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.
1. I would like to request the number of offences where the feature code ‘CB – Noxious or corrosive fluid used e.g. acid thrown’ is recorded on the crime log between 1st January 2017 and 31st December 2017 inclusive, broken down by month where possible; and
2. The percentage and or number of said offences mentioned in 1. that were recorded as Violent Offences within the category ‘Violence Against the Person’ also broken down by month; and
3. Where available the percentage and or number of said offences mentioned in 1. that were flagged as Hate Crimes also broken down by month; and
4. The ethnicity, age and gender of victims of the said Violent Offences mentioned in 2. broken down by month; and
5. The ethnicity, age and gender of suspects in the said Violent Offences mentioned in 2. broken down by month; and
6. The outcomes of the said Violent Offences mentioned in 2. broken down by month; and
7. Of the said positive outcomes mentioned in 6. the ethnicity, age and gender of suspects broken down by month.
We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted with the Corporate Development 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 attached.
Data was collated through a search of all crimes where ACI (acid), AMM (ammonia), COR (corrosive substance) or NOX (noxious substance) were listed in any of the three weapon fields attached to the crime as acid could be recorded as any of the above.
Each crime has then been manually reviewed to determine whether an attack has taken place. Those included are crimes where the substance has been thrown as part of an attack. This includes where the substance has caused harm to the victim or where the substance was intended to cause harm (i.e. substance was thrown but missed the victim). This does not include those found in possession of one of the above substances or where the substance has been used only as part of a threat.
These figures differ from those previously published as this data includes crimes only where a substance has been thrown.
Additionally, where a case is still on-going, we have not provided this data and will rely on the following exemption.
S30(1) Investigations and Proceedings conducted by Public Authorities
Sections 30 is a class based absolute exemption and consideration of the public interest must be given as to whether neither confirming nor denying the information exists is the appropriate response.
Factors favouring disclosure
There is a strong public interest in knowing how the police service investigates such matters. This would ensure the public that appropriate steps would be taken to ensure that the public is confident in the police service ability to achieve this. Furthermore, if it is felt that the police is not appropriately taking steps to protect the public, the disclosure of this information would enable an informed discussion on the matter.
Factors favouring non-disclosure
Whilst such information may be released in order to serve a core policing purpose, 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. The public need to retain confidence in the Force in order to allow us to gather information and perform our public service function. This would not be so if the information you are seeking was released into the public domain. We would not disclose information that would deter individuals in the future from assisting the police with their investigations.
Members of the public play a vital role in assisting the police and is based very much on relationships built on trust and the expectation of complete confidentiality and Northumbria Police would never disclose information which would compromise those individuals. If disclosed, there could be the likelihood that the future investigations could be compromised and the safety of individuals and the public put at risk. It cannot be justified that the public's interest would be served in releasing this specific information if either of these aspects were to be compromised in any way.
Although there is a public interest in knowing how the police investigates crimes of this nature, to disclose this information would undermine that process. The police service has a duty to protect and the disclosure of this information would certainly have an effect on the police service’s ability to do so.
It is therefore our opinion that the balance lies in favour of non-disclosure of the information and it is therefore felt that the decision to exempt the information outweighs the public interest.