Disclosure Details

Racial attacks - 576/13

Dated: 19 Aug 2013

Date of request:     25/07/2013

Date of response:   19/08/2013

Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')(FOIA)

Thank you for your email dated 25 July 2013 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.

You asked: 

Could I place a Freedom of Information request for all recorded incidents of racially or religiously motivated attacks or acts of terrorism from May 22, 2013 to July 22, 2013?

That would be for racially or religiously motivated assaults (verbal or physical), criminal damage, harassment/public fear and wounding.

Where applicable, could the gender and race/religion of the victim be provided. If the target is a buliding/shop could as much info as is held about the building be provided and if the target is a vehicle could you specify whether it is a car/van/motorbike and the race/religion of the owner (where held).

Where there is an arrest, could the age and gender of the suspect be provided - or where there is a description of the offender, could that be provided. If there is a conclusion to the case, could the outcome be provided please.

I'm happy to have just the offence description (ie racially aggravated GBH) provided in the information.

Could you also provide the exact same information for the period May 22, 2012 to July 22, 2013.

In response:

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 with the Corporate Development Department of Northumbria Police. I can confirm that the information you have requested is held by Northumbria Police.

I have today decided to disclose the located information to you as follows.

The response to this request has been achieved by searching for crimes recorded under the Home Office counting rules that are either racially or religiously aggravated, or where the offence has a flag for racial / faith motivation (perceived by the victim) on the second page of the MO.

These have then been viewed in order to answer the questions posed, see below attached

In addition to the above we can neither confirm nor deny we hold any further information by virtue of the below exemptions:

Section 23 (5) – Information supplied by, or concerning, certain security bodies;
Section 24(2) – National Security;
Section 30(3) – Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities; Section 31(3) – Law enforcement and
Section 38(2) Health & Safety

Section 23 is a class based absolute exemption which means there is no requirement to articulate any public interest considerations or harm.  Section 23 has an automatic bar to disclosure of information. 
All the other exemptions cited are qualified which requires me to conduct a harm and public interest test with regard to maintaining a neither confirm nor deny approach.

Overall Harm in Confirming or Denying that any information is held

The threat from terrorism cannot be ignored.  It should be recognised that the international security landscape is increasingly complex and unpredictable.  The UK faces a sustained threat from violent extremists.  Since 2006, the UK Government have published the threat level, based upon current intelligence and that threat has remained at the second highest level, ‘severe’, except for two short periods during August 2006 and June and July 2007, when it was raised to the highest threat, ‘critical’, and in July 2009, when it was reduced to ‘substantial’.

Modern-day policing is intelligence led, and intelligence changes on a day-by-day basis. Disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act are disclosures to the world, not just to the individual making the request.  To confirm or deny whether terrorists are being monitored would disclose the levels of police activity and confirm that ongoing investigations are or are not taking place. This would consequently be detrimental to our ability to be able deal with the on-going terrorist threat we face.  To confirm or deny that this level of policing activity has or has not occurred in any specific area would enable those engaged in terrorist activity to identify the focus of policing activity across the UK.  By confirming or denying who is being investigated by the Police Service, would reveal to individuals or groups involved in terrorism or crime whether or not their activities had become known to the police. Where criminal activities had become known to the police, it would allow the criminals to vary or cease their activities in an effort to frustrate police interest and conversely where their activities had not become known to the police it would serve to confirm that they could continue their activities without fear. As such there is clear harm in the disclosure of the information but also in even acknowledging its existence by exempting it or in intimating that no information is held.

For example, to state that no information is held in one area and then exempt information held in another would itself provide acknowledgement that terrorist acts have taken place, or are under investigation.  This would have the likelihood of identifying location-specific operations, enabling individuals to become aware of whether their activities have been detected, which would ultimately compromise police tactics, operations and future prosecutions.  By disclosing information would allow members of the criminal fraternity to map across the country where the police service has measures in place to counteract terrorist activity and where law enforcement is concentrated in monitoring that type of activity, disrupting ongoing investigations and consequently placing the wider community at greater risk of some form of terrorist attack. This would also show the criminals what the capacity, tactical abilities and capabilities of the police force are, allowing them to target specific areas of the UK to conduct their terrorist activities. Criminals would be aware that the police must have intelligence in those areas and would be able to avoid those areas or would move their operations and destroy evidence. The prejudice that this would cause to the integrity of these police investigations and operations in the highly sensitive area of terrorism prevention would relate directly to national security.

Any information identifying the focus of anti-terror policing activity could be used to the advantage of terrorists or criminal organisations.  Information that undermines the operational integrity of these activities will adversely affect public safety and have a negative impact on both National Security and law enforcement. Public safety would be put at risk if terrorists’ targeted areas where the police are not investigating specific terrorist groups.
Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S24 –The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and by confirming or denying that terrorist acts are known and terrorists are under investigation would lead to a better-informed public that can take steps to protect themselves

Factors against confirmation or denial for S24 – By confirming or denying that terrorist acts are known about or are under investigation would render security measures less effective. This would lead to the compromise of ongoing or future operations to protect the security or infra-structure of the UK and increase the risk of harm to the public.

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S30 – Ongoing investigations would be high-profile or national and the public are entitled to know how public funds are spent. By confirming or denying that terrorists are being monitored or terrorist acts are being investigated, would force closure and proceedings completed.

Factors against confirmation or denial for S30 – By confirming or denying that terrorists are under investigation, the force’s future investigative capabilities would be affected which would hinder the prevention or detection of crime. This would impact on police resources and more crime would be committed, placing individuals at risk.

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S31 - By confirming or denying that terrorists are being investigated, the public would see where public funds are being spent and some information is already in the public domain.

Factors against confirmation or denial for S31 - By confirming or denying that terrorists are being monitored, they would move their operations therefore law enforcement tactics would be compromised which would hinder the prevention and detection of crime. More crime would be committed and individuals would be placed at risk.

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S38 – The public are entitled to know what areas of criminal activity the police service allocate public funds therefore by confirming or denying that terrorists are under investigation, would lead to better informed public awareness and debate. Confirmation or denial would assist communities to be more aware of the level of protection afforded to them. 

Factors against confirmation or denial for S38 – By confirming or denying that terrorists are under investigation, criminals could map across the country where intelligence is held. The risks to individuals are significant and well evidenced and could lead to terrorist attacks which would ensure a loss of confidence in the police service to protect the well-being of the community.

Balance test - The security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police service will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so would place the safety of an individual at risk or undermine National Security. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and in this case providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by terrorists, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in the highly sensitive area of terrorism prevention. 
As much as there is public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced in matters of national security this will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances. The monitoring of terrorist activity is a sensitive issue that would reveal local intelligence. It is therefore our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for confirming or denying all details on known terrorist incidents is not made out.

Due to the different methods of recording information across 43 forces, a specific response from one constabulary should not be seen as an indication of what information could be supplied (within cost) by another.  Systems used for recording these figures are not generic, nor are the procedures used locally in capturing the data.  For this reason responses between forces may differ, and should not be used for comparative purposes.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.


FOI Complaint Rights Procedure_tcm4-67103
FOI 576-13_tcm4-82300