Disclosure Details

Samuel Phillips Law Firm - 266/12

Dated: 31 Jul 2015

Date of request:   09/03/2012

Date of response:   13/04/2012

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

Thank you for your email dated 9 March 2012 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: 

Please supply all recorded information concerning following;

  1. How many times, if any, have Northumbria Police instructed Samuel Phillips Law Firm and or any of its Solicitors between February 2011 and February 2012.

  2. Have Northumbria Police entered into any type of written or verbal contact/s and or agreement/s with Samuel Phillips Law Firm and or any of its Solicitors. If so, please supply full details.

  3. Please list all amounts paid, if any, to Samuel Phillips Law Firm and or any of its Solicitors concerning any matters that relate to the Raoul Moat case.

  4. Please detail reason/s for all/any payment/s regards 3 above.

In response:

We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.

As advised earlier this request has been aggregated with your previous request, FOI 25/12 - Samuel Philips Law Firm, due to the cost and time implications as it refers to the same subject area (Samuel Philips Law Firm).

Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted with the Legal Department of Northumbria Police.  I can confirm that the information you have requested is held by Northumbria Police.

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

We will not be supplying the information you have requested in parts 1, 3 & 4 of your request, and in doing so we will rely on Section 14 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.  You should therefore consider this a refusal for those parts of your request.

I have provided an explanation to this exemption below.

Section 14 Vexatious Request

Where a public authority has previously complied with a request for information which was made by any person, it is not obliged to comply with a subsequent identical or substantially similar request from that person unless a reasonable interval has elapsed between compliance with the previous request and the making of the current request.

To further aid and assist you, I have detailed where these questions are similar below.  As requests 900/11 and 25/12 are currently subject to internal review, the exemption is therefore clearly applicable.

1. It is noted that this request is substantially similar to request 900/11 question 3.  That request is currently subject to an internal review.

3. It is noted that this request is substantially similar to question 1 of 25/12.  That request is currently subject to an internal review.

4. It is noted that this request is substantially similar to question 1 of 25/12.  That request is currently subject to an internal review.


2. Clarification was sought for this question, and you confirmed you meant 'verbal contract/s', NOT 'verbal contact/s', therefore please see the following.

Northumbria Police have not entered into any written contracts or agreements with Samuel Phillips Law Firm.  On those occasions where Northumbria Police have instructed Samuel Phillips to undertake legal work on our behalf they have done so on the basis of an agreed charging rate which is commercially sensitive, therefore this information is exempt by virtue of Section 43 (2) an explanation of this is provided below, and they dealt with the file under the usual professional rules and obligations which govern any Solicitor dealing with a privately funded file on behalf of a client.  In that general sense therefore a verbal contract has existed between Northumbria Police and Samuel Phillips Law Firm for each individual case undertaken.

Section 43 (2) Commercial Interests

Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it).

This is a qualified class based exemption and requires a public interest test to be applied.  I have set this out below.

Public Interest Test

Considerations For Disclosure:

Accountability for Public funds 
The release of the information would demonstrate the openness of the organisation to explain and account for monies spent on services.

Public Debate 
The provision of services to the local community by the police service is always the subject of public debate.  Any information which would aid the accuracy of that debate would be of positive benefit to all parties involved.

Improper Actions of Public Officials 
Disclosure of the information would show the openness of the processes by which such services are procured.

Considerations Favouring Non Disclosure:

Interests of Third Parties/Commercial Confidence 
Release of the information might jeopardise the interests of third parties in relation to sensitive commercial information held in relation to contractual, financial or business issues and to protect the commercial interests of service providers.

Efficient and Effective Conduct of the Force 
A disclosure which greatly affects the ability of a product supplier to operate in a free market would have a knock on effect on the effectiveness of the force to do business in the future.  Disclosures under Freedom of Information which harm commercial partners will make it more difficult to attract suitable suppliers in the future, as they avoid that risk to their organisations.  This will mean that the numbers of options to select from could be reduced which in turn could mean either inferior products/service having to be selected or more expensive options having to be chosen.

Balancing Test

Before deciding which of these arguments is most compelling a balancing test needs to be completed.  In this case the right of the public to know needs to be weighed against the damage caused to the supplier and ultimately the authority itself.

The accountability for public funds is a powerful argument.  However, this is offset by the fact that the authority is already subject to a financial audit and is therefore already held accountable for the money that it spends.  This process will not be enhanced by a disclosure under FOIA.

When analysing the impact of commercial harm, the number of competitors will always be a factor.  The fact that there are a number of suppliers in the market place for a service does mean that there is clear evidence that the preferred supplier process will always attract competitive quotes.  This means that the public may get good value for money, this is further guaranteed by the fact that the police service uses tried and tested procurement processes, which are not enhanced by the disclosure of this information.  To disclose any information regarding a service providers tendering application may, in the future, discourage that supplier from working with the Force, which may in turn be detrimental to the procurement process and the community as a whole.  Therefore on balance at this time, the public interest test does not favour disclosure.

You should consider this to be a refusal notice under section 17 of the Act for certain parts of your request outlined above.

You may be interested to know that Northumbria Police routinely publish information that has been disclosed by Northumbria Police in response to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 via the Disclosure Log.  The aim of the Disclosure Log is to promote openness and transparency by voluntarily placing information into the public arena.

Whilst it is not possible to publish all responses we will endeavour to publish those where we feel that the information disclosed is in the public interest.  The Disclosure Log will be updated once responses have been sent to the requester.  I have provided the relevant link below:-

http://www.northumbria.police.uk/foi/disclosurelog/index.asp

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 underour 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. 

Downloads

FOI Complaint Rights Procedure_tcm4-28029