Dated: 23 Jan 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 30 January 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.
1) The number of cars owned by your force
2) A breakdown of the make and models of the cars owned by your force including quantity and how many are unmarked (registration numbers not necessary)
3) I want to know through which auction companys are decommissioned police cars from your force sold through and when the contract with each of these company/companys began and is due to expire (can you specify all the companies (branch including) if vehicles are disposed through different sites)
4) Can you also supply information about which auctions previously disposed of vehicles from your force
5) Your forces policy/criteria on deciding when a vehicle should be decommissioned / disposed of
6) Finally I would like to know the number of cars that your force has disposed of since the beginning of 2016
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 by Northumbria Police.
I am able to disclose the located information to you as follows.
1. 571 vehicles in total, as at 4.1.17.
2. See below attached.
To note, any information relating to covert vehicles and Armed Response Vehicles is not included in this part of the disclosure and we rely on the following exemption when withholding.
Section 31(1) (a,b)- Law Enforcement
Section 31 is a prejudice based qualified exemption and there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or denying that the information is held as well as carrying out a public interest test.
To provide the details down to the level requested would cause harm as, once identified, those vehicles could be targeted thus placing the occupants at risk. Additionally there is a strong possibility that Policing would be undermined as offenders gain knowledge about the vehicles owned by the force and therefore use that knowledge to avoid detection. The requested information would reveal the strengths and potential weaknesses of policing tactics and so compromise investigations. This would be to the detriment of providing an efficient policing service and a failure in providing care to both members of staff and the public at large. Clearly the release of this level of detail would lead to the policing service being undermined as it could be used by those wishing to cause disruption or harm to the communities we serve. It would not be of any service to the public to provide information that could be of advantage to those individuals intent oncausing disruption to the Police assist them in evading detection. Whilst the information requested may seem inocuous, coupled with other information that may be in the public domain must be considered. This overall information would enable such vehicles that require protection to become more visible and therefore at risk of being targetted by those intent on causing disruption to the police service, and ultimately to members of the public.
Factors favouring disclosure
By disclosing what vehicles we have to enable us to carry out policing activities would enable the public to see where public funds are being spent and to to be better informed.
Factors against disclosure.
It is common knowledge that the national threat level is currently at Severe, meaning a terrorist attack is highly likely and crowded places are highlighted as possible targets. Releasing such data and operational tactics in this current climate would give those individuals with the intent to do so, the intelligence required to disrupt police activity. This knowledge would mean that offenders would be able to target their offending more effectively which would inevitably lead to an increased likelihood of terrorist or criminal activity and an increased danger to the public.
Recent events in Paris, Brussels, Nice, Rouen, and Ansbach (as well as spontaneous violent extremist attacks, such as at Leytonstone Tube Station) have all highlighted continued threat and vulnerability. Northumbria Police has a duty to mitigate potential threats. Disclosure of information which is likely to undermine the Police service’s ability to serve the public in preventing and detecting crime can only be considered as being harmful to the public.
It would not be in either the public or police interests to provide information which could aid those who are intent on causing disruption or harm to our communities or police services. By confirming any details that may identify covert vehicles and ARVs would compromise law enforcement tactics which would hinder the prevention and detection of crime and put individuals at risk. Discdlosure of any information which highlights tactical capability, particularly relating to these vehicles and especially in the current climate, should therefore be resisted . This information would be invaluable to those wishing to disrupt or prevent law enforcement or commit or aid any terrorist activities.
The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve. The security of the public is of paramount importance and the Police service will not divulge information if to do so would place the safety of individuals at risk or undermine law enforcement. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and providing assurance that the police service is appropriately carrying out its duties, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both law enforcement and the integrity of police investigations and operations. We have therefore concluded that to release information that would lead to the identity of covert vehicles and ARVs would lead to an impact upon the prevention or detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders and the administration of justice.
Additionally we can see no tangible benefit or policing purpose of such information being released into the public domain.
It is therefore our opinion that for these issues the balance lies in favour of non disclosure of this particular part of your request.
3. Vehicles are disposed of through British Car Auctions Ltd using a national framework that was arranged by the Home Office in 2012. Northumbria Police's arrangement under this framework expires on 20 June 2017. A new national framework is in the process of being arranged by North Yorkshire Police.
4. In addition to British Car Auctions, the Force has also previously used Brightwell Auctioneers to dispose of a small number of specialist vehicles.
5. Vehicle disposal is triggered by a combination of operational role performed, age of vehicle and mileage operated.
6. 57 cars have been disposed of since 1.1.16 to date (4.1.17).
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.