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Missing Evidence 2017 - 2021 - 1741/21

Date Responded 12 January 2022

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. For each of the years 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, how many pieces of evidence went missing from your force?
  2. Of those pieces missing, where possible, please can you give us a breakdown of how they pertain to each home office crime code designation.


For example (20 MISSING PIECES - 5 – Violence against a person, 10 – Sexual Offences, 5 - Theft)

In Response:

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


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.


The information you are seeking is not held statistically, centrally nor is it held in a format that would allow its extraction from recording systems within the permitted 18 hour threshold.  In terms of the property stored and recorded on systems, to confirm, or otherwise that no property has been recorded as missing would require a manual check of many thousands of exhibits.  Likewise for items stored in property stores this would require a full manual audit of all items within our property stores against items recorded on our property system.


Both methods in their own rights would far exceed the permitted 18 hour threshold to establish if any evidence had gone missing.  Further time would then be required to provide a response to point 2 of this submission, adding considerably further to the time.  Section 12 is therefore relevant.


In addition it should be noted that evidence includes material such as testimonies through statements of witness, victim statements, interviews with suspects (all other documentary evidence including financial details, medical records, photographs, sketch plans, so on and so on).  It also includes physical evidence, such as murder weapons, clothing, drugs, and also forensic evidence etc.  As such this information is not recorded centrally in respect of all investigation material and to ascertain what, if anything is missing through the course of an investigation would require a manual check of each investigation, or multiple databases to establish whether or not property (exhibits) have gone missing.

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