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.
Could you answer the following questions and break them down from 1/1/2013 and ending 1/8/2018 for Newcastle Airport:
- How many forced-marriage related arrests were made at the airport
- How many forced marriage protection orders were carried out at the airport
- How many victims were involved
- What was the age of the victim
- what was the sex of the victim
We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
Northumbria Police can neither confirm nor deny that we hold any information with regards to your request by virtue of the following exemption.
Section 31 (1)(a) – Law Enforcement
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
Harm in complying with Section 1 (1) (a) to confirm or not whether information is held
Any release under FOIA is a disclosure to the world, not just the individual making the request. To confirm or deny information is held in this case has the potential to undermine the flow of information (intelligence) received from members of the public into the Police Service and other outside agencies relating to forced marriages. This could lead to police officers having to be removed from their frontline duties in order to increase manpower relating to this subject matter. As resources are already stretched this would cause significant issues for the police service being able to effectively operate.
Factors favouring complying with Section 1 (1) (a)
There is public interest in transparency and accountability where the police service is concerned as public taxes fund the Police and this obviously favours confirmation or denial.
Factors against complying with Section 1 (1) (a)
By neither confirming nor denying whether information is held would suggest that Northumbria Police take their responsibility to protect confidential information provided to them seriously and appropriately to ensure operational law enforcement is effectively delivered.
Additionally Northumbria Police has a duty of care to the community at large and public safety is of great importance. An FOI response revealing information, by citing an exemption or stating no information held, which confirms police are aware of activity at a particular airport or not, would cause significant issues. These issues would be criminals targeting specific airports for crimes of this subject matter. Criminals are always evolving their approach, therefore by being provided the information to geographically map out vulnerable airports could lead to an increase of forced marriage related offences occurring at specific locations. An increase of crime would significantly affect operational policing and further stretch resources.
There are points that highlight the merits of confirming or denying that information pertinent to this request exists around transparency and accountability.
Nevertheless the Police Service relies heavily on members of the public providing information to assist in criminal investigations and has a duty to protect those individuals considered to be vulnerable. Anything which places that confidence at risk, no matter how generic, would undermine any trust or confidence individuals have in the Police Service. Additionally 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. There is a need to ensure our relationship with other law enforcement agencies runs smoothly and we do not increase criminal activities for particular areas.
Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test supports the neither confirm nor deny approach.
Please note that this should be not be taken as confirmation or denial that any information is held in respect of your request.