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Date Responded 24 March 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. The number of individuals evaluated by polygraph annually since 2012.
  2. The type(s) of polygraph machine used and manufacturer(s).
  3. The qualifications held by the polygraph test operator(s).
  4. An example of only one test process, excluding any sensitive or personal information.

In Response:

As advised earlier this request has been aggregated with your previous request (FOI 215/20) with regards to time constraints under the Act, as they refer to the same subject area – Polygraph Tests.

Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted with the Safeguarding Department of Northumbria Police.  I can confirm that the information you have requested is held, by Northumbria Police.

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

1  The number of individuals evaluated by polygraph annually since 2012;

2012 – 2016 – No information held, we did not start using polygraph until 2017.

2017 – 68 examinations

2018 – 92 examinations

2019 – 53 examinations

2  The polygraph machine used is the Lafayette LX5000

3  The qualifications held by the polygraph test operator(s) are American Polygraph Association Accreditation Polygraph Examiner, Post-Conviction Sex Offender Testing.

4  As we advised in your previous submission, FOI 215/20 refers, any resubmission of your request would be subject to exemptions being considered and applied where relevant. 

Information at this point will not be disclosed and in refusing we cite the following exemption as being applicable to this point of your request.

Section 30(1) Investigations and proceedings conducted by a public authority

Section 30(1) states that information is exempt information if it has at any time been held for the purposes of any investigation.  This exemption is a qualified and class based exemption and accordingly Northumbria Police does not need to carry out a harm test for this exemption.  As section 30 is a qualified exemption the application of a public interest test is required and I have set this out below. 

For Disclosure S30:

Disclosure would adhere to the basic principle of being open and transparent and would allow for a more accurate public debate.  There is a legitimate public interest in knowing that the Force uses Polygraph tests  where necessary in order to aid investigations .  The community at large may benefit from disclosure as this may encourage accurate and informed public debate.  It would also correct rumour and speculation and provide confidence in the Force's ability to investigate any alleged offences.

Against Disclosure S30

Northumbria Police has a duty to ensure all investigations are dealt with fairly and equally.  It is important that any investigation is conducted with regard to confidentiality and privacy.  The public interest would not be served if a disclosure breaches those obligations placed on an authority.  As we advised in your previous response tests are bespoke and in mind with the situation being investigated.  However saying that by providing a response at this point may provide enough information to assist an offender to pre-empt the type of questions and therefor give an opportunity to manipulate the test results.

Balance Test:

The points above highlight the merits regarding disclosure.  The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, prevention and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve. The Police Service will never divulge information if to do so would undermine any investigations or be detrimental to operational law enforcement.

The public entrust the Police Service to make appropriate decisions with regard to their safety and protection and the only way of reducing risk is to be cautious with any information that is released. Providing the information requested would reveal policing tactics and practices and would assist certain individuals by providing an insight into the methods used in investigations and the type of questions that may be used in polygraph tests.  This could be advantageous to certain individuals.

Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test is against disclosure.

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