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.
Please provide me with the number of incidents your force has responded to between Saturday 23 May and Friday 5 June where the initial incident detail contained the words "Dominic Cummings".
Please provide a breakdown of the date of each incident, the nature of the incident and whether it was related to and/or flagged as related to breach of Government public heal guidelines about coronavirus, a summary of it including the context of for words "Dominic Cummings".
Northumbria Police will neither confirm nor deny any information relating to this request is held and by doing so we rely on the following exemptions:
Section 31(3) Law Enforcement
Section 40(5) Personal Information
Harm in complying with S1(1)(a) – to confirm or not whether information is held
Any release under FOIA is a disclosure to the world, not just to the individual making the request. To confirm or not that any information is held pertinent to this request would reveal whether or not Northumbria Police hold any information specific to a named individual.
The College of Policing APP Information Management Module is a national standard adhered to by all police forces across England and Wales. Police information refers to all information obtained, recorded or processed for a policing purpose and includes information which processed (known as data, including personal data) and information which has been subject to a process of evaluation (known as intelligence).
It is a business process with an intention to provide focus to operational policing and to achieve a disproportionately greater impact from the resources applied to any problem. It is dependent on a clear framework of analysis of information and intelligence allowing a problem solving approach to law enforcement and crime prevention techniques.
To confirm or deny whether information is held relating to a named individual would undermine both ongoing investigations and the Authorised Professional Practice for Information Management. This could lead to information sharing agreements (ISAs) which are in place to assist with the delivery of effective law enforcement, being compromised with a consequence of damaging the working relationship between Northumbria Police and other organisations who commit to an ISA and readily share relevant information when there is a lawful policing purpose to do so.
Ultimately police forces have a duty of care to all members of the public which includes their health and safety. To disclose to the world whether or not named individuals have had dealings with Northumbria Police would be a clear breach of the Data Protection Act. It also highlights that Northumbria Police has complete disregard to the principles and recommendations stipulated within the data protection legislation.
Public Interest Considerations
Section 31 – Law Enforcement
Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a)
There is a vast amount of information within the public domain relating to the individual who is the subject of this request, ie Dominic Cummings, Adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and alleged breaches of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a)
By neither confirming or denying whether information is held in this case would suggest that the force takes their responsibility to protect personal information seriously and adhering to legislative requirements.
Northumbria Police rely on information being supplied by other agencies for a variety of reasons, eg in an endeavour to apprehend a known criminal; providing support to vulnerable individuals and members of the public. Confirmation or denial that information is held would undermine any information sharing agreements as well as the relationship with these organisations, as detailed within the above harm. There would be no tangible benefit to the community at large to disclosure this information relating to a named individual.
The points above highlight the merits of confirming or denying that information pertinent to this request exists. The Police Service relies heavily on the public, other law enforcement and local authority agencies providing and sharing information to assist in investigations and the delivery of law enforcement. The public has an expectation that any information they provide will be treated with confidence and in line with the APP Information Management Module. Anything which places that confidence at risk, no matter how generic, would undermine any trust or confidence other agencies and individuals have in the Police Service.
The effective delivery of operational law enforcement takes priority and is at the forefront of Northumbria Police to ensure the prevention and detection of crime is carried out and the effective apprehension or prosecution of offenders is maintained.
Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test for neither confirming nor denying that information is held is appropriate in this case.
No inference can be taken from this refusal that information does or does not exist.