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Date Responded 15 February 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)         Could you tell me the total quantity of Fentanyl that has been seized by your police force for the years:

a.         2012

b.         2013

c.         2014

d.         2015

e.         2016

f.          2017

 

2)         Could you tell me the total quantity of fentanyl analogues not including fentanyl, also known as synthetic opioids (eg alfentanil, sufentanil, remifentanil) that have been seized by your police force for the years:

a.         2012

b.         2013

c.         2014

d.         2015

e.         2016

f.          2017

In Response:

We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.

 We shall neither confirm nor deny any information is held and by doing so will rely on the following exemptions

S23(5) Information supplied by, or concerning, certain security bodies.

S30(3) Investigations

S31(3). Law Enforcement

Harm in confirming or denying

The confirmation or denial that information is held relating to fentanyl would identify whether or not Northumbria Police has seen taken local level action regarding its distribution. The effects of fentanyl as a recreational drug is highly publicised, it is extremely potent and very dangerous. NCA have confirmed their involvement in assessing the drug through their website and to confirm or deny that Northumbria Police has had the drug would build a picture as to where national and local investigations and operations are taking place to combat its distribution. To confirm or deny that information is held would enable a mosaic picture to be realised as to which areas are affected and which areas are not. This will help those distributing the drug to identify vulnerable areas. Furthermore, if distribution is taking place in areas where a force confirms it has not seized any fentanyl – this would suggest that the police is not aware of any local dealings. Those supplying fentanyl or drugs with fentanyl in will be aware that they are not on the local police radar. The distribution of drugs usually is not completed in isolation and forms part of a wider organised crime network, which usually involve other serious crimes. Confirming or denying that information is held by force location would undermine any local level operations or national operations which may be taking place to target the serious organised distribution and use of fentanyl or substances containing fentanyl.

Factors favouring confirming or denying that information is held S30

To confirm or deny that information is held would enable the local community to understand whether any investigations have or are taking place surrounding this particular drug. This would lead to an increase in understanding. It would also enable the public to understand whether resources are being allocated to combating the distribution of the drug locally.

Factors against confirming or denying that information is held S30

To confirm or deny that information is held would identify which force areas have located fentanyl locally and which have not. Fentanyl is a highly potent drug and being able to map where it is being distributed across the country would undermine the police services ability to appropriately investigate crimes associated with its use and distribution. The confirmation or denial that information is held would undermine local and national level operations which may be taking place and would mean that those distributing the drug will avoid prosecution which would have a negative impact on local communities.

Factors favouring confirming or denying that information is held S31

The confirmation or denial that information is held would lead to a greater informed public both nationally and locally. Dependant on whether information is held, would identify whether there is a local/ national issue with fentanyl and how extensive that may or may not be. People can take steps to safeguard themselves from exposure to this drug, if they know that it has been located locally.

Factors against confirming or denying that information is held S31

To confirm or deny that information is held, would undermine any local or national level operations that may be or will be taking place in the future to combat this crime. Fentanyl is a highly potent drug and it is of paramount importance that the police service can investigate and disrupt the distribution of it throughout the country so that its severe impacts are not felt within our communities. To confirm or deny whether Northumbria Police has seized fentanyl or substances containing fentanyl for drug use would not only affect local level policing decisions but could also have an impact nationally. This would mean that information is provided to those involved in its distribution and ultimately could mean that organised crime groups may adapt and change tact that would mean that the police service is placed at a disadvantage.

Balance Test

There is a public interest in knowing  which forces had seized fentanyl as communities will be more aware and take steps to protect themselves. However, Northumbria Police  would not want to undermine any local or national operations which may be taking place to combat the distribution of this drug. To confirm or deny that this information is held locally would not only provide  information that would undermine any local operations  but also any national ones which may take place. The information would directly relate to intelligence and being able to map this across the country would be of use to criminal groups distributing this drug as it would give a picture as to which forces are aware whether it has fentanyl being distributed in its area. Furthermore, other agencies are involved in the disruption of the distribution of this drug and a disclose by the police service may serve to undermine their operations should they have any ongoing.

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