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Church of Scientology - 283/20

Date Responded 10 March 2020

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  Please confirm if any Senior Police Officers above the rank of Superintendant, senior civilian staff or police officers above the rank of Sergeant at the police station closest to the former Windmill Hills Care Home in Gateshead have had any meetings with the Church of Scientology or any its connected entities. If meetings have talken place please provide any connected paperwork which may include minutes or actions arising from said meetings. Please also include any email correspodence connected to contact with the Church or its entities for the 5 years starting from the date at which you recieve this letter.

2  Please also provide details of any gifts, donations or hospitality provided to the Northumbria Police employees or representatives, or any charity the Police Force nominates by Scientology organisations, over the past 5 years.

By 'Scientology organisations', I mean organisations which promote, recruit members for, or raise money for, Church of Scientology Religious Education College Incorporated.

To the best of my knowledge a list of such organisations would include:

Jive Aces / Church of Scientology Inc / Greenfields School / Greenfields Educational Trust / Hubbard Foundation / Aassocation for Better Living and Education (ABLE) / Applied Scholastics / Narconon / Criminon / The Way to Happiness Foundation / Church of Scientology Religious Education College Inc (COSREC) / Office of Special Affairs (OSA) / Sea Org / Youth for Human Rights International / Citizens Commission on Human Rights (United Kingdom) Ltd /World Insitute of Scientology Enterprises/Drug Free World.”

In a later e mail you then stated : “Please also include h police station closest to the Scientology property at 51Fawcett Street, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear SR1 1RS within the parameters of this FOI”

In Response:

We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.

1  Information Commissioners Office (ICO) guidelines state that:

A public authority must confirm or deny whether it holds the information requested unless the cost of this alone would exceed the appropriate limit.

I can neither confirm nor deny that the information you require is held by Northumbria Police as to actually determine if it is held would exceed the permitted 18 hours therefore Section 12(2) 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 your request.

I have set out the reasons for this below.

There is no way for us to determine whether any officer above the rank of Sergeant, or any senior civilian staff, has had a meeting with a member of the Church of Scientology or any of its ‘connected entities’ within the 5 year period asked for by you, within the permitted 18 hour threshold.  This would entail all staff of Sergeant or above who were based at the stations named in the request to be contacted for them to establish if they held any information which met the criteria of your submission.  This cannot be establish within the 18 hour threshold.

I can advise, from searches made with the Area Commands, that they are advising that there is no information known to be held by them.

2  With regards to this part of your submission the below exemption is applicable.

As the information you have requested is accessible by other means I have not provided you with a copy of the information and will rely on Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.  You should therefore consider this a refusal for your request.

I have provided an explanation to this exemption below.

Section 21 (1) - Information accessible by other means

Information which is reasonably accessible to the applicant is exempt information.

As this information is published and in the public domain it is freely available to all.

Under Section 19 (Publication Scheme) there is a requirement for all forces to publish their gifts and hospitality registers and as such this can be found by simple research of the Northumbria Police website.  This will allow you to determine a response at this point.

Any information intended for future publication attracts the following exemption

Section 22 Information Intended for future publication

(1) Information is exempt information if -

(a) the information is held by the public authority with a view to its publication, by the authority or any other person, at some future date (whether determined or not),

(b) the information was already held with a view to such publication at the time the request for information was made, and

(c) it is reasonable in all circumstances that the information should be withheld from disclosure until the date referred to in paragraph.

This exemption requires us to apply a Public Interest Test to decide if the information you require should be released ahead of the scheduled report.

Public Interest Test

Factors Favouring Disclosure:-

Disclosure of future information would enable the public to be better informed of such information, as this enables more accurate and relevant public comment and debate to take place.

Factors Favouring Non-Disclosure:-

The exemption engaged in this case specifically requires us to simply look at the public interest in delaying the release of information that will automatically be disclosed in the future.  As it is know that this information will be published at a later date, to gather the information prior to the requirement to do so for the next scheduled publication, in order to answer this request would not be an efficient use of resources and finance as it would divert staff from their core duties and would involve a disproportionate use of resources, particularly at this time of economic concerns.

Balance Test

It is acknowledged that both accountability and public awareness are enhanced by the disclosure of this type of information.  However, this will be achieved through the publication of the intended information in the near future.

The Section 21 and, in this case Section 22 exemptions were specifically laid down by parliament to benefit those authorities who proactively publish information.  To constantly produce new and up to date elements of currently published or information intended for future publication in an attempt to satisfy an additional need outside of the annual schedule would render these exemptions less effective and remove the benefits of proactive publication.  For this reason it would be an inappropriate use of resources to carry out further research to satisfy your request.

Decision

Therefore, at this time, for the reasons outlined above, the public interest is met by the future scheduled publication of this data.

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 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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