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 documents related to Liam Lyburd, who was arrested in November 2014 for threatening to commit a massacre at Newcastle College and was found to be in possession of several weapons.
I hereby request the following documents:
- Pictures related to the bag of weapons found in his possession, including the weapons inside and, if pictures of them exist, the bag in question and clothes apparently found in there, as the news reported that a boiler suit and balaclava were found inside the bag.
- Pictures he took of himself, specifically where he is wearing the clothes and holding the weapons found in his bag.
- The "Newcastle College" document he allegedly tried to delete from his computer, where he talks about his plan to attack Newcastle College.
- The social media posts in question that originally caused his arrest.
Just know that I am simply an individual interested in Lyburd's case.
We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
As your previous request, Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) Request 962/19 - Liam Lyburd was received less than one month ago, this new request has been aggregated with your previous request with regards to time constraints under the Act, as they refer to the same subject area – Liam Lyburd.
Within our previous response to FOI 962/19 which also requested the above information, in addition to other questions, we advised that you should note that had we been able to locate, extract and retrieve the information requested at all points of your request within the time constraints of the Act then other relevant appropriate exemptions to withhold would be considered and applied where information not suitable to be disclosed into the public domain would need to be withheld. In light of this new submission we can advise that our position remains the same. Although this investigation is finalised and Liam Lyburd has been prosecuted and sentenced to life imprisonment, we can see no tangible benefit to the community at large in disclosing this information.
Therefore, we will not be disclosing the information requested and by withholding we rely on the following exemptions:
Section 24(1) – National Security
Section 30(1)(a) – Investigations and Proceedings Conducted by Public Authorities
Section 40 Personal Information (2)
Section 24(1) is a qualified exemption which requires that we evidence the harm and conduct a public interest test with regards to release of the information, and I have set these out below.
Section 30(1) states that information is exempt information if it has at any time been held for the purposes of any investigation. This exemption is a qualified and class based exemption and accordingly Northumbria Police does not need to carry out a harm test for this exemption. As section 30 is a qualified exemption the application of a public interest test is required and I have set this out below.
Section 40(2) is a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest in disclosure. However, as Section 40(2) is engaged, and in order to make the exemption absolute, we need to evidence that a data protection principle would be breached by disclosure. In this case it would not be fair to process information which could lead to the identification of an individual, therefore the first principle of the Data Protection Act would be breached.
Overall Harm in release of the information
The threat from terrorism cannot be ignored. It should be recognised that the international security landscape is increasingly complex and unpredictable. The UK faces a sustained threat from violent extremists. Since 2006, the UK Government have published the threat level, based upon current intelligence and that threat has remained at the second highest level, ‘severe’, except for two short periods during August 2006 and June and July 2007, when it was raised to the highest threat, ‘critical’, and in July 2009, when it was reduced to ‘substantial’.
Modern-day policing is intelligence led, and intelligence changes on a day-by-day basis. Disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act are disclosures to the world, not just to the individual making the request. Any information identifying the focus of anti-terror policing activity could be used to the advantage of terrorists or criminal organisations. Information that undermines the operational integrity of these activities will adversely affect public safety and have a negative impact on both National Security and law enforcement. Public safety would be put at risk if terrorists’ targeted areas where the police are not investigating specific terrorist groups.
Public Interest Test
Factors favouring disclosure – Section 24
The information requested by default crosses over into specialist operational policing, which includes information relating to counter-terrorism units. Disclosure of such information would inform the public that Northumbria Police allocate their resources appropriately in the investigation of terrorists. This would provide transparency with regard to the use of public funds in as much as the funds are being used correctly and appropriately ensuring an appropriate level of frontline resources.
Factors favouring non-disclosure – Section 24
Whilst there is a public interest in providing reassurance that Northumbria Police is appropriately and effectively dealing with threats posed by terrorists and terrorist organisations, there is a strong public interest in safeguarding national security and the welfare and safety of the general public. Any disclosure has the potential to undermine ongoing and future operations to protect the security of the United Kingdom which would significantly increase the risk of harm to the community at large. Public safety is of paramount importance to both Northumbria Police and its partner agencies. In this case the disclosure of information may assist terrorists to further their aims, thus putting the safety of members of the public and police officers at risk.
Factors favouring disclosure – Section 30
Disclosure would adhere to the basic principle of being open and transparent and would allow for a more accurate public debate. There is a legitimate public interest in knowing that the Force investigates terrorism cases thoroughly and brings these investigations to satisfactory conclusions and having sight of the evidence retrieved. The community at large may benefit from disclosure as this may encourage accurate and informed public debate. It would also correct rumour and speculation and provide confidence in the Force's ability to investigate terrorism offences.
Factors favouring non-disclosure – Section 30
Whilst such information may be released in order to serve a core policing purpose (ie to protect life and property and/or assist in prevention and detection of crime and/or in the apprehension and prosecution of offenders), it will only be disclosed if there are strong public interest considerations favouring disclosure. Northumbria Police has a duty to ensure all investigations are dealt with fairly and equally. It is important that any investigation is conducted with regard to confidentiality and privacy. The public interest would not be served if a disclosure breaches those obligations placed on an authority.
The Police Service is tasked with enforcing the law and protecting the community we serve and solving crimes; there is a public interest argument in ensuring we are open and transparent with regard to policing investigations. The ability of Northumbria Police to conduct such enquiries is crucial to the principles of prevention and detection of crime. However, we would not disclose information if it would jeopardise those important roles. By disclosing the requested information would provide small benefit to public awareness and would not be adequate compensation for such an impact on society. Although the public is entitled to be kept informed, this does not outweigh the forces obligations to the public, in the prevention and detection of crime.
The security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police service will not divulge information if to do so would place the safety of individuals at risk or undermine National Security. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and in this case providing photographs and documents in relation to the case, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in the highly sensitive area of terrorism prevention. As much as there is public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced in matters of national security this will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances.
From the issues outline above it is our opinion that the balance lies in favour of non-disclosure of the information at this time.
In accordance with Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, this letter acts as a Refusal Notice for any information in relation to your request.
Northumbria Police neither confirms nor denies that it holds any other information relevant to this request by virtue of the following exemptions:
Section 23(5) Information supplied by, or concerning, certain Security Bodies
Section 23 is a class base absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest in this case. Confirming or denying whether any other information is held would contravene the constrictions laid out within s23 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in that this stipulates a generic bar on disclosure of any information applied by, or concerning, certain Security Bodies.
As advised previously there is range of information already available in the public domain, via the internet. A simple search of the name “Liam Lyburd” returns in excess of 11,000 results which you can access to search for information etc, and as an individual interested in Lyburd's case these results alone should satisfy your interest.