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.
1. I would like to know how many ‘threat to life warning notices’ - or so-called ‘Osman warnings’ - your force issues in 2017 and then also 2016 (please break down by each year).
2. Is it possible to say how many of those warnings were issued to those under the age of 18 (if there are any specific ages of those under 18, I would be grateful to know - even if it is just the youngest)?
3. Is there a breakdown of how many were issued to men and women?
4. And, can you say how many were connected to domestic violence or gangs.
We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted with the Crime Department of Northumbria Police. I can confirm that the information you have requested is held by Northumbria Police.
For questions 1 to 3, I am able to disclose the located information to you as follows.
- 10 notices
- None under 18
- 8 male and 2 female
With regards to 2017 data, the following exemption applies.
Section 21 (1) - Information accessible by other means
Information which is reasonably accessible to the applicant is exempt information.
The data for 2017 has already been asked for and is on the Northumbria Police Disclosure Log, FOI 95/18 refers, and the link to this as below.
In relation to question 4.
Northumbria Police neither confirms nor denies that it holds any information in relation to ‘domestic violence or gangs’ and in doing so will rely on the following exemptions;
Section 40(2) Personal Information
Section 31(1) Law Enforcement
Section 38(1) Health and Safety
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.
Sections 31 is a prejudice based qualified exemption and there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or not whether information is held as well as considering the public interest.
Sections 38 is a class based absolute exemption and consideration of the public interest must be given as to whether neither confirming nor denying the information exists is the appropriate response.
The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve. The current climate within the United Kingdom of gang culture is extremely emotive at this time.
The intelligence received into individual forces assists in evaluating, developing, analysing and disseminating intelligence to relevant Forces and partner organisations where it is needed. The key function being to provide intelligence products which highlight threats and risks currently posed.
To disclose any further information in relation to question 4 could cause subsequent harm to the Police service’s ability to protect the public it serves and could prejudice its ability to perform core functions such as law enforcement. Offenders would understand what actions the police may take in an investigation and seek to avoid detection or continue offending by exploiting this information.
Factors favouring disclosure
There is a strong public interest in knowing how the police service investigates and collates evidence in relation to offenders. Knowing that the police has appropriate steps in place to ensure the safety of the public and apprehend those committing such crimes would ensure that the public is confident in the police service ability to achieve this. Furthermore, if it is felt that the police is not appropriately taking steps to protect the public, the disclosure of this information would enable an informed discussion on the matter.
Section 31 factors against disclosure
To disclose any information directly related to ‘gangs’ could prove harmful to the victims involved. The disclosure of the information would enable offenders to understand actions taken by the police and would undermine future and current investigations. Offenders would be able to take steps to circumvent the actions taken by the police which would have a direct impact on ensuring the safety of the public and bringing offenders to court.
The impact of providing information is held at this level requested, i.e. states within the notice that the threat was connected to Domestic Violence or Gangs, would provide intelligence to the criminal fraternity which would aid in the location and/or identity of persons under threat of death. Such an action has the potential to undermine the flow of information (intelligence) received from members of the public into the Police Service.
Factors favouring disclosure
Disclosure would increase public awareness and debate of such issues. This could increase public confidence as disclosure could show that positive action was taken by the police and justice administered.
Factors favouring non-disclosure
To release the information requested would bring unnecessary distress to family members and friends and may have an adverse impact on their mental health. It would not be appropriate to add further to their distress by putting the information you have requested into the public domain. This would undoubtedly have an impact on their wellbeing and would cause unwarranted distress and mental anguish. Additionally as such disclosure under the Act is as disclosure to the world, there is a danger that this information could affect any number of individuals. Releasing details of domestic violence related gangs into the public domain could be traumatic for the individual and their families.
Although there is a public interest in knowing how the police investigate and safeguard victims, to disclose this information would undermine that process. There is already considerable information about how the police support and target offenders, through local or national initiatives and multi-agency working. However to provide the information would undermine investigations and would lead to offenders being able to avoid detection. This would increase the number of crimes committed and the number of victims. The police service has a duty to protect and the disclosure of this information would certainly have an effect on the police service’s ability to do so.
Members of the public play a vital role in assisting the police and is based very much on relationships built on trust and the expectation of complete confidentiality and Northumbria Police would never disclose information which would compromise those individuals. If disclosed, there could be the likelihood that the future investigations could be compromised and the safety of individuals and the public put at risk. It cannot be justified that the public's interest would be served in releasing this specific information if either of these aspects were to be compromised in any way.
After careful consideration it is therefore felt that the arguments favouring non – disclosure outweighs the argument favouring disclosure of this information.