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Date Responded 07 November 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 crimes were committed in your police jurisdiction involving firearms/ shotguns in 2017-2018 & 2018/2019? This includes numbers arrested, charged and/ or criminally prosecuted.
  2. What was the status of the weapons involved (i.e. licenced, unlicensed or unknown)?
  3. How many fresh applications for firearm/shotgun licences were made in 2017-2018 & 2018/2019? How many were refused?
  4. How many applications for renewals for pre-existing firearm/shotgun licences were made in the year 2017-2018 & 2018-2019? How many were refused?
  5. How many revocations of firearm/ shotgun licences were made by the police force in 2017-2018 & 2018-2019? How many were successfully appealed by the applicant?
  6. How many firearms/ shotguns were seized by police in 2017-2018 & 2018-2019? How many of these were subsequently returned to their owners? How many of these were destroyed?

In respect of question (6), other police forces in England and Wales have been able to provide all or part of the information requested on seizures and/ or returns of shotguns/ firearms. We would ask Northumbria Police to do the same. If Northumbria Police only has information on the number of seizures (not returns) or vice versa, we ask that this is provided.

In Response:

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

Your request is almost identical to your previous request in which we refused under Section 12, and advised you under Section 16 as to what could be provided to you should you wish to resubmit and remove point 6.

As you have chosen not to follow our suggestions as to what could be provided to you, we are unable to offer any response other than a further refusal under Section 12.

To provide information which meets the criteria of your request, at question 6) alone would entail a member of staff having to conduct a force wide search on the property system for periods of no more than 3 months at a time (which the system allows) for the whole time period requested.  For 2017 alone this would entail manually searching in excess of 1,000 records as there are a number of ways in which guns can be recorded on the property system, ie shotgun, gun, rifle etc.  Even at a conservative estimate of 30 seconds per record as a minimum, we have estimated that to extract this information alone would take over in excess of 8 hours to search.  Using these figures as a guide for the period requested there are potentially in excess of 2,500 records to manually search, taking approximately a minimum of 23 hours, therefore Section 12(1) of the Freedom of Information Act would apply.  This section does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the authority estimated that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit of 18 hours, equating to £450.00.

Additionally there is no easy method of extracting ‘returned to owner’ from systems used.  The term ‘disposed’ is recorded, and a search of each record would need to be carried out to establish whether a weapon had been returned to owner, thus adding significantly to the minimum time outlined above.

You should consider this to be a refusal notice under Section 17 of the Act for your request.

When applying Section 12 exemption our duty to assist under Section 16 of the Act would normally entail that we contact you to determine whether it is possible to refine the scope of your request to bring it within the cost limits.  Therefore, in order to provide you with some assistance, under Section 16 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, an initial assessment of the information that may be provided within the time constraints would be your questions 1) down to arrests and charges, and 3 to 5) as set out above.If this would be useful, we again invite you to refine and resubmit your request accordingly.

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