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.
Please provide a breakdown of the number of officers based at each police station/office as at 25th October 2021.
We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
I can confirm that the information you have requested is held by Northumbria Police, however will not be disclosed and in withholding we will rely on the following exemption:
Section 31(1) (a)(b)(c) – Law Enforcement
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.
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 Law Enforcement by publishing what resources are available in which areas.
To disclose information detailing how many police officers are based at any named station/location could cause 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 seemingly low staffing, or conversely those where more staff are based and where any disruption or harm would have the biggest impact to the force, and consequently to members of the communities we serve.
Disclosing this information will therefore prejudice the prevention and detection of crime.
Public Interest Test
Factors favouring disclosure
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.
Factors favouring non-disclosure
Releasing data down to this level would give those individuals with the intent to do so, the intelligence to disrupt police activity. This information 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 extremely 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. The Home Secretary has recently announced that the UK threat level from terrorism has been increased from Substantial to Severe. It would not be in either the public 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.
Whilst this request may seem innocuous, releasing the information requested would give those with criminal intent the ability to map those areas where it may be perceived have low, or conversely a high number, of officers, thus ensuring any criminal intent to have the widest implications both to the force and members of the public.
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 your request.
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.