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Date Responded 15 October 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. How many fixed penalty notices have been issued by your police force in relation to people failing to comply with rules on wearing face coverings?

Could this information please include:

2. the total fine issued in each case, and whether it was later reduced or scrapped (e.g. because of early payment / appeal)

3. the location of the offence (i.e. supermarket, hairdresser, cinema etc. Please break down offences on transport by type of transport - Underground, train, bus, etc)

In Response:

Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted with the Fixed Penalty Unit of Northumbria Police. I can confirm that the information you have requested is held in part by Northumbria Police.

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

1. With regards to this point the below exemptions are applied as relevant.

You may be aware that a publication strategy is in place with regards to requests received by Police forces where the information required in the requests relates to Corona - Coronavirus - Covid 19 and Virus. To aid and assist you, I have copied the link to the strategy below:

https://beta.northumbria.police.uk/advice-and-info/how-we-operate/freedom-of-information-request/

The information you have requested will therefore not be disclosed at this current time and by withholding we will rely on the following exemptions:-

As some of 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.

The following NPCC link is a press release in relation to recent crimes levels and the issuing of FPNs, including in relation to wearing face masks:

https://news.npcc.police.uk/releases/crime-is-close-to-pre-lockdown-levels-and-fines-given-to-the-public-rise-as-new-regulations-are-introduced-1

Within the press release is another link to statistical data for face coverings and international travel FPN cases, which is broken down to force level up until the end of August 2020. As such, S21 is applicable for force data up to that date.

With regards to the most recent data, Section 22 is applicable as FPN data is routinely released in accordance with Op TALLA.

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 when the request for information was made, and
(c) It is reasonable in all the circumstances that the information should be withheld from disclosure until the date referred to in paragraph (a)

Section 22 is a class based qualified exemption which requires us to apply a Public Interest Test to decide if the information you require should be released ahead of the publication strategy.

Public Interest Test

Factors favouring disclosure:-
To release the information that is held at this particular time would provide the public with an awareness of the most recently collected data serving to enhance public knowledge of the subject, by providing current information that may better inform public debate on the decisions taken by Northumbria Police.

Factors favouring non-disclosure:-
As you will be aware from information already in the public domain, this is an unprecedented situation which we all find ourselves in. However, Northumbria Police accept that this is a subject of great public interest and accordingly, a decision has been made to consider publishing this information following the conclusion of the pandemic.

Balancing Test

To clarify, the pandemic is ongoing and collated information held at this time will not include all details in relation to the situation as a whole. Accordingly, any information provided would not be accurate and that which is held is likely to change as a result of further conclusions made prior to publication.

For a disclosure of this nature to be appropriate, a valid reason or reasons which identify a tangible benefit to the public from disclosure of information needs to identified. In this case a decision has been made to fully consider the disclosure of the information at a future date and the information is verified as accurate. Section 22 allows for circumstances when it is reasonable and correct for public authorities to delay the provision of information until it is made generally available through publication. The additional resources expended by the force to deal with your request at this time would not be in the public interest.

For the reasons outlined above the balancing test for disclosure at this time is not made out.

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, this represents a Refusal Notice for your request.

2. Fines are processed by a third party, ACRO, so we hold no information at this point. Police do not collect funds.

3. Locations of the offences - Newcastle Airport, Metro stations and within shops.

 

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