Murders - 628/10
Dated: 07 Jun 2011
Date of request: 06/10/2010
Date of response: 21/10/2010
Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')
Thank you for your email dated 6th October 2010 in which you made a request for access to certain information which may be held by Northumbria Police.
As you may be aware the purpose of the Act is to allow a general right of access to information held by a Public Authority (including the Police), subject to certain limitations and exemptions.
I am a Student currently reading for a degree at Staffordshire University in Policing and Criminal Investigation, for my final year project I have been given the task of investigation the murder of an Alfred Jack Royal, therefore I am asking if you would be able to disclose any information about the case for example any evidence used, including forensic, witness statements, anything really, I am also looking for some information about the murder of David Thompson as I am aware that the two murders were connected.
We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
Your request for information has now been considered and this information will not be disclosed and by doing so we rely on exemptions.
Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 requires Northumbria Police when refusing such information (because the information is exempt) to provide you the applicant with a notice which (a) states that fact, (b) specifies the exemption and (c) states (if it would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption(s) applies.
Notice of Non-Disclosure:
I am not disclosing the above requested information, pursuant to the exemption provisions of:
Section 30(1)(a)(b)(c), Investigations & Proceedings by Public Authorities, and
Section 40(2) Personal Information
Section 30 of the Act (Investigations & Proceedings by Public Authorities)
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. A class based exemption means the legislators, when writing this piece of legislation, considered that the release of this type of information would cause harm to either the authority or individuals involved. Accordingly therefore the authority (i.e. Northumbria Police) does not need to carry out a harm test for this exemption.
We are, however, required to carry out a Public Interest Test, Public Interest Test (PIT), and I have supplied this below.
Factors Favouring Disclosure:Accountability
Disclosure of information would inform the public about how the functions of the service are conducted and where public funds are spent contributing to the quality and accuracy of public debate.
Factors Against Disclosure:Investigations
it is the Association of Chief Police Officer’s approach that information relating to a criminal investigation will rarely be disclosed under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Whilst such information may be released in order to serve a ‘core policing purpose’ it will only be disclosed following a Freedom of Information request if there is are strong public interest considerations favouring disclosure. The further the considerations favouring disclosure are from a core policing purpose, the lighter the considerations will be. In this case, disclosure could undermine any ongoing and future investigations and potentially cause damage to the criminal justice process.
Any request for information should not undermine the investigation, prosecution or prevention of crime. The investigation and prosecution of crime involve a number of essential requirements. These include the need to avoid prejudicing effective law enforcement, and the need to protect witnesses and informers. Because of this, the Act will exclude information relating to the investigation and prosecution functions of the police, prosecutors, and other bodies carrying out law enforcement work.Human Rights, Morals and Ethics
It is in the public interest that members of the public and people who are interviewed during an inquiry are not inhibited in any way from providing information and that maintaining the privacy of sensitive information to allow us to perform our public service functions. Section 30 covers information held at any time for the purposes of an investigation, whether the case is ongoing, closed or abandoned.
Section 40 - Personal Information
(2) Any information to which a request for information relates is also exempt information if -
(a) it constitutes personal data which do not fall within subsection (1), and
(b) either the first or the second condition below is satisfied.
(3) The first condition is -
(a) in a case where the information falls within any of paragraphs (a) to (d) of the definition of "data" in section 1(1) of the [1998 c. 29.] Data Protection Act 1998, that the disclosure of the information to a member of the public otherwise than under this Act would contravene -
(i) any of the data protection principles, or
(ii) section 10 of that Act (right to prevent processing likely to cause damage or distress), and
(b) in any other case, that the disclosure of the information to a member of the public otherwise than under this Act would contravene any of the data protection principles if the exemptions in section 33A(1) of the [1998 c. 29.] Data Protection Act 1998 (which relate to manual data held by public authorities) were disregarded.
Section 40 is a classed based, absolute exemption and therefore there is no need to explain the public interest considerations in this area.
It is a requirement under the legislation to analyse where the balance of the public interest arguments lie. I have analysed the competing arguments and weighed up the community benefit that disclosure of this information may provide. It is not in the public interest to disclose information that may compromise a force’s ability to fulfil its core function of law enforcement. In this case, it is not felt that disclosure of the requested information will serve a core policing purpose. Northumbria Police would not wish to disclose information which is pertinent to an ongoing murder investigation.
I have carefully considered your request and I have decided that on balance it is in the public interest to withhold this requested information. When considering public interest in relation to disclosure of information, the public interest is not what interests the public, but what will be the greater good if released to the community as whole.
You should consider this to be a refusal under section 17 of the Act.
The information we have supplied to you is likely to contain intellectual property rights of Northumbria Police. Your use of the information must be strictly in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (as amended) or such other applicable legislation. In particular, you must not re-use this information for any commercial purpose.
How to complain
If you are unhappy with our decision or do not consider that we have handled your request properly and we are unable to resolve this issue informally, you are entitled to make a formal complaint to us under our complaints procedure which can be found at: http://www.northumbria.police.uk/foi/disclosurelog/foicomprights.asp
If you are still unhappy after we have investigated your complaint and reported to you the outcome, you may complain directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office and request that they investigate to ascertain whether we have dealt with your request in accordance with the Act.
Data Protection and Disclosure Advisor
Direct Dial: 01661 868347