Terror offences - 569/14
Dated: 12 Aug 2014
Date of request: 10/07/14
Date of response: 12/08/14
Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')(FOIA)
Thank you for your email dated 10 July 2014 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.
I am writing to make a request under the Freedom of Information Act for details of the number of arrests made on suspicion of terror offences.
More specifically, please provide the following information:
1. a) For 2014 so far (up to today's date), the number of individuals arrested on suspicion of terror offences.
1. b) A breakdown for each arrest stating: the age of the person arrested; the gender of the person arrested; the specific terror offence they were arrested for; if they were suspected of fighting Jihad abroad (and if so, in which country); the outcome of the arrest (eg. NFA, charged, convicted, etc).
2. a) and b) The same for the full year 2013.
3. a) and b) The same for the full year 2012.
We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
I can confirm that the information you have requested is held by Northumbria Police, and I can respond as follows.
As information you have requested is accessible by other means I have not provided you with a copy of the information and will rely on Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. You should therefore consider this a refusal for your request.
I have provided an explanation to this exemption below.
Section 21 (1) - Information accessible by other means
Information which is reasonably accessible to the applicant is exempt information.
Information regarding the discovery of explosives at Newcastle University in June 2014 has been published and broadcast widely by the media, therefore the above exemption applies.
In order to assist you I have provided a link below which offers a response to your request, however there will be other media releases on this particular incident in the public domain which can be found by simple research.
Additionally I can Neither Confirm nor Deny any further information exists and by doing so will rely on the following 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
Section 40(5) Personal Information
Overall harm for Section 30, 31 and Section 24
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 terrorists and 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’. The current threat level to the UK remains ‘substantial’ from International terrorism.
Confirmation or denial of the requested information being held by individual forces would undermine individual force / Counter Terrorism units operations, which would consequently be detrimental to our future ability to able to deal with the on-going terrorist threat we face. Any force providing information around the number of arrests (or not as the case may be) specifically conducted by their Counter Terrorism Units, would allow comparisons to be made across the UK and enable terrorists to build a picture of where resources are in place and where they may or may not be currently deployed. It is felt that the release of any force level data would prejudice the overall effectiveness of the national counter terrorism effort and would allow inferences to be drawn about our force level CT activity.
Any disclosure of information below a national figure would start to indicate levels of policing activity at individual force levels and that information could allow individuals to exploit what they might consider to be “softer”, or what appears to be less active or resourced policing areas, by analysing patters of police activity and deployments over time, with an intention to ultimately avoid detection. Confirmation of arrests having been made, which have not been publicly avowed for operational reasons, would infer CT policing resources and by analysing similar data from around the country would allow criminals to understand national CT policing activity. For example, this would enable terrorists to make judgements concerning their preferred travel routes where they perceive there to be a greater vulnerability, lower staff levels and lesser probability of being apprehended. The release of figures that are too detailed is likely to frustrate Special branch activity in response to changing terrorist travel patterns. Ultimately, this constant disruption would reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of Special Branch / CT units, increase the advantage to the terrorist and increase the risk and vulnerability to the security of the UK from terrorist attack.
Factors favouring confirmation or denial – Sec 24
The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and by disclosing this level of information would enable the public to understand where public money and resources are being spent and know that forces are doing as much as they can to combat terrorism.
Factors not favouring confirmation or denial – Sec 24
By disclosing whether forces do or do not hold data would render Security measures less effective. This would lead to the compromise of ongoing or future investigations to protect the security or infra-structure of the UK. The risk of harm to the public would be increased if the location of vulnerable areas of the UK were made public as this would provide opportunity for terrorist planning. Ongoing or future operations to protect the security or infrastructure of the UK would be compromised as terrorists could map across the country the level of counter-terrorist activity, giving them the knowledge of force’s individual capabilities or current activities.
Factors favouring confirmation or denial – Sec 30
Confirmation or denial of whether information is held would enable local communities to be more informed as to how much of a terrorism threat existed at individual force levels. It would inform the public how resources are being allocated to combat the threat of terrorism.
Factors not favouring confirmation or denial – Sec 30
By identifying whether forces may or may not have made arrests 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. The risk of harm to the public would be increased if the location of vulnerable areas of the UK were made public as this would provide opportunity for terrorist planning. Ongoing or future operations to protect the security or infrastructure of the UK would be compromised as terrorists could map across the country the level of counter-terrorist activity, giving them the knowledge of force’s individual capabilities.
Factors favouring confirmation or denial – Sec 31.
By disclosing whether information is held or not would allow the public to see where CT funds are being spent and enable them to take steps where required in protecting themselves and their families should they consider there to be a terrorist related risk in their force area. Better public awareness may reduce crime or lead to more information from the public as they would be more observant in reporting suspicious activity. The Home Office regularly publish national statistical data on terrorism arrests in providing some transparency around policing CT operations.
Factors not favouring confirmation or denial – Sec 31.
By disclosing whether individual forces have or have not made arrests would compromise law enforcement tactics which would hinder the prevention and detection of terrorist crime. More crime would be committed because terrorists would know which forces had less CT capability, capacity or interest and individuals would therefore be placed at a greater risk. A fear of crime would be realised because if the terrorists identified more vulnerable areas, they would target and exploit these areas and the public would be in fear of more terrorist activity occurring. There would be an impact on police resources because if the number of CT Unit arrests was disclosed per force, the more vulnerable forces may need to increase their resources to reassure and protect the community.
The security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police service will not divulge any information if to do so would place the safety of an individual at risk or undermine National Security. Whilst there is a public interest in transparency of policing operations and in this case providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by a terrorist attack, there is very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in the highly sensitive area 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 only be overridden in exceptional circumstances. CTU capabilities are high-profile sensitive issues of intelligence value to the terrorist and therefore it is our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for neither confirming or denying whether information is held at a force level 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.