Breach of social media guidelines - 549/21

Date Responded 03 June 2021

Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')

As you may be aware the purpose of the Act is to allow a general right of access to information held at the time of a request, by a Public Authority (including the Police), subject to certain limitations and exemptions.

You asked:

Between January 1 2015 and April 14 2021, how many police officers and staff employees have been investigated for breaching police guidelines on social media use?

For each investigation, please can you provide the following information:
a) the date the case was recorded,
b) the nature of the allegation (complaint summary) including the social media platform involved,
c) the rank (or paygrade) of the officer or civilian,
d) the result - specifically whether an allegation was proven, and whether they were sacked / resigned / no further action.

In Response:

Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted with the Professional Standards Department of Northumbria Police. I can confirm that the information you have requested is held by Northumbria Police.

I am able to disclose the located information to you as follows.

Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from a number of data sources used by forces for police purposes. The detail collected to respond specifically to your request is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when interpreting those data.

The figures provided therefore are our best interpretation of relevance of data to your request, but you should be aware that the collation of figures for ad hoc requests may have limitations and this should be taken into account when those data are used.

The following information has been extracted from a ‘live’ database and may be subject to the addition and deletion of complaints, complainants and subjects after the initial extraction of data used for the purposes of this request.

Data has been checked for allegations finalised between 01/01/2015 to 14/04/2021 for matters relating to Police officers and police staff breaching the force social media policy.

A key word search was conducted under the allegation summary for the words social, social media, Twitter, Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram.
The results of those searches are as attached .

Ongoing investigations have been excluded from the above figures and by doing so we cite the following exemption.

Section 31- Law Enforcement (1)(g) by virtue of (2)(b)

As Section 31 is a prejudice-based, qualified exemption there is the requirement for us to articulate the harm that would be caused in disclosure well as considering the public interest test.


To release information regarding ongoing investigations could potentially undermine proceedings to determine whether the appellant was guilty or Not. It is important that public authorities have the space to fully investigate and consider any matters in respect of improper conduct without fear of any speculation entering the public domain which may adversely influence lawful proceedings.

Factors favouring disclosure - Disclosure would provide a full representation of the facts or issue in question, thus maintaining public confidence in the force’s ability to deal with such investigations appropriately and responsibly. Disclosure would also promote greater openness and transparency.

Factors favouring Non-disclosure - To disclose information regarding ongoing investigations could prejudice any proceedings which may arise. It is important that public authorities have the space to fully investigate and consider all aspects of alleged misconduct and that all investigations are conducted in a fair manner to ascertain whether any person is responsible for any conduct which is improper.

Balancing Test

In conclusion I consider that the factors favouring Non-disclosure outweigh the factors favouring disclosure and as such I will not be disclosing information relating to any ongoing investigations. Although it is important that the public are apprised of the nature of such matters and may observe the steps taken by Northumbria Police in respect of dealing with misconduct allegations (including any disciplinary action taken), I consider that when weighed against the risk of prejudicing the outcome, the factors favouring Non-disclosure take precedence. Whilst we attempt to put a much information into the public domain as possible we will Not do so if it would have an adverse impact on any investigations.

If you decide to write an article / use the enclosed data we would ask you to take into consideration the factors highlighted in this document so as to not mislead members of the public or official bodies, or misrepresent the relevance of the whole or any part of this disclosed material.

Breach of social media guidelines - 549/21

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