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Customer First Centres - 553/20

Date Responded 27 April 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:

You asked for us to provide you with details of a specific report you state was made to Northumbria police.

In Response:

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

We shall neither confirm nor deny such information is held or not held and by doing so we rely on the following exemption.

Section 30 (3) – Investigations

Factors favouring confirming or denying whether any  information is held for Section 30

The public are entitled to know what is going on in their communities and how public funds are spent, and what investigations are carried out.

Factors against confirming or denying whether any information is held for Section 30

The public are entitled to report matters to the police with the assurance that those reports are confidential and are not made public.  Any report to the police needs to be treat with the utmost confidence. If such reports were to be made public this would deter members of the public to report anything in the future.  This would obviously have an impact on operational policing and law enforcement, and consequently impact on the safety of the public.

Balance Test

We see no benefit in either confirming or denying that the information you are seeking is held or not.  We have not carried out any searches to establish if any such call was made to the police and can therefore neither confirm nor deny such information is held.  We see no benefit to the public in providing a response to this submission.  If such a report had been made an appropriate response would have been made by officers, and matters dealt with as seen appropriate.  If such a report had not been made there is no point in speculating on the matter further.

Additionally the below should be noted:

An authority is not obliged to deal with requests that are manifestly unreasonable or obsessive.  The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidance on vexatious requests states “there is a risk that some individuals and some organisations may seek to abuse these rights with requests which are manifestly unreasonable.  Such cases may well arise in connection with a grievance or complaint which an individual is pursuing against an authority.  While giving maximum support to individuals genuinely seeking to exercise the right to know, the ICO’s general approach will be sympathetic towards authorities where a request, which may be the latest in a series of requests, would impose a significant burden and can otherwise be characterised as obsessive or manifestly unreasonable". 

We have had 3 request regarding Customer First Centres from you since 16 March 2020, and an additional similar request from another person.  The last two of which are overlapping, in that we had not responded to the second request before the third was submitted.  Such requests take both officers and staff away from their day to day duties to locate and extract information to offer a response to a request. This is particularly burdensome at the present time with officers focus being directed to protecting the public during the current pandemic.

Additionally you ask for information relating to individuals who you have name in your submissions.  As you have been advised in both your previous requests, such information is not considered for disclosure and quite rightly we neither confirm nor deny information relating to those persons as named in your submissions is held.  The names of those persons you ask about is removed from our responses.  As you will be aware, responses are open to the public and it is not appropriate for the names of those persons, as named by you, to be put into the public domain.

You should therefore note that post legislative scrutiny of section of the Freedom of Information Act, suggests that it may be appropriate to extend Section 14(1) to discharge public authorities from their obligation to comply with such requests.

I must advise that future requests on this subject may attract exemptions under this part of the Act.

I can advise that should you be dissatisfied with any actions taken by Officers regarding any incidents, a complaint should be submitted to the Professional Standards Department rather than engaging the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information on specific incidents.

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