Disclosure Details

Police Vehicles - 112/12

Dated: 07 Jun 2011

Date of request: 26/01/2012

Date of response: 21/02/2012

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

Thank you for your email dated 26 January 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: 

  1. How many vehicles did your force buy or lease in the last three financial years?

  2. What was the cost of these vehicles for each of the last three financial years?

  3. What was the make and model of the fifty most expensive vehicles bought or leased by your force in each of the last three financial years?

In response:

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 Finance and Resources 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.

1-2. 

2008/09 2009/10 2010/11
 Purchased Vehicles
     Purchase Costs £3,231,079 £3,246,905 £2,915,012
     Number of Vehicles Purchased 161 154 182
 Leased Vehicles
     Lease Costs £11,400 £11,400 £12,200
     Number of Vehicles held in the year 2 2 2

As a force we always aim to deliver the best value for money. In 2010/11 the police vehicle contract was re-negotiated, which combined with improved force tendering for specialist conversions gave us better deals and cheaper vehicles. We are now part of a regional purchasing scheme along with six other forces to drive down costs further. The vehicles bought are a range of marked and unmarked police vehicles including vans and specialist transport.

3.  We shall not be disclosing the information requested at this point and by withholding we will rely on the following exemption:-

Section 31(1)(a)(b) Law Enforcement

This exemption is applied to information which would be likely to prejudice (a) the prevention and detection of crime and (b) the apprehension or prosecution of offenders.

Section 31 is a prejudiced based qualified exemption.  This means that the legislators have identified that the harm (prejudice) in disclosure needs to be documented and the public interest in disclosure should be considered.  The result of both the harm and public interest test (PIT) should be articulated to the applicant, and I have set this out below.

Harm

This department has been advised that a number of the vehicles that would be listed are vehicles that have been purchased specifically for covert operations.  Any ongoing investigations involving these particular vehicles may be compromised by releasing the makes and models and potentially identifying the vehicles.  It would obviously not benefit law enforcement and protect life and property to know the specifics of Northumbria Police's policing methods or capabilities.

Public Interest Test

Factors favouring Disclosure:

Accountability
There is a legitimate public interest in knowing that Northumbria Police fulfil their policing functions effectively and efficiently.  Clearly at all times there is a legitimate public interest in knowing that Northumbria Police are adequately prepared for any incidents, of varying seriousness, that may require a response and has appropriate types of vehicles in order to fulfil its policing functions, thus protecting life and property, preserving order, preventing crime, apprehending offenders etc.

Public Awareness and Debate
Northumbria Police acknowledges the importance of public debate in building public confidence in the issues surrounding protection of the public or law enforcement techniques.  The use of police resources has been the subject of occasional debate.

Factors favouring Non-Disclosure:

Current Investigations
It is the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) view that information relating to an investigation will rarely be disclosed under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.  Whilst such information may be released in order to serve a core policing purpose, ie to protect life and property and/or assist in prevention and detection of crime and/or in the apprehension and prosecution of offenders, it will only be disclosed following a Freedom of Information request if there are strong public interest considerations favouring disclosure.  The further the considerations favouring disclosure are from a core policing purpose, the less the considerations will be.  It is my view that disclosure of this information will not serve a core policing function and could be detrimental to investigations.

Efficient and Effective Conduct of the Force
Where a future law enforcement function of the Police Service is undermined or may be compromised by release of the information. There is legitimate public interest in knowing that Northumbria Police are able to respond in the most effective and efficient way possible to incidents, thus protecting life and property, preserving order, preventing crime, apprehending offenders etc.  By disclosing the types of undercover vehicles owned by the Force, operational effectiveness may be compromised.  While it may be assumed that criminal organisations will anticipate a response to certain situations, the Police Service nevertheless maintain a tactical advantage in so far that specific operational details of any police response or specific operation cannot be predetermined.  Clearly revealing the types of undercover police vehicles would prejudice law enforcement and endanger the safety of all individuals and the community.  Knowledge of such information held by Northumbria Police may allow a determined, less scrupulous individual or criminal group etc, to co-ordinate serious crime by calculating the likely response and protecting themselves accordingly.  Revealing the types of undercover police vehicles could compromise Northumbria Police’s operational capabilities, leading to certain makes of vehicles susceptible and targets of attack, rightly and wrongly, and adversely impact the ability of Northumbria Police to respond to or investigate incidents.

Balancing Test

I have carefully considered your request for information.  The public interest test is centred on whether information should be released to the world so that ANY person can view this information not just you as a requestor.  I have considered the impact that this will have on law enforcement, police officers and the community.  The key test when considering the public interest is to establish whether in all the circumstances of the request the public interest in disclosing information is not outweighed by that in maintaining the exemption or exemptions.  There is an identifiable public interest in knowing that the police have an efficient and effective process for dealing with all incidents and that excessive or unnecessary amounts of public funds, including taxpayers money, are not being spent.  However, if information which is either connected with operational/emergency planning or tactics such as the types of undercover vehicles, was released into the public domain, substantial harm would be caused to all individuals involved, police officers and the community.  It would obviously not benefit law enforcement and the protection of life and property, to know the specifics of Northumbria Police's operational capabilities.

Decision

Having weighed up both parts of the public interest test, I have decided on balance it is in the public interest to withhold the requested information.  This is because I do not see how the release of this information can provide a tangible community benefit, ie protect life and property and/or assist in prevention and detection of crime and/or the apprehension and prosecution of offenders etc.  While the public interest considerations favouring disclosure carry particular weight, it is felt that, on balance, the perceived public safety derived from non-disclosure is of greater importance than the perceived public confidence derived from disclosure.

The release of this information could impede the service provided to the public by Northumbria Police.  Consequently, in this case the public interest test favours non-disclosure.

You should consider this a refusal under Section 17 of the Act.

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.

Downloads

FOI Complaint Rights Procedure_tcm4-28029