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.
I would like to request a number of documents under Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. These documents all relate to the Police manhunt for Raoul Moat in June 2010.
a) a copy of the computer-aided despatch log or similar for the 999 call made by Moat to Northumbria Police at 00:44:27 on 4 July 2010;
b) all distinct copies of the ‘Gold Strategy’, giving details on the aims of Northumbria Police during the manhunt;
c) any information on the system available for Northumbria Police to broadcast a message to all operational radio users simultaneously, as mentioned in Rathband v CC Northumbria;
d) copies of policies relating to the following issues, including the revision in use at the time of the manhunt and the revision following it, or the closest available:
i. armed policing;
ii. acquirement of communications data (by this I mean the acquisition of data for the purposes of identifying a person’s location);
iii. use of the Airwave radio network; and
iv. the Northumbria Police Safer Patroling Procedures; and
e. any report produced by Northumbria Police following the manhunt, relating to Moat, his actions and the Police response to them.
We shall not be disclosing any of the above and by doing so rely on the following exemption:
Section 14(1) of the FOIA states that section 1(1) does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious.
The Commissioner’s guidance on the application of Section 14(1) indicates that the key question for a public authority is whether the request is likely to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress. In this case it is the disruption area that is relevant to this request. I have set out our rationale for our refusal under S14(1) below.
No public interest test is applicable for this exemption.
As you will be aware this was an extremely complex and dynamic operation and due to the nature of the incident a huge amount of information will be held, a lot of which will be sensitive personal data, personal data, and data that would refer to information that had been gathered for the purpose of the investigation.
As I am sure your aware, any disclosure made under the Freedom of Information Act is a disclosure to the world and not just the requester.
To appropriately redact the information requested would be an enormous undertaking. To edit footage and make relevant redactions to remove particular images, references and third parties for wider public consumption would take some considerable time. Other details such as the removal of personal information from statements, records, forensic evidence etc would also need to be undertaken. This process would inevitably be burdensome as any potentially exempt information cannot easily be isolated because it is scattered throughout the recorded material of which there are currently 57 large boxes.
This would impose a significant burden on both the small team dealing with FOI requests as well as the specialist team with knowledge of that investigation within Northumbria Police.
I have considered the Information Commissioner’s latest published guidance, “Dealing with vexatious requests (Section 14)”, particularly taking into account the volume of information that needs to be extensively reviewed in order to identify anything relevant to your application, as well as any information that needs to be considered for redaction, and the resulting burden it would place on Northumbria Police in doing so.
I therefore consider Section 14(1) relevant and appropriate to your request.
We are unable to advise under Section 16 of the ACT a way in which you may revise your request as even if not burdensome or exceeding the appropriate time limit this information would have been withheld under Section 30 Investigations and Proceedings Conducted by Public Authorities and Section 38 Health and Safety.