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County Lines Offences - 1048/19

Date Responded 06 September 2019

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. How many children and teenagers have been arrested in conjunction with county lines offences?
  2. How many children and teenagers have been arrested more than once for county lines drug offences?
  3. What is the youngest child to have been arrested for county lines drug offences?
  4. How many children have been cautioned for county lines drug offences?

Please provide children in the age ranges of 5-10, 11-15, 16-18 and split them into male and female. Please provide data for the last three years split into each calendar year.

In Response:

Northumbria Police will neither confirm nor deny any information is held relative to your request and be doing so shall rely on the following exemptions.

Section 30 (3) Investigations,

Section 31 (3) Law Enforcement

Section 24 (2) National Security

Overall harm

Although all efforts should be made to release information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, to confirm or deny whether information is or is not held regarding county lines at a force level could not only undermine ongoing investigations, but also  National Security.

Whilst there is a public interest in transparency of policing allowing assurances to be provided that the Police Service is appropriately engaging with criminal threats, this should be countered against the need to protect vulnerable areas, and ongoing Policing operational activity.

The security of the country is of utmost importance and Northumbria Police will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so would compromise 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 county lines activity, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in the highly sensitive areas of which they work.

Confirming or denying whether any information is held relevant to the request would show where policing interest has or has not occurred in any specific area which would enable those engaged in criminal activity to identify the focus of policing targets and identify vulnerable parts of the UK.

Factors favouring confirmation or denial – Section 24 

Confirmation or denial that any information exists relevant to the request would lead to a better informed public. The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent especially regarding safeguards to National Security.

Factors against confirmation or denial – Section 24

Other organisations outside the Police Service may, or may not have an active interest in the subject of the question above. By confirming or denying that any information exists relevant to the request would harm the close relationship that exists between the forces and other organisations. To confirm or deny whether the force hold any information relevant to the request would allow inferences to be made about the nature and extent of national security related activities which may or may not take place in a given area. This would enable criminal groups to take steps to counter intelligence, and as such, confirmation or denial would be damaging to national security.

By confirming or denying any policing arrangements of this nature would render national security measures less effective. This would lead to the compromise of ongoing or future operations to protect the security or infrastructure of the UK and increase the risk of harm to the public.

Factors favouring confirmation or denial – Section 31 

Confirming or denying whether any further information is held would allow the public to see where public funds have been spent and allow the Police Service to appear more open and transparent.

Factors against confirmation or denial – Section 31

To confirm or deny that law enforcement holds this information could reduce the effectiveness of law enforcement tactics which would lead to a hindrance on the police forces ability to prevent and detect crimes. Vulnerable areas could be detected by force level disclosure leading to more criminal activity placing members of the public in harms way. If information is released confirming or denying that requests have been made this may impact police resources as vulnerable forces may need to increase their resources to reassure the public and protect the surrounding community.

Your request is therefore refused under S17 for the reasons outlined above.

No inference can be made as to whether this information is held or not held.

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