Counter terrorism - 287/17
Dated: 21 Mar 2017
Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')
Thank you for your e mail dated 9 March 2017 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 at the time of a request, by a Public Authority (including the Police), subject to certain limitations and exemptions.
If possible, could you please provide me with information about the number of counter-terrorism operations that your police force recorded in each of the last five years (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016)? For example, raids
We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
We can neither confirm nor deny that we hold any information relating to your request and by doing so rely on the following exemptions
S23(5) Information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters
S24(2) National Security
S30(3) Investigations and proceedings conducted by the public authority
S31(3) Law Enforcement
Overall Harm for Section 24 and Section 31
The threat of 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 terrorists and extremists. Since 2006 the UK Government have published the threat level based upon current intelligence and that threat level 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 July 2009, when it was reduced to ‘substantial’. The current threat level to the UK is ‘severe’.
To confirm or deny that the requested information is held would undermine individual forces policing capabilities which consequently would be detrimental to their ability to deal with the on-going terrorist threat we face. By proving the number of reports of terrorism offences, where locations from which those reports came and a break down of the offences by an individual force would allow comparison between forces across the country and enable terrorists to build a picture of what resources are in place and where they are deployed. It is felt that confirmation or denial that this information is held would prejudice the effectiveness of the national counter terrorism effort and would allow inferences to be drawn about force level counter-terrorism activity and identify vulnerability around the country.
Public Interest Test
Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S24
The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and by confirming or denying that this information is held would allow the public to see where money is being spent and know that forces are doing as much as they can to combat terrorism.
Factors favouring neither confirming or denying for S24
To confirm or deny that this information is held would render security measures less effective which would compromise ongoing or future operations to protect the security and infrastructure of the UK. The risk of harm to the public would be elevated if areas of the UK which appear vulnerable were identified which would also provide the opportunity for terrorist planning. Ongoing or future operations to protect the security and infrastructure of the UK would be compromised as terrorists could map the level of counter-terrorist activity across the country, providing them with the knowledge of individual force capability as well as valuable knowledge concerning the vulnerability of individual force areas.
Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S31
To confirm or deny that this information is held would make members of the public more aware of the threat of terrorism and allow them to take steps to protect themselves and families. Improved public awareness may lead to more intelligence being submitted to police about possible acts of terrorism as members of the public will be more observant to suspicious activity which in turn may result in a reduction of crime. The Home Office regularly publish national statistical data on terrorism.
Factors favouring neither confirming or denying of S31
To confirm or deny that the requested information is held could compromise law enforcement tactics which would hinder the Police force’s ability to prevent and detect terrorist crimes. The threat of terrorism will increase as more crimes are committed as a result of terrorists gaining knowledge about the capabilities of individual forces and therefore the public will be placed at a greater risk. A fear of crime will be realised as terrorists identify vulnerable areas and target and exploit these areas resulting in the public being in fear of more terrorist activity occurring. There would be an impact on police resources from confirming or denying that reports to police have been made, what the may have entailed and the location of the call to police as vulnerable forces may need to increase their resources to reassure and protect the surrounding community.
The Home Office regularly publishes data in relation to terrorism arrests and charges.
I have supplied the link to the information supplied by the Home Office below
To confirm or deny that the police have been notified of suspected terrorism activity at force level which would start to indicate levels of policing activity at force level which could allow individuals to exploit what may be considered as less active or resourced areas, by assessing patterns of police activity and deployments over time, ultimately to avoid detection.
The security of the country is of paramount importance. The police will not divulge any information that would place the safety of an individual at risk or undermine national security. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing, and in this case providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by terrorist activity, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in the highly sensitive subject of terrorism.
As much as there is a public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced in matters of national security this will be overridden in exceptional circumstances. Police force’s capabilities of combating terrorism are sensitive issues of intelligence value to the terrorist and therefore it is our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for confirming or denying that this information is held, not made out.
However, this should not be taken as necessarily indicating that any information that would meet your request exists or does not exist.
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.