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.
- In the last 5 years, how many pieces of evidence have been contaminated by frontline officers?
- In the last 5 years, how many cases have been impacted because of the contamination of evidence by frontline officers?
- In the last 5 years, how many cases have not made it as far as court due to the contamination of evidence by frontline officers?
- What has the contamination of evidence cost the Police force, in the last 5 years? Please breakdown per annum.
- In the last 5 years, during the investigation of crime, how many footwear marks recovered from a crime scene have been identified/eliminated to a frontline officer?
- In the last 5 years, during the investigation of crime, how many finger marks recovered from a crime scene have been identified/eliminated to a frontline officer?
- In the last 5 years, during the investigation of crime, how many DNA samples recovered from a crime scene have been identified/eliminated to a frontline officer?
- What is the cost to the force per year in identification/elimination of samples from scenes, to a frontline officer?
- How frequently do Police officers receive forensic awareness training?
- What is the cost, per officer, of this training?
I am essentially trying to establish the financial cost to the criminal justice system and/or Police forces, caused by a lack of forensic awareness.
We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) guidelines state that:
A public authority must confirm or deny whether it holds the information requested unless the cost of this alone would exceed the appropriate limit.
I can neither confirm nor deny that the information you require is held by Northumbria Police as to actually determine if it is held would exceed the permitted 18 hours therefore Section 12(2) of the Freedom of Information Act would apply. This section does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the authority estimated that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit of 18 hours, equating to £450.00.
You should consider this to be a refusal notice under Section 17 of the Act for your request.
I have set out the reasons for this below.
This information is not already held statistically, nor is it held in a format that would allow its extraction from systems within the permitted 18 hour threshold. Northumbria Police do not test every exhibit recovered and we are therefore unable to establish how many pieces of evidence have or may have been contaminated by frontline officers. Each criminal investigation where forensic evidence has been a factor would require a manual review to determine if this information is even held. Accordingly points 2–7 cannot be answered at these rely on point 1 being achievable. Section 12(2) is therefore applicable.
When applying Section 12 exemption our duty to assist under Section 16 of the Act would normally entail that we contact you to determine whether it is possible to refine the scope of your request to bring it within the cost limits. However, from the information we have outlined above I see no reasonable way in which we can do so in this case.
However, as a gesture of goodwill, and outside of the Act, I can advise the following:
7. No information is held. This information is not collated or calculated.
8. All routes into the force cover initial forensic training and regular CPD is determined by numbers and ongoing training profiles for each role that interacts with evidence.
9. No information is held. This information is not collated or calculated.
If you decide to write an article / use the enclosed data we would ask you to take into consideration the factors highlighted in this document so as to not mislead members of the public or official bodies, or misrepresent the relevance of the whole or any part of this disclosed material.
Due to the different methods of recording information across 43 forces, a specific response from one constabulary should not be seen as an indication of what information could be supplied (within cost) by another. Systems used for recording these figures are not generic, nor are the procedures used locally in capturing the data. For this reason responses between forces may differ, and should not be used for comparative purposes.
The information we have supplied to you is likely to contain intellectual property rights of Northumbria Police. Your use of the information must be strictly in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (as amended) or such other applicable legislation. In particular, you must not re-use this information for any commercial purpose.