Disclosure Details

FGM - 253/16

Dated: 16 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 22 February 2016 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. 

You asked:

1. Please can you supply me data on how many cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) were reported to your police force each month between 31 October 2015 and today’s date, stratified, if possible, by age of alleged victim and occupation of person making the report?

2. Please can you supply me data on how many cases of FGM were reported to your police force each month between 31 October 2014 and 31 October 2015, stratified, if possible, by age of alleged victim and occupation of person making the report? 

 

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 Crime Department of Northumbria Police. I can confirm that the information you have requested is held in part by Northumbria Police. 

1. With regard to the data from 31st October to 31st December,  and with regards to point 2,  I respond as below. 

This information will not be disclosed and by withholding we rely on the following exemption. 

S31(1) (a) Law Enforcement

Disclosure of this type of information would be harmful  as it would reveal low level data for such offences.This would be detrimental to our ability to effectively police and protect individuals and would also have an adverse effect for the local community as such offenders may be able to act with perceived less risk of apprehension in the area. Release of this information  could also dissuade those with information from coming forward and could also instill fear into victims of such crimes.

Northumbria Police recognises the importance of the public interest in disclosure and has identified the following considerations both in favour of and against providing this information:

Public Interest Considerations in favour of Disclosure

Provision of this data would reassure the public that Northumbria Police is actively policing this type of crime and bringing offenders to justice.

Public Interest Considerations in favour of Non-Disclosure

An individual intent on this type of crime may be able to better assess the risk of apprehension. It would also indicate to an offender as to whether a crime had or had not been reported to the police.  This may enable them to avoid detection and would thereby increase the risk to the community. It is not in the public interest for Northumbria Police to provide information which may assist criminals in their activities.

Balancing Test for S 31(1)

In this instance, it is Northumbria Police’s decision that the reasons for non-disclosure of this low level data, outweigh those in favour of disclosure. We would not disclose figures if to do so would cause harm to any victims or reveal information that may be useful to those committing the crimes. The points above highlight the merits of confirming or denying the requested information exists. The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve.  As part of that policing purpose, information is gathered which can be highly sensitive relating to individuals’ personal data and high profile investigative activity.   Weakening the mechanisms used to monitor any type of criminal activity, and specifically activity such as FGM would place the security of victims of such offences in danger.  In addition anything that places public confidence at risk, no matter how generic, would undermine any trust or confidence the individuals have in the Police Service.

This therefore represents a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the FOIA 

 

With regards to data from 1st January to the date the request was received we shall neither confirm nor deny that the information at this point is held and by doing so rely on the following exemption

S31 (3) Law Enforcement

Northumbria Police recognises the importance of the public interest in disclosure and has identified the following considerations both in favour of complying and against complying that this information is held.

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming that information is held

Confirmation that any information exists relevant to this request would lead to a better informed public which may encourage individuals to provide intelligence in order to reduce such crimes occurring in the future

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a) neither confirming nor denying that information is held

Confirmation or denial that any information is held in this case would suggest the Northumbria Police take their responsibility to protect against such crimes occurring dismissively and inappropriately. 

Balancing Test for S 31(3)

The points above highlight the merits of confirming or denying the requested information exists. The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve.  As part of that policing purpose, information is gathered which can be highly sensitive relating to individuals’ personal data and high profile investigative activity.   

Weakening the mechanisms used to monitor any type of criminal activity, and specifically activity such as FGM would place the security of victims of such offences in danger. 

In addition anything that places public confidence at risk, no matter how generic, would undermine any trust or confidence the individuals have in the Police Service. 

Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test favours neither confirming nor denying that any other information is held.

No inference can be drawn from this refusal that any other information is or isn’t held.

As a gesture of goodwill I can advise that in the 2015 period 2 crimes were deemed to be FGM.  This will not be broken down into a lower level for the reasons outlined above.

You should be aware that figures provided are unlikely to be an accurate figure as other agencies are also involved in dealing with this type of offence.

 

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.