Date Responded 29 August 2018

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:

I am writing in relation to Yesterday's Times article featuring convicted fraudster XXXXX and payments made to him by Northumberland County Council.*

Has any referral to Northumbria Police been made by Northumberland County Council regarding XXXXX, or have any payments made to any contractor or third party company been referred to Northumbria Police by Northumberland County Council?

Can Northumbria Police confirm receipt of a report into activity of Northumberland County Council's development company Arch?

-If yes, can Northumbria Police offer any further detail on the state of any investigations which are either ongoing or concluded?

Has a meeting of the Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird ever taken place with the attendance of (named persons)

If yes, please provide details including dates, times, attendees and any minutes or agendas of such meetings.

Please provide details of any written communications or otherwise scheduled contact between Vera Baird, or any other representative or employee of Northumbria Police and (named persons)

-If yes, please provide details including dates, times and minutes or agendas of such meetings.

Please provide details of any enquiries made by journalists to Northumbria Police regarding Arch and/or Northumberland County Council in the past 24 months including dates, times, and details of enquiries.

In Response:

 We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.

We cannot answer on behalf of the OPCC.  If you require a response regarding any meetings the PCC has attended you would need to address your queries there.  Further details on submitting Freedom of Information Act  requests to the OPCC can be found on their website – link below.

Therefore we are responding from Northumbria Police only.

Northumbria Police will neither confirm nor deny any other information is held, other than that already in the public domain, and in doing so we shall rely on the following exemption.

Section 30(3) Investigations

Section 40(5) Personal Information

To give a statement of the reasons why neither confirming nor denying is appropriate in this case would itself involve the disclosure of exempt information, therefore under s17(4), no explanation can be given. To the extent that section 40 (5)  applies, we have determined that in all the circumstances of the case the public interest in maintaining the exclusion of the duty to neither confirm nor deny that information is held by Northumbria Police regarding the persons named in your request outweighs the public interest in confirming whether or not information is held.

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

I have set these out below.

Section 30 - Public Interest factors favouring disclosure

Confirming that any further such information exists could promote public trust in providing transparency, demonstrating openness and accountability into response to incidents or crimes.  It could also provide reassurance to the public that the police service is taking any such  reports seriously and conducts any investigations appropriately.  To confirm could also allow the public to have a better understanding of the effectiveness of the police service.

Section 30 - Public Interest factors against disclosure

As per information already available in the public domain, it has been acknowledged that ‘Northumbria Police are working with Northumberland County Council concerning a number of matters relating to Arch. Inquiries are in their early stages. The matters relate to finance and governance issues’.  If we were to confirm or deny that any further information is held on this matter would indicate that something had or had not been further reported to us, and the success of any future investigations that may be considered as necessary, would be compromised.  It is not in the public interest to disclose any information prematurely that may hinder any further investigations, should that be deemed appropriate. 

Balance Test 

The points above highlight the merits of confirming or denying the requested data exists.  Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing and providing assurance that incidents and reports of crime, and any consequent investigations are conducted appropriately there is strong public interest in safeguarding the integrity of any police investigations and the confidentiality of those reporting such instances.  The police service relies heavily on the public providing information.  The public have an expectation that any information they provide will be treated with confidence.  Anything that puts that confidence at risk would have a serious detrimental effect on the police service, and would not be considered for release just to satisfy a request made under the FOIA.  At this stage it has not been either confirmed or denied that any criminal offences are being investigated.  To ensure the integrity of any other police involvement, other than that which is already in the public domain, the progress of any such enquiries will not be made public at this stage.  It is not in best interest to disclose any information that may hinder or jeopardise investigations or enquiries for any reason.

However, this should not be taken as necessarily indicating that any further information that would meet your request either does or does not exist.

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