need to be conducted and plans changed to ensure that the threat level was effectively challenged. In addition, the development of a new protection plan overall would be likely, which would in all likelihood require additional resources to be provided, including the likely extension of protection to those who had not been in receipt of it before the release of the requested information.
The MPS considers that the benefit that would result from the information being disclosed does not outweigh the harm arising from disclosing information relating to who is provided with protection.
No inference can be drawn from this refusal that information is or is not held.
The MPS can neither confirm nor deny whether or not we hold any information with regards to any potential investigation about, or review into, any individual other than Jeffrey Epstein (who was named only after death) that may be linked to that enquiry.
Confirming or denying whether criminal allegations have been made against or by certain individuals, or whether or not any proceedings were initiated or discontinued, (which we would be doing if we confirmed or denied whether there was a review into these named individuals) would be a breach of the rights afforded to those individuals under the Data Protection Act 2018.
Furthermore, confirming or denying whether or not the MPS are investigating (or have investigated) anyone, if not otherwise made public (usually only because they were charged with an offence or when there was a specific policing purpose), would have a negative impact upon the police’s ability to conduct their law enforcement functions. We would be less able to investigate allegations made by the public as definitive responses about what information we held would reveal our intelligence and whether or not investigations are ongoing. This may compromise such investigations, and hinder our ability to ascertain whether an offence has been committed, and whether someone could be charged with such an offence.
Considering this, the MPS cannot confirm or deny whether information is held in relation to any other individual that may be named in any investigation, other than Jeffrey Epstein, as to do so would be grossly unfair and would negatively impact upon our ability to conduct investigations into allegations and bring people to justice.
In addition, in relation to question 7, this also attracts a neither confirm nor deny response, as to confirm or deny that information is held may reveal whether Protection was afforded to any named individual. This could undermine the safeguarding of national security, allowing those with terrorist intent to gain an operational advantage over UK Policing. It is a necessary principle of counter-terrorism to deny those who would seek to do us harm any information that might further their attack planning capability. Were the identities of those persons who receive protection placed in the public domain the risks to those individuals would increase, as it would to their protection officers and the wider public.
This stance should not be taken as an indication as to whether or not the information exists. This stance is taken consistently in cases where formal confirmation has not taken place in order to protect both individuals’ and policing interests now and in the future.
In response to questions 1 to 4, in relation to Mr. Epstein only, the following press lines have been located which answer your questions:
“NOV 19 Statement regarding allegation of non-recent trafficking for sexual exploitation Commander Alex Murray said: "In July 2015 the Metropolitan Police service (MPS) confirmed it had received an allegation of non-recent trafficking for sexual exploitation.
"The allegation was made against a US national, Jeffrey Epstein, and a British woman.
"It related to events outside of the UK and an allegation of trafficking to central London in March 2001.
"The MPS always takes any allegations concerning sexual exploitation seriously.
"Officers assessed the available evidence, interviewed the complainant and obtained early investigative advice from the Crown Prosecution Service.
"Following the legal advice, it was clear that any investigation into human trafficking would be largely focused on activities and relationships outside the UK.
"We therefore concluded that the MPS was not the appropriate authority to conduct enquiries in these circumstances and, in November 2016, a decision was made that this matter would not proceed to a full criminal investigation.
"In August 2019, following the death of Jeffrey Epstein the MPS reviewed the decision making and our position remains unchanged.
"The MPS has liaised with other law enforcement organisations but has not received a formal request asking for assistance in connection with this allegation."”
“SEPT 2021 IF ASKED: Current Epstein position statement
The Metropolitan Police Service continues to liaise with other law enforcement agencies who lead the investigation into matters related to Jeffrey Epstein.
As a matter of procedure MPS officers reviewed a document released in August 2021 as part of a US civil action. This review has concluded and we are taking no further action.
We also reviewed information passed to us by a media organisation in June 2021. This review is complete and no further action will be taken.
In January 2015 the MPS was contacted by a third-party following media reports concerning Jeffery Epstein. The MPS reviewed and considered the information provided.
In May 2015, the MPS was contacted by representatives of a person who made allegations of non-recent trafficking for sexual exploitation against a US national, Jeffrey Epstein, and a British woman relating to events outside of the UK and an allegation of trafficking to central London in March 2001.
Officers assessed the available evidence, interviewed the complainant and obtained early investigative advice from the Crown Prosecution Service.
Following the legal advice, it was clear that any investigation into human trafficking would be largely focused on activities and relationships outside the UK.
Officers therefore concluded that the MPS was not the appropriate authority to conduct enquiries in these circumstances and, in November 2016, a decision was made that this matter would not proceed to a full criminal investigation.
That decision was reviewed following the death of Jeffrey Epstein in August 2019. In November 2019 the MPS confirmed that it would remain unchanged.
In December 2019 the MPS was contacted by representatives of another person regarding allegations of sexual assault against Jeffrey Epstein. Officers spoke to this person in February 2020 and recorded their allegations. However, the person did not make a formal statement or wish officers to pursue the allegations. No investigation was commenced. _
IF ASKED: What action is the MPS taking as a result of any new disclosure in the US civil claim?
We continue to liaise with other law enforcement agencies who lead the investigation into matters related to Jeffrey Epstein.”