Disclosure Details

Covert Human Intelligence Sources - 337/15

Dated: 15 May 2015

Date of request:       31/03/15

Date of response:    22/04/15

Provision of informati11 held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')(FOIA)

Thank you for your email dated 31 March 2015 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: 

I would like the following information.

1. The total sum of money paid to Covert Human Intelligence Sources by your force for each of the following financial years: 2010/11; 2011/12; 2012/13; 2013/14 and 2014/15.

2. For each year please state the total number of payments. If this number of years takes me over the time limit please reduce the number of years retaining the more recent 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 Department of 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.The total sum of money paid to Covert Human Intelligence Sources for each of the following financial years: 2010/11; 2013/14 and 2014/15 are  below;

2010/11 -  £150,305
2013/14 -  £185,174
2014/15 -  £185,630

Regarding financial years 2011/12 and 2012/13, as the 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 that part of 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 on this subject area has been asked for previously, released and published on the Northumbria Police Disclosure Log.
The link to the Log is below and related FOI's include FOI 811/12 and FOI 519/13.

2. We shall not be disclosing the information requested at this part of your request and in doing so will rely on the following exemptions.

Section 30(2) Investigations and Proceedings Conducted by Public Authorities

Section 30 is a class based qualified exemption and consideration of the public interest must be given as to whether the information is disclosed, which we provide below.

Public Interest Considerations:

Factors Favouring Disclosure
There is information within the public domain confirming that police use covert human intelligence sources to assist them with investigations and the effective delivery of law enforcement. Disclosure would enhance the public’s knowledge about how information relating to informants is used by the Northumbria Police and how the intelligence received assists in day to day investigations and operations to assist with the prevention and detection of crime; the apprehension and prosecution of offenders and the administration of justice.
Disclosure would also assist in stopping any incorrect rumours or falsehoods relating to how the police store and manage how informants assist the police.

Factors Favouring Non-disclosure
Disclosure of the information requested could identify informant activity within a force area. Over a period of time if several disclosures were made, individuals could analyse the information and identify any sudden peaks or troughs in informant activity. This would hinder the prevention and detection of crime and also prejudice our ability to maintain confidential sources. Consequently, the force’s future law enforcement capabilities would be affected.

Balancing Test:
There is information within the public domain confirming that police use covert human intelligence sources to assist them with investigations and the effective delivery of law enforcement. The Police Service is tasked with protecting the community we serve and solving crime and there is a public interest argument in ensuring we are open and transparent with regard to policing investigations and operations. There is no doubt that for the issues outlined above any disclosure relating to sensitive informant information would jeopardise those important roles.
As has been mentioned, informants play a vital role in assisting the police and is based very much on relationships built on trust and the expectation of complete confidentiality, Northumbria Police would never disclose information which in any way would compromise our tactics.
It is therefore our opinion that the balance lies in favour of non-disclosure of the information.

In addition Northumbria Police can neither confirm nor deny that it holds any other information with regard to an exempt body as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply by virtue of the following exemption:

Section 23(5) Information Supplied by, or concerning, certain Security Bodies

Section 24(2) National Security

Section 23 is a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest in this case.

Section 24 is a prejudice based qualified exemption and there is a requirement to consider the public interest in this case.

Evidence of Harm Section 24

Disclosure of informants data could impact on the recruitment and retention of CHIS in general, due to the perception of (rather than the actual) risk of identification. In an Information Tribunal case relating to the payments made to CHIS in Croydon (EA/2010/0006), it was accepted that this argument applied as much to CHIS providing intelligence in relation to national security concerns as to CHIS engaged in countering more traditional criminal threats.  In this way, the disclosure of the requested information would damage national security through discouraging current national security CHIS from cooperating with the police service in other geographical areas, or preventing the recruitment of national security CHIS in the future – regardless of whether the area in question actually currently runs CHIS reporting on serious crime, terrorist or other threats.

Public Interest test for S24

Factors favouring confirming or denying that any other information is held for Section 24

Confirmation or denial that any other information exists relevant to the request would lead to a better informed public and the public are entitled to know how public funds are spent. The information simply relates to national security and disclosure would not actually harm it.

Factors against confirming or denying that any other information is held for Section 24

Other organisations outside the police service are also widely engaged in rewarding informants in a number of ways, and therefore by confirming or denying that any other information exists relevant to the request would harm the close relationship that exists with such organisations, where trust and confidence in this specific area has been built up in the exchange of information and financial assistance during the Criminal Justice process.

To confirm or deny whether Northumbria Police hold any additional information would allow inferences to be made about the nature and extent of national security related activities which may or may not take place in a given area. This could enable terrorist groups to take steps to avoid detection, and as such, confirmation or denial would be damaging to national security

By confirming or denying any policing arrangements of this nature would render national security measures less effective. This would lead to the compromise of ongoing or future operations to protect the security or infrastructure of the UK and increase the risk of harm to the public.

Balance test for Section 24

The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve. The security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police service will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so would place the safety of an individual at risk or undermine National Security. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat from criminals, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding both national security and the integrity of police investigations and operations in this highly sensitive area. As much as there is public interest in knowing that policing activity is appropriate and balanced in matters of national security, this will only be overridden in exceptional circumstances.

It is therefore our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for confirming or not that information is held, 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/disclosure_log/foi_complaint_rights

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.


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