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Date Responded 27 February 2019

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 response officers working the night shift on each day of the first full week in February 2019 - i.e. from Monday 4th to Sunday 10th
  2. If possible/applicable I would like this information broken down geographically - e.g. by Local Authority/CSP or similar.
  3. The hours covered by these shifts.

In Response:

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

With regards to point 3:

Generic nightshift working hours are 22:00 – 07:00hrs.

With regards to points 1 and 2, this will not be disclosed and by withholding we rely on the following exemption.

Section 31(1) (a)(b)(c)

Section 31 of the Act (Law Enforcement) states that information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to prejudice:

(a) The prevention or detection of crime

(b) The apprehension or prosecution of offenders

(c)  The administration of justice

This exemption is a qualified and prejudice based exemption and therefore the legislators accept that there may be harm if released into the public domain. The authority has to consider and describe the harm that would occur if the information were released and carry out a public interest test.  In accordance with best practice, I detail the harm first.

Harm

Any information that may hinder the prevention or detection of crime or the  apprehension or prosecution of offenders will not be considered for disclosure. While we release as much information into the public domain as is possible we cannot jeopardise any policing purpose.

To disclose information detailing how many police officers worked night shifts at a particular date and location could cause subsequent harm to the Police service’s ability to protect the public it serves and could prejudice its ability to perform core functions such as the prevention and detection of crime.

Clearly by releasing such information policing will be undermined as anyone wishing to cause harm or disruption to Northumbria Police could use this information to their advantage by targeting those locations which may be perceived as being vulnerable through  low staffing, or conversely those where more staff are based and where any disruption or harm would have the biggest impact to the force. 

Disclosing this information will therefore prejudice the prevention and detection of crime.

Factors favouring disclosure

Accountability

The release of the information would demonstrate the openness of the organisation to make public such matters, and  contribute to the accuracy and quality of public debate, particularly in a time where resources are stretched.

Factors favouring non disclosure

Releasing data down to this level would give those  individuals with the intent to do so, the intelligence required to disrupt police activity.  This knowledge would mean that offenders would be able to target their offending more effectively which would inevitably lead to an increased likelihood of terrorist or criminal activity and an increased danger to the public.

On a national level, terrorists and criminals would be able to use this knowledge to their own advantage in furthering terrorist/criminal activity around the country.  The disclosure of information which is likely to undermine the Police service’s ability to serve the public in preventing and detecting crime can only be considered as being harmful to the public.

It should be recognised that the international security landscape is increasingly complex and unpredictable.  The UK faces a serious and sustained threat from violent extremists and this threat is greater in scale and ambition than any of the terrorist threats in the past.  It would not be in either the publics or the polices interests to provide information which could aid those who are intent on causing disruption or harm to our communities or police services.

Having considered both sides of the public interest, it is considered that the balance favours non disclosure of the information requested. Whilst this information may be of interest to the public, it is not in the public interest to increase the risk of terrorist/criminal activity. We have a duty of care to staff, officers and members of the public.  To put anyone at risk just to fulfil a request under FOI would always be resisted.

You should consider this to be a refusal notice under section 17 of the Act for that part of your request.

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