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.
1) In relation to the Denise Aubrey employment tribunal, what were the financial costs to Northumbria Police of legal advice offered to former chief constable Michael Craik and former ACC Greg Vant ? If you can give a figure, it would be helpful if you could split it according to Mr Craik and Mr Vant.
2) Did the force spend any further time or resources advising Mr Craik or Mr Vant and, if so, have they been quantified (e.g. in hours) ?
3) Did the force meet the financial costs or offer legal advice to any other former force employees connected to this case ? If so, how much were those costs financial or otherwise ?
4) What was the rationale (i.e. reasons) for meeting any of the above costs ?
We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted within 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. We do not hold a figure for the financial costs to Northumbria Police of legal advice specifically provided to Mr Craik or Mr Vant. We do hold a total figure on the cost to the Force of legal advice provided to four external individuals on this matter, this figure is not broken down to individual level. To further assist, I can confirm that this total is £17,736.40.
2. The Force spent nothing further on this matter.
3. As per question 1.
4. We shall not provide a response on this part of your request and shall rely on the exemption explained in Section 42 of the Act (Legal Professional Privilege). the rationale for the decision was discussed with external counsel.
The client’s ability to speak freely and frankly with his or her legal adviser in order to obtain appropriate legal advice is a fundamental requirement of the English legal system. The concept of LPP protects the confidentiality of communications between a lawyer and client. This helps to ensure complete fairness in legal proceedings.
S42 (1) Legal Professional Privilege
Information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege or, in Scotland, to confidentiality of communications could be maintained in legal proceedings is exempt information. This exemption is class based and there is no requirement to demonstrate any 'prejudice' that may occur to the professional legal adviser/client relationship if information is disclosed.
Information held by Northumbria Police is legally privileged in that it constitutes legal advice provided to our organisation by a legal adviser. We are not obliged to disclose such information to respond to a Freedom of Information request.
Section 42 can be relied upon only where the public interest in the application of the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure. The very considerable public interest in protecting the principle of legal privilege is well established. The client-legal professional privilege is a principle enshrined in history that must be respected. Whilst the Force is rightly held accountable for the money it spends, it is a fact that Northumbria Police is subject to regular scrutiny of accounts which is the correct arena for such scrutiny. it should be noted that this subject may be of interest to the public, I do not consider that the disclosure of this information to be in the public interest.