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Date Responded 17 August 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.         Please state how many minors, aged 10 to 17, have been arrested for offences relating to the supply of controlled drugs between January 2017 and June 2018.

2.         Please disclose how many of those minors have been charged with an offence and break this down by the age of the suspect, and the offence they were charged with, the class of type of drug involved

3.         Please state the number of minors arrested by their county of residence (by county, I mean the administrative county of the address you have on record. I will also be happy with either postal town/city if this is easier to provide).

4.         If possible, please can you offer any explanation as to why children/young people may be involved in this type of illegal activity

5.         How many of those arrested remain under investigation as of 30 June 2018.

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 by Northumbria Police. 

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

1. 33

2. The below data includes 2 postal requisitions.

Age / Offence

Count

Age 16

 

 

 

Possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply Other Class 'B'

1

Age 17

 

 

 

Reinstated wef 26.01.09 / Supplying or offering to supply a controlled drug (Class 'B')

1

Supplying or offering to supply Other Class 'A'

1

Possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply Other Class 'A'

1

Reinstated wef 26.01.09 / Supplying or offering to supply a controlled drug (Class 'B')

1

Total

5

 

3.  Durham                    1

     Northumberland       5

    Tyne and Wear       25

     Not known               2

 

4. No information held.  This is not recorded information.

 

5. Northumbria Police can neither confirm nor deny that information is held relevant to question 5 of 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 40(5) Personal Information 

Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 is designed to address information that is covered by the Data Protection Act 1998.

Under section 40(5), Northumbria Police is not required to comply with the requirements of section 1(1)(a) i.e. the duty to inform the applicant whether or not the information is held. 

Section 40(5)(a) exempts a public authority from the duty to confirm or deny in circumstances where the information requested, if held, would constitute the personal data of the applicant. 

The Information Commissioner’s Office has published guidance titled ‘The exemption for personal information’ in relation to Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 that states:

‘The duty to confirm or deny does not arise in connection with the personal data of the applicant because of section 40(5)(a).’ 

This is an absolute exemption and there is no requirement for the harm or a public interest test 

Section 30(3) Investigations

Section 31(3) Law Enforcement

Evidence of Harm 

The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve.  Modern day policing is intelligence led and in order to achieve these objectives Northumbria Police works in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies.  There is an expectation of confidentiality with all information (intelligence) held by Northumbria Police for the purposes of delivering effective operational law enforcement.  Confirming or denying whether information is held in relation to the number of arrested minors who remain under investigation at a specific date would undoubtedly compromise ongoing police investigations, some of which may be covert.

Not only would police investigations be compromised but any enquiries or investigations carried out by other agencies involved in county lines may also be weakened.   ‘County lines’ is a national issue involving the use of mobile phone ‘lines’ by groups to extend their drug dealing business into new locations outside of their home areas.  A ‘county lines’ enterprise almost always involves exploitation of vulnerable persons, which can involve both children and adults who require safeguarding.  Confirming or denying whether any arrested minors are still under investigation could highlight to offenders who ‘run’ the gangs (essentially gang leaders) involved in ‘county lines’ that the police are aware of the minors continued offending.  This awareness may encouraged the gang leaders to berate and/or physically harm the minors. 

 Section 30 – Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) 

Confirming or denying whether information relevant to question 5 exists would lead to a better informed general public and provide openness and transparency into how and why Northumbria Police robustly investigate all lines of enquiry, some of which may continue following an arrest of an individual.

There is a lot of information in the public domain relating to county lines, gangs and safeguarding, see below link: 

http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/publications/620-NCA-Intelligence-Assessment-County-Lines-Gangs-and-Safeguarding/file

The issue of ‘county lines’ is at present a high profile subject area.  Confirming or denying whether information exists in relation to question 5 could provide reassurance to the general public.

Section 30 - Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) 

As stated within the harm above Northumbria Police share information with other law enforcement and local authority agencies as part of their investigative processes. To confirm or not whether information is held for question 5 would hinder the prevention and detection of crime as well as undermine the partnership approach to investigations, law enforcement and the health and safety of individuals.

Section 31 - Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a)

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.  There is formal acknowledgement within reports relating to vulnerable children being involved in this type of offending and that in itself favours confirmation that information is held.  An example of this can be found at the below links:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-takes-action-on-county-line-drug-gangs

https://news.npcc.police.uk/releases/county-lines-urban-drug-gangs-target-coastal-communities 

Section 31 - Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) 

Confirming whether or not information is held in response of question 5 would suggest that Northumbria Police take their responsibility to protect the safety of vulnerable minors seriously.  Public safety is of paramount importance and the Police Service has a duty of care to all individuals irrespective of whether they are law abiding citizens or not.

Northumbria Police rely on information being supplied by other law enforcement and local authority agencies, as well as from the general public.  Confirmation or denial that information is held in respect of arrested minors still being investigated would act as a deterrent to the public to provide information to Northumbria Police.  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 how many remain under invistigation may impact police resources as vulnerable forces may need to increase their resources to reassure the public and protect the surrounding community.

Balancing Test 

The points above highlight the merits of confirming or denying that information pertinent to question 5 exists.  The Police Service relies heavily on the public and other law enforcement agencies/local authorities providing and sharing information to assist in criminal investigations.  As stated within the harm there is a duty to protect and defend victims and vulnerable individuals. 

The effective delivery of operational law enforcement takes priority and is at the forefront of Northumbria Police to ensure the prevention and detection of crime is carried out and the effective apprehension or prosecution of offenders is maintained.

Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test for neither confirming nor denying that information is held is appropriate in this case. 

No inference can be taken from this refusal that information does or does not exist.

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