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 am requesting the name, rank and number of the Northumrbia Police Police Officer, who can be clearly seen and identified via the CCTV images in the attached collage of CCTV images. There are over 45 images in the collage.
*Images supplied have been removed from this response*
Northumbria Police will neither confirm nor deny any information relating to this request is held and by doing so we rely on the following exemptions:
Section 31(3) Law Enforcement
Section 40(5) Personal Information
Section 31 is a qualified exemption and as such there is a requirement to articulate the harm and conduct a test of the public interest in confirmation or denial. Section 40 is a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest in this case.
Harm in complying with S1(1)(a) – to confirm or not whether information is held
Any release under FOIA is a disclosure to the world, not just to the individual making the request. To confirm or not that any information is held pertinent to this request would reveal whether or not Northumbria Police hold any information specific to a photographed individual.
Northumbria Police would never confirm or deny whether information is held or has been supplied by members of the public relating to an individual, regardless of who that individual may be, unless there is genuine operational reason to do so. If we revealed information, by confirming information is held (by citing an exemption) or, conversely, stating no information is held, that in itself reveals information about a photographed individual.
Ultimately police forces have a duty of care to all members of the public which includes their health and safety. To disclose to the world whether or not a photographed individual was employed within Northumbria Police would, if released, be in breach of the rights provided by the Data Protection Act 2018 and General Data Protection Regulations; namely the first data protection principle, which states that personal data will be processed lawfully, fairly and transparently. It also highlights that Northumbria Police has complete disregard to the principles and recommendations stipulated within the data protection legislation. Therefore, it is my view that the request runs counter to the three requirements prescribed by law and that there is no lawful basis to provide this information.
Northumbria Police is charged with enforcing the law, detecting and preventing crime, and protecting the communities we serve. Confirming or denying whether any information is held would impact on the effectiveness of police investigations, thereby hindering the prevention and detection of crime.
Public Interest Considerations
Section 31 – Law Enforcement
Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a)
It would confirm that individual who is the subject of this request either is or is not a Northumbria Police Officer.
Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a)
By neither confirming or denying whether information is held in this case would suggest that the force takes their responsibility to protect personal information seriously and adhering to legislative requirements.
If future requests of a similar nature were to be made and the individual photographed was a plain clothes police officer, there is a risk that confirming or denying information is held would lead to the identification of undercover or covert officers.
Northumbria Police has a duty of care to the community at large and public safety is of paramount importance. If an FOI disclosure reveals information to the world by not adopting an NCND position, this action would compromise the effective delivery of operational law enforcement as detailed in the harm above.
Northumbria Police rely on information being supplied by the public, and other agencies for a variety of reasons, eg in an endeavour to apprehend a known criminal; providing support to vulnerable individuals and members of the public. Irrespective of what information is or is not held, by applying substantive exemptions would indicate that information is held and therefore revealing sensitive personal information about an individual. Such action would act as a deterrent to the public to provide intelligence to the force.
The points above highlight the merits of confirming or denying that information pertinent to this request exists. The Police Service relies heavily on the public, other law enforcement and local authority agencies providing and sharing information to assist in investigations and the delivery of law enforcement. The public has an expectation that any information they provide will be treated with confidence and in line with the APP Information Management Module. Anything which places that confidence at risk, no matter how generic, would undermine any trust or confidence other agencies and individuals have in the Police Service.
The effective delivery of operational law enforcement takes priority and is at the forefront of Northumbria Police to ensure the prevention and detection of crime is carried out and the effective apprehension or prosecution of offenders is maintained.
Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test for neither confirming nor denying that information is held is appropriate in this case.
No inference can be taken from this refusal that information does or does not exist.