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.
please see this misconduct outcome from here - https://beta.northumbria.police.uk/media/4412/09-misconduct-meetings-hearings-outcomes-september-2021.pdf
"21/09/21 Conduct Meeting PC Confidentiality Allegation the officer took images of a deceased person on his personal phone and shared them with another officer. Reflective Practice"
1. Under the Freedom of Information Act, please provide me with a redacted summary report of the misconduct meeting panel for this case, so that any personal details are removed.
If you see ICO decision notice IC-67112-T2X3, you will see the commissioner has determined that where there are not already details in the public domain which identify the officer in question, then redacted details of the case can be provided.
2. Please include, if they are not in the summary, details of the incident involving the deceased and the circumstances that led to the officer photographing the body and the type/profession of the person the picture was sent to.
3. Please include the name of the deceased in question, as names of the deceased are not covered by Section 40 or data protection.
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 in part by Northumbria Police however no further information will be placed into the public domain regarding this and by doing so we shall rely on the following exemptions:
Section 40(2) - Personal Information
Section 30(1)(a) - Investigations
Section 38(1)(a) & (b) - Health & Safety
Section 40(2) is an absolute, class-based exemption there is no requirement for us to evidence the harm in disclosure or apply a public interest test. Any information which relates to third parties, if disclosed, would breach the data protection principles of the Data Protection Act.
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, however the application of a public interest test is required and I have set this out below.
Section 38 requires the harm and public interest to be considered prior to any disclosure being made. Again these are set out below.
I have to advise that as the officer attended a ‘meeting’ rather than a ‘hearing’ it was therefore not held in public, and unlike misconduct hearings there is no legal requirement to disclose the determination, outcome or any details. However, for transparency we disclosed redacted details of the meeting but we will not be providing any further details and rely on the exemptions outlined in this response. The release of the information requested would affect the wellbeing and mental health of all concerned including family members and those involved. Information that may lead to the identification of an individual who then may be subject to any treatment which would endanger that person's health and safety or that of their friends, relatives and associates should be avoided. The individual can be anyone, and the harm may be real or perceived.
Public Interest Test
Factors Favouring Disclosure – Section 38(1)(a) & (b)
Disclosure would increase public awareness and debate. This could increase public confidence as disclosure could show that what action is taken by the police when such an incident occurs.
Factors Favouring Disclosure – Section 30(1)(a)
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 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 offences.
Factors Favouring Non-Disclosure – Section 38(1)(a) & (b)
The disclosure of any details regarding this incident could lead to further distress of all those involved and harm their mental health. The anguish suffered at the time would be brought back to mind and could have a detrimental impact on the friends and family of all concerned.
Factors Favouring Non-Disclosure – Section 30(1)(a)
S30(1) of the Act applies if the information requested has been held by a public authority at any time for the purposes of any investigation with a view to it being ascertained whether a person should be charged with an offence, or whether a person charged with an offence is guilty of it.
Whilst certain information may be released in order to serve a core policing purpose (ie, 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 and that those investigations are not compromised by the disclosure of any information that could prejudice those proceedings. It is also assumed that anyone providing any information can do so with the understanding that any information provided should be treat with the utmost confidentiality.
Should this not be the case people would be less likely to provide information to the police for the fear that such information would not be treated with the discretion it requires. This would obviously then have an impact both on investigations and the confidence of the public to aid and assist police in further matters.
In this case, to release to the world the information you are asking to be disclosed would be detrimental to those investigations and therefore have an impact on the polices ability to conduct those investigations in an appropriate way.
As per the harm - the officer attended a ‘meeting’ rather than a ‘hearing’ it was therefore not held in public. There is no policing need for this information to be released into the public domain, and to release anything further would not be appropriate for the reasons outlined above. The release of further information may lead to identification of an officer, the deceased and/or family and friends. It is also likely that it would cause additional distress to family and friends of the deceased.
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 policing investigations. The ability of Northumbria Police to conduct such enquiries is crucial to the principles of prevention and detection of crime and those investigations which are carried out in bringing perpetrators to justice. From the issues outline above any disclosure relating to any ongoing investigation could compromise those investigations.
We cannot justify the release of any information that would have an impact on the wellbeing of any individual/s, as we cannot see what benefit it would be to the wider public to publish further. Taking all the above points into consideration, it is therefore our opinion that the balance lies in favour of non-disclosure of the information requested and the exemptions have been considered and applied as appropriate.
You should consider this as a refusal under Section 17 of the Act