Paedophiles - 37/11
Dated: 07 Jun 2011
Date of request: 13/01/2011
Date of response: 24/01/2011
Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')
Thank you for your email dated 13 January 2011 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.
"Can you tell me how many pedophiles live in the seaton Delaval area please?"
We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
Please note that your request has been interpreted as asking ‘Can you tell me how many Registered Sex Offenders (RSOs) live in the Seaton Delaval area…’ as the Police service do not record details of ‘paedophiles’.
Northumbria Police can neither confirm nor deny that it holds information relating to RSOs residing within the village of Seaton Delaval as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply by virtue of the following exemptions:
Section 44(2) Prohibitions on Disclosure
Section 40(5) Personal Information
Section 30(3) Investigations
Section 31(3) Law Enforcement
Section 38(2) Health and Safety
Section 44 is a class based absolute exemption which means there is no requirement to identify the harm or consider the public interest in disclosure.
Section 40 subsections (1) and (2) is a class based exemption, however Section 40(5) is not, as it is not listed in the schedule of absolute exemptions in Section 2(2). When citing Section 40(5) there is a requirement to articulate the public interest to ensure that neither confirming nor denying that information exists is the appropriate response. I have set this out below.
Section 30 is a class based qualified exemption and consideration of the public interest must be given as to whether neither confirming nor denying the information exists is the appropriate response.
With Sections 31 and 38 being prejudice based qualified exemptions there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or not that the information is held as well as carrying out a public interest test. Again, I have set these out below.
Harm In Confirming Or Denying That The Information Is Held:
Any release under the Freedom of Information Act is a disclosure to the world, not just to the individual making the request. To confirm or not that RSOs reside within the small village of Seaton Delaval could lead to identification or even misidentification of an individual and has the potential to provoke unrest within the community resulting in vigilante type behaviour.
This in turn could potentially lead a RSO going ‘underground’ as happened following the unrest within the Paulsgrove community which resulted in a mini riot following the ‘naming and shaming’ of a sex offender in a national newspaper. Details of this incident are contained within the below link:
The Police Service has a duty of care to offenders living in the community as well as victims. As identified above to reveal their location could lead to identification or misidentification of an individual. For example, by confirming that there is one RSO residing within the village of Seaton Delaval has the potential to result in an individual being targeted by members of the community which potentially could result in serious injury or death. There is evidence of this type of incident occurring in the below press report, see below link:
Further evidence is found with the case of Gordon Boon, a registered sex offender, who was killed whilst on licence from prison. Royston McDonald Jackson of Pettis Road, Norwich, was charged and convicted of killing Mr Boon.
As stated above the duty of care covers victims of sexual offenders too. Their safety would also be compromised if a RSO took evasive action by moving locations, no longer fulfilling their requirements to register with the local police and ultimately going on to commit further offences.
Public Interest Considerations:
Section 40 Personal Information
Factors favouring Confirmation or Denial
Confirmation or denial of whether information is held by Northumbria Police would provide the public with an awareness of what personal information is held with regard to RSOs.
Factors against confirmation or denial
Such disclosure would be a clear breach of the first principle of the Data Protection Act, which states that personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and that a public authority must handle people’s personal data only in ways they would reasonably expect.
Section 30 Investigations and Section 31 Law Enforcement
Factors Favouring Confirmation or Denial
The monitoring of RSOs is heavily debated via media channels, parliamentary questions, etc., and confirmation of whether or not a RSO resides within Seaton Delaval would enhance public knowledge as to the location of these individuals which may encourage them to provide increased information (intelligence) to Northumbria Police as well as enabling them to take steps in order to protect themselves.
The issue of sexual offenders is a highly emotive subject area often attracting high profile media and public interest connotations.
Confirmation or denial that information exists could provide reassurance to the general public that the monitoring of RSOs is conducted appropriately.
Factors Against Confirmation or Denial
Modern-day policing is intelligence led and Northumbria Police share information with other law enforcement agencies as part of their intelligence gathering process. To confirm or not whether RSOs reside within a particular location could hinder the prevention and detection of crime as well as undermining the partnership approach to investigations and law enforcement.
Should RSOs take evasive action to avoid detection police resources may well be diverted from frontline duties and other areas of policing in order to locate and apprehend these individuals.
Section 38 Health and Safety
Factors Favouring Confirmation or Denial
Confirmation or denial would lead to a better awareness for the community in relation to this topic area enabling informed public debate to be undertaken. Furthermore, the public has a right to know that public funds are being resourced appropriately to monitor these individuals.
Factors Against Confirmation or Denial
By confirming whether or not information is held would jeopardise the safety of an individual and the public would loose confidence in Northumbria Police’s ability to protect the wellbeing of the community.
Additionally, confirmation or denial of any information could lead to significant harm being caused to an individual by vigilante type behaviour or indeed to a victim of a sexual offence.
Irrespective of whether information is or is not held, public safety and the ability to deliver effective law enforcement is of paramount importance. Confirmation or denial (by citing an exemption or stating (no information held)) would undoubtedly compromise both law enforcement and the health and safety of an individual. Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balancing test against confirming whether or not information is held is not made out.
No inference can be taken from this refusal that the information you have requested does or does not exist.
In order to offer you some assistance, you may find of interest the Northumbria Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) Annual Report 2009/10. This report and other information regarding MAPPA is freely available on the Northumbria Police website. To aid you further I have supplied the relevant link below:
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