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Date Responded 18 February 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. How much does a fully kitted MARKED BMW X5 Traffic/ARV Vehicle cost Northumbria police?
  2. How much does a fully kitted out UNMARKED BMW X5 traffic/ARV vehicle cost Northumbria police?

In Response:

Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted with the Procurement Department of Northumbria Police.  I can confirm that the information you have requested with regards to vehicle costs is held by Northumbria Police, however will not be disclosed for the following reasons.

With regards to the costs of any vehicles purchased (regardless of make, model etc) this information will not be disclosed and by withhold we shall rely on the following exemption.

Section 43 (2) Commercial Interests

Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it.)

As Section 43 (2) is a prejudice based qualified exemption and there is a requirement to articulate the harm as well as carrying out a public interest test.  I have carried these out below. 

Harm

Disclosure of the amounts paid is likely to cause financial loss to both the supplier and the purchasing authority.  This may undermine the integrity and effectiveness of the tender process as authorities may not be in a position to purchase the best all round service as unit cost may become the sole overriding factor.

Public Interest Test

Factors Favouring Disclosure

The release of the information would demonstrate the openness of the organisation to explain and account for monies spent on vehicles used by the force.  This would contribute to the accuracy and quality of public debate.

Disclosure of the information would show the openness of the processes by which such services are procured.

Factors Against Disclosure

Release of the information might jeopardise the interests of third parties in relation to sensitive commercial information held in relation to contractual, financial or business issues and to protect the commercial interests of service providers.  Such disclosure may dissuade those service providers from giving favourable rates to the police service.  As this is public money this would impact on the force getting the opportunity to be provided with the best deals and value for allocated budgets.

Balance Test

A disclosure which greatly affects the ability of a product supplier to operate in a free market would have a knock on effect on the effectiveness of the force to do business in the future.  Disclosures under Freedom of Information which harm commercial partners will make it more difficult to attract suitable suppliers in the future, as they avoid that risk to their organisations.  This will mean that the numbers of options to select from could be reduced which in turn could mean either inferior products having to be selected or more expensive options having to be chosen.

You should consider this to be a refusal notice under section 17 of the Act for those parts of your request outlined above.

With regards to fully kitted out marked and unmarked BMW X5 Traffic/ARV vehicles Northumbria Police can neither confirm nor deny that any information is held relevant to this part of your request as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply by virtue of the following exemption:

Section 31(1) - Law Enforcement 

Section 31 is a prejudice based qualified exemption and there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or denying that the information is held as well as carrying out a public interest test. 

Harm

To provide details regarding covert/AR vehicles would cause harm as, once identified, those vehicles could be targeted thus placing the occupants at risk and the possibility that Policing would be undermined as offenders will gain knowledge about the covert/AR vehicles owned by the force and therefore use that knowledge to avoid detection.  This would reveal policing tactics and so compromise investigations and any law enforcement strategies.  This would be to the detriment of providing an efficient policing service and a failure in providing a duty of care to both member of staff and the public at large.

Factors Favouring Disclosure

By disclosing what vehicles we have to enable us to carry out policing activities would enable the public to see where public funds are being spent, and allow them to be better informed.

Factors Against Disclosure

By confirming the identity of covert vehicles would compromise law enforcement tactics which would hinder the prevention and detection of crime.  More crime would be committed and individuals would be placed at risk, which would impact on police resources.

Balance Test

The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve.  The security of the public is of paramount importance and the Police service will not divulge information if to do so would place the safety of individuals at risk or undermine law enforcement.  Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and providing assurance that the police service is appropriately carrying out its duties, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both law enforcement and the integrity of police investigations and operations.  We have therefore concluded that to release information that would lead to the identity of covert vehicles would lead to the prevention or detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders and the administration of justice.

 

It is therefore our opinion that for these issues the balance lies in favour of non-disclosure of this particular part of your request.

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