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.
I would like to request the following information regarding speed cameras operated by the force:
- The number of speed cameras currently installed
- The number of these cameras currently in operation
- The camera that has resulted in the highest number of offences in the past three years (2018-20)
- The highest speed recorded by a camera in the past three years (2018-20)
For each of these I would like information for the entire area covered by the force.
You confirmed that the above related to fixed speed cameras.
I am able to disclose the located information to you as follows and is with regards to Fixed Permanent Cameras.
For the purpose of this response we are taking it that by ‘installed’ your referring to the actual removable camera inside the housing structure.
With regards to point 1 & 2 this information will not be disclosed as the below exemption has been considered and applied as relevant.
Section 31(1)(a)(b) - Law Enforcement
Section 31 of the Act (Law Enforcement) states that information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to prejudice:
(a) The prevention or detection of crime
(b) The apprehension or prosecution of offenders
This exemption is a qualified and prejudice based exemption and therefore the legislators accept that there may be harm if released into the public domain. The authority has to consider and describe the harm that would occur if the information were released and carry out a public interest test. In accordance with best practice, I detail the harm first.
To disclose information detailing the number of cameras installed, and the number of cameras that are operational would indicate the use of such resources available to Northumbria Police to deal with speeding offences. The release of such information would identify camera activity and with it any perceived abilities to monitor such offences. Those with the intent to do so may then be under the impression that their speeding offences are less likely to be caught. This would obviously impact on the Police service’s ability to protect the public it serves and could prejudice its ability to perform core functions such as Law Enforcement.
Safety cameras are not always active and the Police rely on the perception by drivers that camera housings could be active and would therefore adjust their speed so as not to contract a fine. The release of such detail would diminish the effectiveness of safety cameras and undermine police enforcement. The release of such information would diminish the deterrent the cameras have.
Speeding above the stated limit is an offence and withholding this information from the public ensures that any driver who exceeds the speed limit would maintain the perception that they are risking criminal liability.
Factors favouring disclosure
The release of the information 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 resources are being utilised in their areas.
Factors favouring non disclosure
As per the harm addressed above - Disclosing the requested information would inform those with disregard for the law, whether their speeding is more or less likely to be caught on camera. This could then have an impact on the safety of other motorist if the perception is that they are unlikely to be caught speeding. As above - Safety cameras are not always active and the Police rely on the perception by drivers that camera housings could be active and would therefore adjust their speed so as not to contract a fine. Its not in the public interest to lose the deterrent effect the cameras have.
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 put into the public domain the number of cameras installed and the number of those operational. This would provide those with intent to do so the knowledge as to the likelihood of being caught exceeding the speed limits.
Public safety is paramount and we would not disclose any information which could jeopardise the safety of road users or other members of the public. Such disclosures would always be resisted.
You should consider this to be a refusal notice under section 17 of the Act for that part of your request.
3. Great North Road B1318