Paedophile Hunter & Vigilante Groups - 1384/20

Date Responded 15 October 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:

1. The number of cases or allegations against individuals received by your force from so-called ‘paedophile hunter’ or ‘paedophile vigilante’ groups from 2010 up until the present day (15/10/20) – broken down by year

2. The number of these cases or allegations which led to a prosecution being launched, and how many of these prosecutions resulted in a conviction – again broken down by year

3. How many of these cases or allegations include reference to ‘QAnon’, ‘Carl Beech’, ‘Epstein’, ‘Pizzagate’, 'Jimmy Savile' and 'Yewtree' within the text of the investigation

4. The release of any policy or internal briefing or guidance document relating to interactions between your force and members of so-called ‘paedophile hunter’ or ‘paedophile vigilante’ groups

In Response:

Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted with both 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 however cannot be disclosed for the following reasons.

The information requested is not held in a format that allows its extraction within the permitted 18 hour time threshold. In 2019 alone there have been in excess of 840 arrests for sexual offences and each of those would require a manual review to establish which, if any, involved ‘vigilante’ or ‘Paedophile Hunter Groups.’ Even at a conservative estimate of 3 minutes per record, which we have considered as reasonable, we have estimated that to extract this information for that time period alone would take over 42 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.

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. However, from the information we have outlined above I see no reasonable way in which we can do so. Points 2 & 3 rely upon the information at point 1 being retrieved. Point 4 in its own right would exceed the 18 hour threshold as to establish a response to that point for a 10 year period is not achievable within 18 hours.

Had this request not been wholly subject to Section 12 refusal I can advise that point 3 would have attracted a neither confirm nor deny response under Sections 30 – Investigations, 31 – Law Enforcement and 40 – Personal Information.

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