Gross Misconduct Cases - 59/23

Date Responded 16 March 2023

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:

1. Number of police officers accused of gross misconduct for "engaging in sexual activity" on duty each year since 2017.
2. Number of police officers dismissed for gross misconduct after they "engaged in sexual activity" on a "number of occasions" while on duty since 2017.
3. Number of police officers who faced disciplinary action for "engaging in sexual activity" on duty with a colleague each year since 2017. Please include available details of the offence and disciplinary action taken.

After we sought clarity on parts of your submission you stated:

1.- I mean actual physical contact, specifically sexual intercourse.
2. - All cases involving sexual activity that are assessed as gross misconduct.

In Response:

We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
The information requested will not be disclosed as we have considered the below exemption as applicable to withhold.

Section 30(1)(a) Investigations and proceedings conducted by a public authority

Section 30(1) states that information is exempt information if it has at any time been held for the purposes of any investigation. This exemption is a qualified and class based exemption and accordingly Northumbria Police does not need to carry out a harm test for this exemption. As section 30 is a qualified exemption the application of a public interest test is required and I have set this out below.

Public Interest Test – Section 30

Factors Favouring Disclosure - Section 30
Disclosure would adhere to the basic principle of being open and transparent and would allow for a more accurate public debate. There is a legitimate public interest in knowing that the Force investigates such cases thoroughly and brings investigations to satisfactory conclusions. The community at large may benefit from disclosure as this may encourage accurate and informed public debate. It would also correct rumour and speculation and provide confidence in the Force's ability to investigate any alleged misconduct concerning its officers or staff.

Factors Favouring Non-Disclosure - Section 30
Whilst such information may be released in order to serve a core policing purpose (i.e. to protect life and property and/or assist in prevention and detection of crime and/or in the apprehension and prosecution of offenders), it will only be disclosed if there are strong public interest considerations favouring disclosure. Northumbria Police has a duty to ensure all investigations are dealt with fairly and equally. It is important that any investigation is conducted with regard to confidentiality and privacy. The public interest would not be served if a disclosure breaches those obligations placed on an authority. If we were to disclose details of investigations it has the potential to undermine those ongoing investigations or any potential criminal proceedings which could arise. We would not disclose information that would compromise those investigations . That would not be in the public interest.

Balancing Test

The Police Service is tasked with enforcing the law and protecting the community we serve and there is a public interest argument in ensuring we are open and transparent with regard to any policing investigations. The ability of Northumbria Police to conduct enquiries into any alleged officer misconduct is crucial to the principles of prevention and detection of crime and any misconduct. While we put as much information into the public domain as we are able we would not do so if such information had the ability to jeopardise any investigations.
From the issues outlined above any disclosure relating to such investigations lies in favour of non-disclosure at this time.

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, you should consider this as a refusal for your request.

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