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Murder and Violent Crimes - 512/20

Date Responded 23 April 2020

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:

Please can you provide me with data of murders and violent crimes in your police force over the last 4 years, in financial or calendar years, however this information is held. Please include in violent crimes all offences that fall under the crime type ‘Violence and sexual offences’ (e.g. ‘Assault with injury’, ‘Rape’, etc). Broken down by:

  1. Solved or unsolved - Please include the last outcome category given, and if there are any other status that would be indicative of solved/unsolved crime (e.g. ‘Filed no suspect, no further enquiries’, etc). For each of these murders please provide:
  2. Victim’s ethnicity (established, self-defined or ethnic appearance).
  3. Victim’s gender, nationality and age group.
  4. Offender/Principal suspect ethnicity, gender and nationality.

In Response:

As advised in our acknowledgement email this request has been aggregated with your previous requests (FOI’s 430/20 and 439/20) with regards to time constraints under the Act, as they refer to the same subject area – Murder and Violent Crimes.

Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted with the Crime and Corporate Development Departments of Northumbria Police.  I can confirm that the information you have requested is held, in part, by Northumbria Police.

Information regarding violent crimes will not be disclosed following reason.  As detailed above this request has been aggregated with your previous requests, and as the time permitted to comply with a request under the act has now been met we will not be able to provide the information requested regarding violent crimes, 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.

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

Although excess cost removes Northumbria Police's obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, as a gesture of goodwill I have supplied information attached, relative to your request, retrieved or available before it was realised that the fees limit would be exceeded.  I trust this is helpful, but it does not affect our legal right to rely on the fees regulations for the remainder of your request.

Within the attached document I am able to disclose the located information, in part, regarding murder.  However, you should note that within the data supplied details of three crimes have not been included, and by withholding this information we will reply on the following exemptions:

Section 30(1) (a) Investigations and Proceedings by Public Authorities

Section 40 (2) - Personal Information 

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 a data protection principle would be breached by disclosure.  In this case it would not be fair to process information which, we believe by providing all the information you have requested, could lead to the identification of an individual. Therefore the first principle of the Data Protection Act would be breached. 

Section 30 requires a Public Interest Test to be carried out and I have set this out below.

Section 30 - Factors favouring disclosure

Disclosure of this information would lead to a better informed general public by identifying that Northumbria Police are currently investigating specific murders.  This fact alone may encourage individuals to provide intelligence in order to assist with investigations and would also promote public trust in providing transparency and demonstrating openness and accountability into where the police are currently focusing their resources and investigations.

Additionally the public are also entitled to know how public funds are spent, particularly in the current economic climate.

Section 30 - Factors favouring non-disclosure

To disclose the information provided would severely hinder those current investigations.  This would indicate which murders were actively being investigated, therefore alerting the offenders of that fact.  This would indicate that something had or had not been reported to us and would enable them to take evasive action to avoid detection or apprehension.  The success of those investigations would be then be compromised.  It is not in the public interest to disclose any information prematurely that may hinder those investigations.

Balancing Test

The points above highlight the merits of both disclosing and not disclosing whether the information you are looking for is suitable for release into the public domain.  Such investigations are carried out to aid the prevention or detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, and the administration of justice.  To provide details of current investigations would severely hamper those investigations.  We would not divulge information that would put an investigation at risk or compromise the safety of any individuals or officers.  Whilst we put as much information into the public domain as we are able to this information would not be considered appropriate at this moment in time for the reasons set out above.

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.  However, as the cost limits have already been met we would suggest in order to avoid any future resubmission/requests for the same/similar information being aggregated due to the time constraints of the act, that waiting 60 days, or perhaps longer given the current worldwide situation, before submitting such a request may result in a more positive response.

Murder and Violent Crimes - 512/20

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