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.
Please provide data on the total number of offences recorded under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 (FGM offences) and offences flagged under FGM mandatory reporting duty in your police force area for each year since 2015.
Please stratify mandatory reporting data by:
- age of the alleged victim
- occupation/organisation making the referral
- outcome type (e.g. charge/summons, evidential difficulties) for each available.
Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted with the Corporate Development and Safeguarding Department of Northumbria Police. I can confirm that the information you have requested is held by Northumbria Police however will not be disclosed and in doing so we rely on the following exemptions.
Section 44(2) - Information covered by prohibitions on disclosure
Section 40 (2) - Personal Information
Section 31 (1)(a)(b) - Law Enforcement
Section 44 is a class based absolute exemption which means there is no requirement to identify the harm or consider the public interest in disclosure.
Section 40(2) is a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest in disclosure. That being said where Section 40(2) is engaged in order to make the exemption absolute there needs to be evidence that the disclosure of the information requested would lead to identifying individuals and place information pertaining to them into the public domain. This constitutes personal data which would, if released, be in breach of the rights provided by the Data Protection Act 2018 and General Data Protection Regulations; namely the first data protection principle, which states that personal data will be processed lawfully, fairly and transparently. It is our view that the request runs counter to the three requirements prescribed by law and that there is no lawful basis to provide this information to you. Furthermore, the question of fairness and transparency is not met either as the data subject(s) in question would have no expectation that their personal data would be provided to an FOIA applicant and processed in this way.
As Section 31 is a prejudice-based, qualified exemption there is the requirement for us to articulate the harm that would be caused in disclosure well as considering the public interest test. I have set these out below.
To release information regarding any ongoing reports/investigations could potentially undermine proceedings to determine whether any person was guilty or not. It is important that public authorities have the space to fully investigate and consider any matters in respect of reports of any improper conduct without fear of any speculation entering the public domain which may adversely influence lawful proceedings.
Disclosure of this type of information would be harmful as it may reveal low level data for such offences. This would be detrimental to our ability to effectively police and protect individuals and would also have an adverse effect for the local community as such offenders may be able to act with perceived less risk of apprehension in the area. Release of this information could also dissuade those with information from coming forward and could also instil fear into victims of such crimes.
Public Interest Test
Northumbria Police recognises the importance of the public interest in disclosure and has identified the following considerations both in favour of and against providing this information:
Factors favouring disclosure - Disclosure would provide a full representation of the facts or issue in question, thus maintaining public confidence in the force’s ability to deal with such investigations appropriately and responsibly. Disclosure would also promote greater openness and transparency.
Factors favouring non-disclosure - To disclose any information that could prejudice any investigations or proceedings which may arise is to be avoided. It is important that public authorities have the space to fully investigate and consider all allegations and that all investigations are conducted in a fair manner to ascertain whether any person is responsible for any criminal activity. We would not wish to provide any information that would highlight to an offender whether any crime or incident had or had not been reported to the Police. An individual intent on this type of crime may be able to better assess the risk of apprehension, avoid detection and would thereby increase the risk to the community. It is not in the public interest for Northumbria Police to provide information which may assist criminals in their activities. Clearly this would have a detrimental impact on both any investigation and Law Enforcement proceedings and on the victim.
In conclusion I consider that the factors favouring non-disclosure outweigh the factors favouring disclosure and as such I will not be disclosing any further information. Although it is important that the public are apprised of such instances I consider when weighed against the risk of prejudicing the outcome, the factors favouring non-disclosure take precedence. Weakening the mechanisms used to monitor any type of criminal activity, and specifically activity such as FGM would place the security of victims of such offences in danger. In addition anything that places public confidence at risk, no matter how generic, would undermine any trust or confidence the individuals have in the Police Service. Whilst we attempt to put a much information into the public domain as possible we will not do so if it would have an adverse impact on law enforcement and such disclosures would always be resisted.
You should consider this to be a refusal notice under section 17 of the Act for your request.
Please note that this response supersedes any previous response disclosed to the public on this subject matter.
If you decide to write an article / use the enclosed data we would ask you to take into consideration the factors highlighted in this document so as to not mislead members of the public or official bodies, or misrepresent the relevance of the whole or any part of this disclosed material.
Due to the different methods of recording information across 43 forces, a specific response from one constabulary should not be seen as an indication of what information could be supplied (within cost) by another. Systems used for recording these figures are not generic, nor are the procedures used locally in capturing the data. For this reason responses between forces may differ, and should not be used for comparative purposes.
The information we have supplied to you is likely to contain intellectual property rights of Northumbria Police. Your use of the information must be strictly in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (as amended) or such other applicable legislation. In particular, you must not re-use this information for any commercial purpose.