Stephen Mitchell - 370/12
Dated: 07 Jun 2012
Date of request: 13/04/2012
Date of response: 14/05/2012
Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')(FOIA)
Thank you for your email dated 13 April 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.
Further to your response to FOI 232/12:
Has the has force estimated the cost or potential cost of the pay-outs or potential pay-outs to all victims, can you please supply the figure?
We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
This request has been aggregated with your previous request, FOI 232/12 - Stephen Mitchell, due to the cost and time implications as it refers to the same subject area.
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 however will not be disclosed as the following exemption has been applied.
Section 42(1) Legal professional privilege
(1) 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.
The client-legal professional privilege is a principle enshrined in history that must be respected.
Under the Act an applicant may not obtain disclosure of legal advice offered to a public authority by a solicitor in private practice or an in-house lawyer.
This exemption is subject to the application of the public interest test.
Factors favouring 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.
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.
Factors against Disclosure
The client-legal professional privilege is a principle enshrined in history that must be respected. Where advice is given, there is an expectation of confidence and unless this is specifically waived, this confidence cannot be summarily be disregarded.
Such a disclosure could result in a reluctance to seek such legal advice in future for fear that it may become subject to disclosure. Subsequently decisions may be made that are legally unsound and that attract successful legal challenges which could otherwise be avoided.
Balance of Public Interest
The principle of legal professional privilege has been established by the courts in recognition of the fact that there is an important public interest in a person being able to consult his or her lawyer in confidence.
In this case, the legal team party to the information covered by this request has been consulted and have confirmed that the requested information is held only as a result of consultations carried out with an acceptance that confidence would be maintained and that disclosure would result in a loss of confidence in the legal process. The Legal team have advised that the figures arrived at were a result of the legal consultation and clearly fall into the category of legal professional privilege.
Tribunals and the High Court have recognised that there is generally a very substantial public interest in maintaining confidentiality of legally privileged material, and that as such equally weighty factors in favour of release must be present for the public interest to favour disclosure.
Disclosure of legal advice has a high potential to prejudice the Police's ability to defend its legal interests. Where disclosure may lead to prejudice or influence consequential loss, disclosure must be resisted.
Taking all of the above into consideration, the balance of public interest falls on the side of non-disclosure.
You should therefore consider this a refusal under Section 17 of the Act.
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:-
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.