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Safe Car Wash app - 300/19

Date Responded 04 April 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:

Please disclose how many intelligence reports your force has had via 'The Safe Car Was App'

https://www.theclewerinitiative.org/safecarwash

For each individual report, please state the date and location of the report, and if there are active legal proceedings connected to it.

If there are no active legal proceedings, please disclose:

* The exact wording received of that intelligence as it was reported to the force.

Any identifiable or personal details which would prohibit disclosure can be redacted.

* If officers visited the venue, and any subsequent reports or internal communications relating that visit.

Again, any identifiable or personal details which would prohibit disclosure can be redacted.

* If anybody was safeguarded as a result of that visit. If so, please disclose how many and - if known - their nationality

In Response:

Northumbria Police can neither confirm nor deny that it holds information pertinent to this request as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply by virtue of the following exemptions:

Section 40(5) Personal Information

Section 30(3) Investigations

Section 31(3) Law Enforcement

Section 38(2) Health and Safety

 

Section 40 is a class based exemption, however Section 40(5) is not, as it is not listed in the schedule of absolute exemptions in Section 2(2).  However, when citing Section 40(5), there is a requirement to consider whether disclosure would breach one of the Data Protection Principles, and in this case the first principle of fairness would be breached, therefore in these circumstances Section 40(5) is classed as absolute and there is no requirement to consider the public interest.

Section 30 is a class based qualified exemption and consideration of the public interest must be given as to whether neither confirming nor denying the information exists is the appropriate response.

With Sections 31 and 38 being prejudice based qualified exemptions there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or not that the information is held as well as carrying out a public interest test. 

Harm

Any release under the Freedom of Information Act is a disclosure to the world, not just to the individual making the request.  To confirm or not that intelligence reports your force has had via 'The Safe Car Was App' would identify where investigation are or are not being carried out.  This would be of use to those wishing to evade police attention  and provide them with valuable information regarding policing activities in the area.

 

Public Interest Test

Section 30 – Law Enforcement

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming that information is held

Confirming or denying that such  information exists would lead to a better informed public. This would also highlight where police resources are being targeted and the public are entitled to know how public funds are spent, particularly in the current economic climate.

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) – neither confirming nor denying that information is held

Confirmation or denial that information is held in this case would suggest that we take our responsibility to appropriately handle, manage and monitor any intelligence reported to the police to assist with criminal investigations flippantly and dismissively resulting in the force’s future law enforcement capabilities being affected.

Section 31 – Law Enforcement

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming that information is held

Confirmation that information exists relevant to this request would lead to a better informed public which may encourage individuals to provide further intelligence to the police.

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) neither confirming nor denying that information is held

Northumbria Police, and the Police Service generally, gather intelligence in order to direct police activity through a planned and systemic business process.  Any disclosure of information which would compromise law enforcement would lead to more crime being committed.  Further, as more offences are committed police resources would be affected as officers are taken from the frontline and directed into ongoing investigative operations, some of which may be covert.

Section 38 – Health and Safety

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming that information is held

To confirm information captured would lead to a better informed public awareness and debate, and would also identify how public funds are being spent

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) neither confirming nor denying that information is held

Any information, no matter how generic, which would assist individuals in their offending behaviour, would undoubtedly be a risk to the safety of the generic public.  In addition, confirmation or denying of information which is designed to safeguard the public is also likely to lead to a loss of confidence in the ability of Northumbria Police to protect the wellbeing of the community.

Balancing Test

The points above highlight the merits for and against confirming or denying that any intelligence reports have been received via 'The Safe Car Wash App'

The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve.  As part of that policing purpose, information is gathered which needs to be acted upon, sometimes covertly.  To put such details into the public domain for all to see then impacts on any investigations, law enforcement or operations that are required.  This then gives those with any intent to evade the police by whatever means.

In addition, we also need to take into account the victims of crime.  Public safety is of paramount importance and any information which would place individuals at risk, no matter how generic, is not in the public interest.  The effective delivery of operational law enforcement is crucial to ensure Northumbria Police target offending behaviour.

Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test for confirming nor denying that information is held is not made out.

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