Crimes on an aircraft - 982/18

Date Responded 22 October 2018

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. The total number of people arrested for committing a crime on an aeroplane, broken down by airport where the arrest happened.
  2. The nature of reason for each arrest made, with as much detail as possible.
  3. The airline responsible for the flight when the crime took place

Please provide data for both financial years 2017/18 and 2016/17.

In Response:

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 in part by Northumbria Police.

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

Additionally we can neither confirm nor deny that any further  information is held relevant to your request as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply by virtue of the following exemptions:


Section 23(5) Information supplied by or concerning certain Security Bodies

Section 24(2) National Security

Section 30(3) Investigations

Section 31(3) Law Enforcement


Section 23 is a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest.

Section 30 is a class based qualified exemption which requires the public interest in the appropriate of neither confirming nor denying information is held to be considered.

With Sections 24 and 31 being prejudice based qualified exemptions, both evidence of harm and public interest considerations need to be articulated to the applicant.


Harm in Confirming or Denying that Information is held

To confirm or deny whether any further arrests have taken place would identify other incidents which may or may not have occurred within individual force areas.

Whilst it is vitally important that information sharing takes place with other police forces and security bodies within the UK to support counter-terrorism measures such information, if occurred, would not be shared with the pubic

To confirm or deny any such activity had occurred or not in our force area would be extremely useful to those involved in terrorist activity as it would enable them to map perceived vulnerable force areas


Public Interest Considerations

Section 24(2) National Security

Factors favour complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming that information is held

The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and how resources are distributed within an area of policing.  To confirm if any further information is held would enable the general public to see that Northumbria Police  recorded and investigated such instances appropriately.  In the current financial climate of cuts and with the call for transparency of public spending this would enable improved public debate.


Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming or denying that information is held

 Security measures are put in place to protect the community we serve.  As evidenced within the harm to confirm if any other arrests had or had not taken place would highlight to terrorists and individuals intent on carrying out criminal activity perceived vulnerabilities within our force area.

Taking into account the current security climate within the United Kingdom, no information (such as the citing of an exemption which confirms information pertinent to this request is held, or conversely, stating ‘no information is held’) which may aid a terrorist should be disclosed.  To what extent this information may aid a terrorist is unknown, but it is clear that it will have an impact on a force’s ability to monitor terrorist activity.

Irrespective of what information is or isn’t held, the public entrust the Police Service to make appropriate decisions with regard to their safety and protection and the only way of reducing risk is to be cautious with what is placed into the public domain.

The cumulative effect of terrorists gathering information from various sources would be even more impactive when linked to other information gathered from various sources about terrorism.  The more information disclosed over time will give a more detailed account of the tactical infrastructure of not only a force area but also the country as a whole.

Any incident that results from such a disclosure would, by default, affect National Security.


Section 30(3) Investigations

 Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming that information is held

Confirming or denying whether information exists relevant to this request would lead to a better informed general public by identifying that Northumbria Police robustly investigate any incidents at airports.  This fact alone may encourage individuals to provide intelligence in order to assist with investigations and would also promote public trust in providing transparency and demonstrating openness and accountability into where the police are currently focusing their investigations.

The public are also entitled to know how public funds are spent, particularly in the current economic climate.


Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a)

 Modern-day policing is intelligence led and forces share information with other law enforcement agencies as part of their investigation process.  To confirm or not whether Northumbria Police  has alerted other agencies of any incidents could hinder the prevention and detection of crime as well as undermine the partnership approach to investigations and enforcement.

Should offenders take evasive action to avoid detection, police resources may well be diverted from frontline duties and other areas of policing in order to locate and apprehend these individuals.  In addition, the safety of individuals and victims would also be compromised.


Section 31(3) Law Enforcement

 Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming that information is held

Confirming that information exists relevant to this request would lead to a better informed public which may encourage individuals to provide intelligence in order to reduce any incidents.


Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) neither confirming nor denying that information is held

Confirmation or denial that information is held in this case would suggest that Northumbria Police take their responsibility to protect the public dismissively and inappropriately.


Balancing Test

 The points above highlight the merits of confirming or denying the requested information exists.  The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protection the communities we serve.  As part of that policing purpose, information is gathered which can be highly sensitive relating to high profile investigative activity.

Weakening the mechanisms used to monitor any type of criminal activity, and specifically terrorist activity would place the security of the country at an increased level of danger. 

In addition anything that places the confidence of the public at risk, no matter how generic, would undermine any trust or confidence individuals have in the Police Service.  Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test favours neither confirming nor denying that any further information is held.

FOI 982/18

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