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 receive information regarding gun seizures. Specifically, I would like to receive information on:
1. The number of individual firearms seized by this police force since 2003, per financial year.
2. The number of seizures (i.e. when some seizures will have resulted in the recovery of more than one firearm) by this police force since 2003, per financial year.
3. If possible within the legal limits, please break down by type of firearm.
We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted with the Operations 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.
Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted within Northumbria Police. I can confirm that the information you have requested is held by Northumbria Police however cannot be disclosed for the following reasons.
The information requested is not held in a format that can be retrieved from recording systems used within the time permitted under the Act. In 2017 alone there were 2056 firearms seized. However, it should be noted that the definition of a firearm includes CS spray, TASER and could also include BB guns. Also in 2017, Northumbria Police took part in the national firearms surrender programme which resulted in the voluntary surrender of approximately 400 firearms. In terms of ‘seized’, the vast majority of this number will include firearms which have not been used for an unlawful or criminal purpose. For example, some will be war trophies discovered and handed in by bereaved families following the death of a relative etc. In order to establish the information relative to your request each of those 2056 records would need to be manually reviewed to establish weapon type. Even at a conservative estimate of 6 minutes per record, which we have considered as reasonable, we have estimated that to locate, extract and compile this information would take over 205 hours for that one year period alone, therefore Section 12(1) 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 that part of your request.
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.
Additionally, had the above exemption not been applicable, other exemptions would have been applied, namely Section 30 and Section 31 would have been considered to some parts of your request.