Disclosure Details

Firearms - 136/16

Dated: 23 Feb 2016

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

Thank you for your e mail dated 26 January 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: 

Following the Home Secretary's announcement of extra investment in firearms capacity,

1. do you have plans to increase the number of firearms officers in your force?

2. How much money is being provided by central government to your force to do so?

3. What is the current average deployment time for armed officers in your force area?

4. And what was the average deployment time for each year since 2010?

5. How many armed rapid response vehicles does your force have,

6. do you plan to increase capacity? 

7. How many authorised firearms officers does your force have

8. and how many specialist firearms officers?

9. Does your firearms units operate with single-shot weapons only? 

10. How many armed rapid response vehicles do you have, and

11. are there plans to increase that capacity? 

12. Do you cooperate with any neighbouring forces in order to increase/maximise firearms capability?

13. Do you plan to do so in the future? 

 

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

I am able to disclose the located information to you as follows.

With regards to point 12.  I can confirm that Northumbria Police work with all forces operationally. 

 

With regards to the remainder of your request, this will not be disclosed and by withholding we rely on the following exemptions.

S31(1)(a).  Law Enforcement

S24(1) . National Security

 

Evidence of Harm

The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve.  In order to achieve these objectives we are allowed to use reasonable force when necessary to do so.  In the ultimate circumstance this can include the use of lethal force but the rule of thumb is to use the minimum amount necessary to achieve the objective.  In reality this equates to the use of the minimum amount of force required to overcome the violence, used or threatened, by those wishing to cause harm.

As part of this equation we also have to pay heed to the Human Rights Conventions particularly Article 2 - The Right to Life.  The law and regulations relating to the use of force are detailed within the Authorised Professional Practice (APP) document for Armed Policing, see below link:

https://www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/armed-policing/?s

Armed Policing is a highly specialised area of firearms deployment and weapons training.  It is an emotive subject under constant scrutiny and, by default, is always in the public eye.  There is a long history of excellent practice nationally and Armed Policing is regard as being at the forefront of firearms issues. 

Revealing responses to questions 1 - 6 and 8 -11 would reveal tactical capability and is likely to influence the criminals, which may include terrorists or terrorist organisations, who are prepared to resort to the use of extreme force in order to avoid detection and capture.  By fully knowing police intended response times will ensure offenders are armed to overcome the police response.  This creates if you will an ‘arms race’ to the detriment of the criminals themselves, as the use of lethal weapons becomes more and more the only resolution option, and endangers both the public and officers themselves.  This is best evidenced by the fact that the United Kingdom, even in these violent times, has been able to maintain a basically unarmed Police Service, with the result benefits this delivers when compared with other countries, such as America, where armed conflict resolution with law enforcement agencies depends on who has the most effective weapons.

Furthermore, the threat from terrorism cannot be ignored.  It is generally recognised that the international security landscape is increasingly complex and unpredictable.  The current UK threat level from international terrorism, based on intelligence, is assessed as at 29th August 2014, as Severe, which means that a terrorist attach is highly likely, see below link:

https://www.mi5.gov.uk/home/about-us/what-we-do/the-threats/terrorism/threat-levels.html

 

In order to counter criminal and terrorist behaviour it is vital that the police have the ability to work together, where necessary covertly, to assist in the investigative process to ensure the successful arrest and prosecution of offenders who commit or plan to commit acts of terrorism.

The prevention and detection of crime is the foundation upon which policing is built and the police have a clear responsibility to prevent crime, arrest those responsible for committing crime or those that plan to commit crime.  However, there is also a duty of care to the public at large.  The UK Police Service has a positive undertaking to protect the public from harm and that duty of care to all involved must be the overriding consideration.

Public Interest Considerations

Section 31

Factors favouring Disclosure

The information requested relates to a specialised area of Policing.  There is a public interest in the community being made aware of all the facts relating to Armed Policing in order to ensure complete openness and transparency as there is often speculation and rumour with regard to the use of firearms within the Police Service.  In this case providing information relating to your request would provide transparency and may enhance public debate into this type of policing.

Factors favouring Non-Disclosure

The deployment of authorised firearms officers is measured and authorised by chief officers after careful consideration in order to protect the public and apprehend individuals who use lethal weapons as part of their criminality.  To disclose ARV deployment response times, how many armed/rapid response vehicles we have, etc reveals tactical capability and would place Northumbria Police at a tactical disadvantage.  In addition, disclosure may also ‘create’ a fear of crime within the general public relating to armed policing.

The risk to public safety cannot be ignored and we have a responsibility to ensure the safety of individuals is protected at all times, as detailed within the harm.

Section 24

Factor favouring Disclosure

The information requested relates to ARV deployment response times,weapon capability etc and by default would cross over with counter-terrorism deployments.  Disclosure would inform the public that Northumbria Police allocate their resources appropriately ensuring ARVs are deployed as quickly as possible dependent on frontline responsibilities.  This would provide transparency with regard to the use of public funds inasmuch as the funds are being used correctly and appropriately ensuing the Armed Policing Departments within individual forces are resourced adequately.

Factors favouring non-disclosure

Whilst there is a public interest in providing reassurance that Northumbria Police is appropriately and effectively dealing with threats posed by terrorist organisations, there is a strong public interest in safeguarding national security and the welfare and safety of the general public.

Any disclosure has the potential to undermine ongoing and future operations to protect the Security of the United Kingdom, e.g. counter terrorism activity.  The risk of significant harm or even death to the community at large would be increased. 

Balancing Test

Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing resources for specialist departments and providing reassurance that the Police Service is appropriately and effectively placing resources into Armed Policing, there is a strong public interest in knowing that policing activity with regard to the delivery of law enforcement is appropriate and balanced, this will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances.

In addition, we also need to take into account the victims of terrorism.  Public safety is of paramount importance and any information which would place individuals at risk and compromise the National Security of the United Kingdom, no matter how generic, is not is the public interest.  The effective delivery of operational law enforcement and the National Security of the UK is crucial and of paramount importance to Northumbria Police and indeed all forces.  Any disclosure would have a negative impact on law enforcement and national security.

As much as there is a public interest in known that the delivery of law enforcement is appropriate and balanced, this will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances.  Police force’s capabilities of combating crimes and terrorism are sensitive issues and the release of the information requested would be a huge source of intelligence value and benefit to those whose intent is to cause harm and disruption.  Therefore it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test for disclosure 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.