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Date Responded 03 January 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:

  1. Please could you tell me what E-mail client you use and the version number? For example, Outlook 2007 or Lotus Notes v.6
  2. Also, can you tell me whether or not you use a programme/application to add the GPMS / GSC classification of the e-mail and if so what programme/application this is? For example, Titus Security Classifier
  3. Does your force use any form of Instant Messaging system such as Skype or Microsoft Lync? If so the name of the system.
  4. Do all staff have access to instant messaging?
  5. Are you able to connect with other forces/organisations using the instant messaging application?
  6. What is the format of the address to allow external people to connect via instant messaging (eg firstname. lastname @ policeforce. uk) I am not asking for personal addresses, just the format.

In Response:

I am able to disclose the located information to you as follows.

  1. Outlook 2010
  2. We do not use a GPMS/GSC classification tool.
  3. Skype for Business
  4. Yes
  5. Yes

With regards to any covert abilities the force may or may not have in this field, we shall neither confirm nor deny any additional information is held and by doing so we rely on the following exemptions.

S23(5) Information supplied, by or concerning, certain security bodies.

S30(3) Investigations,

S31(3) Law Enforcement

S24(2) National Security

S23 - The duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that, compliance with section 1(1)(a) would involve the disclosure of any information (whether or not already recorded) which was directly or indirectly supplied to the public authority by, or relates to, any of the bodies specified in subsection (5).

This is an absolute exemption and there is no requirement to complete a harm or public interest test.

Harm in confirming or denying:

Any disclosure under FOIA is a disclosure to the world at large, and confirming or denying the use of further systems which may or may not exist, and which (should they exist) the police service may or may not deploy in specific circumstances would prejudice law enforcement. If the requested information was held by the force, confirmation of this fact would reveal that the police have access to further communications systems or  techniques. This would be damaging as it would  limit operational capabilities as criminals/terrorists would gain a greater understanding of the police's methods and techniques, enabling them to take steps to counter them.

Conversely, if information was not held by the force, and a denial was issued, this suggest (whether correctly or not) the limitations of police capabilities in this area, which may further encourage criminal/terrorist activity by exposing a potential vulnerability. Any disclosure of such information would substantially prejudice the ability of forces to uphold Law Enforcement and conduct Investigations.

This detrimental effect is increased if the request is made to several different law enforcement bodies. In addition to the local criminal fraternity now being better informed, those intent on organised crime throughout the UK will be able to ‘map’ where the use of certain systems are or are not deployed.

This can be useful information to those committing crimes and  terrorist activities.

Factors favouring confirming or denying whether any other information is held for Section 24

The public is entitled to know where their public funds are being spent and a better informed public can take steps to protect themselves.

Factors against confirming or denying whether any other information is held for Section 24

By confirming or denying the use of specialist techniques could render Security measures less effective. This could lead to the compromise of ongoing or future operations to protect the security or infra-structure of the UK and increase the risk of harm to the public

Factors favouring confirming or denying whether any other information is held for Section 30

The public are entitled to know what their public funds are spent on. Investigations may be closed and any proceedings may have been completed, and the investigations may have been high profile and had national implications.

Factors against confirming or denying whether any other information is held for Section 30

The force’s future law enforcement capabilities would be affected and this would hinder the prevention and detection of crime.

Factors favouring confirming or denying whether any other information is held for Section 31

Better awareness may reduce crime or lead to more information from the public, and the public would be able to take steps to protect themselves. Some information is already in the public domain.

Factors against confirming or denying whether any other information is held for Section 31

Law enforcement tactics would be compromised which would hinder the prevention or detection of crime if systems used were openly discussed. This would impact on police resources, more crime would then be committed and individuals placed at risk.

Balance test

The security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police service will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so could undermine National Security or compromise law enforcement. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and in this case providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by the criminal fraternity, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations . 

As much as there is public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced in matters of national security, law enforcement and investigations,  this will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances. Therefore it is our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for confirming or denying whether any other information is held regarding this technique is not made out. This argument is obviously transferable to all police tactics.

None of the above can be viewed as an inference that any further  information does or does not exist.


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