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Restriction Orders - 537/18

Date Responded 09 July 2018

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 times your force has requested a Drug Dealing Telecommunications Restriction Order since the legislation came into force in 2017?

2.How many times your force has been granted a Drug Dealing Telecommunications Restriction Order since the act came into force?

In Response:

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

 We shall neither confirm nor deny that we hold any information regarding your request and in doing so will rely on the following exemption.

 Section 31(3) - Law Enforcement

 Factors favouring disclosure  

By confirming or denying whether we have made such applications, and how many, would demonstrate the openness of the organisation to make such matters public.  Disclosure would contribute to the accuracy and quality of public debate and allow the public to know what police resources are available to uphold law and order.

 Factors favouring non disclosure

This is a recent piece of legislation and therefore any information that may or may not be held would likely be held in relation to recent investigations and criminal activity. By confirming or denying what information is held would likely undermine Law Enforcement.  Such disclosure would provide valuable information to those wishing to commit crimes or avoid detection and would create a mosaic of data to those intent on doing harm as to areas of vulnerability or non detections either perceived or real.  This information could,  if released,  hinder future detection of crime and compromise law enforcement tactics.

Balancing test.

This is a new piece of legislation and information is available only from the beginning of December.  As such, only part year figures are available at this stage.

Any release under FOI is a disclosure to the world, not just to the individual making the request.  Police forces work in conjunction with other agencies and on a daily basis information is freely shared in line with information sharing protocols.  Modern day policing is intelligence led and this is particularly pertinent with regard to law enforcement.

To confirm or deny that information were held, at this stage, when only part-year figures are available, would indicate the level of recent use of this new technique.  It is likely that any use would relate either to a specific and on-going investigation (given the immediate time-frame) or intelligence-led activities (where individuals or groups are being monitored as a result of intelligence) and where police believe the communications device is likely to be used in connection with drug-dealing offences.

Either way, confirmation or denial of whether information is held is likely to show whether or not intelligence-led activity is on-going, potentially alerting individuals or gangs to the possibility that they have been identified by your force and are potentially being monitored with a view to an application being made to court in respect of a Drug Dealing Telecommunications Restriction Orders application. Alternatively, confirmation or denial that a figure is held for this limited period of time may disclose into the public domain whether this policing tactic has been used for a specific investigation

Having considered both sides of the public interest, it is considered that the balance favours non disclosure of the information requested. Whilst this information may be of interest to the public, it is not in the public interest to provide any information that would be useful to those with intent to do so to evade apprehension or prevent the detection of crimes. Such disclosures would always be resisted.

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

Additionally the below exemption has also been applied as relevant

Section 23 (5) – Information supplied by, or concerning, certain security bodies;

Section 23 is a class based absolute exemption which means there is no requirement to articulate any public interest considerations or harm.  Section 23 has an automatic bar to disclosure of information. 

All the other exemptions cited are qualified which requires me to conduct a harm and public interest test with regard to maintaining a neither confirm nor deny approach.

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