Disclosure Details

Firearms and Shotgun Certificates - 943/12

Dated: 08 Jan 2013

Date of request:      29/11/2012

Date of response:   07/12/2012

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

Thank you for your email dated 29 November  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 people hold firearms and shotgun certificates in the force area?

  2. How many firearms and shotgun certificates were handed out across the force area in each of the following years 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.

  3. How many children under the age of 18 were given a firearms and or shotgun certificate in each of the following years 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.

  4. How many people have had their firearms or shotgun certificate revoked in each of the following years 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009, for what reasons? Please provide details.

  5. How many firearms or shotguns have been reported stolen in each of the following years 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009?

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 Firearms Licensing Department of Northumbria Police.  I can confirm that the information you have requested is held by Northumbria Police.

As advised previously this request has been aggregated with your previous request, FOI 909/12, due to the cost and time implications as it refers to the same subject area.

I have decided to disclose the located information to you as follows.

  1. As at 19 November 2012 we have 3,621 firearms certificates and 8,980 shotgun certificates in force.  Please note that a number of people may hold both a firearms and shot gun certificates at the same time.

  2. In 2012 (as at 19 November 2012) 3,621 firearm certificates have been issued and 8,980 shot gun certificates have been issued. In 2011 3,637 firearm certificates were issued and 9,113 shot gun certificates were issued. In 2010 3,652 firearm certificates were issued and 9,211 shot gun certificates were issued. In 2009 3,669 firearm certificates were issued and 9,355 shot gun certificates were issued. 

  3. For persons who now reside in our force area: In 2012 43 under 18 years olds were issued either a firearms and/or shot gun certificates. In 2011 38 under 18 years olds were issued either a firearms and/or shot gun certificates. In 2010 34 under 18 years olds were issued either a firearms and/or shot gun certificates. In 2009 42 under 18 years olds were issued either a firearms and/or shot gun certificates.]

  4. As from 1 January 2012 until 19 November 2012 we revoked the certificates from 45 people;

    28 x as a result of their offending history
    2 x due to their intemperate habits
    9 x due to medical conditions
    4 x due to failure to comply with firearms conditions
    2 x due to concerns for public safety

    As from 1 January 2011 until 31 December 2011 we revoked the certificates from 38 people;
    31 x as a result of their offending history
    1 x due to their intemperate habits
    5 x due to medical conditions
    1 x due to failure to comply with firearms conditions

    As from 1 January 2010 until 31 December 2010 we revoked the certificates from 34 people;
    22 x as a result of their offending history
    2 x due to their intemperate habits
    8 due to medical conditions
    2 x due to failure to comply with firearms conditions

    As from 1 January 2009 until 31 December 2009 we revoked the certificates from 27 people;
    20 x as a result of their offending history
    3 x due to medical conditions
    4 x due to failure to comply with firearms conditions 

  5. The following shows the number of firearms stolen in each year in the Northumbria force area.  The results include air weapons, paintball guns, BB guns, CS gas, taser, imitation and replica items.  Offences where the weapon went on to be recovered are also included in the results

Year No Stolen
2009 38
2010 40
2011 50
2012 (up to  28/11/12) 39

Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) places two duties on public authorities.  Unless exemptions apply, the first duty at Section 1(1)(a) is to confirm or deny whether the information specified in a request is held.  The second duty at Section 1(1)(b) is to disclose information that has been confirmed as being held.  Where exemptions are relied upon Section 17 of the FOIA requires that we provide the applicant with a notice which: a) states that fact b) specifies the exemption(s) in question and c) state (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies.

Northumbria Police can neither confirm nor deny that it holds any other information relating to this request as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply, by virtue of the following exemptions:-

Section 23(5) Information supplied by or concerning certain Security Bodies
Section 24(2) National Security
Section 30(3) Investigations
Section 31(3) Law Enforcement

Section 23 is a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest test in this area.  Section 30 is a class based qualified exemption and consideration must be given with regard to whether there is a public interest in neither confirming nor denying that any other information exists is the appropriate response.  With Sections 24 and 31 being prejudice based and qualified exemptions there is a requirement to articulate the harm (prejudice) that would be caused in confirming or not that other information is held as well as carrying out a public interest test.

Evidence of Harm

It is possible that information captured by this request could relate to investigations that have an impact on national security, for example counter-terrorism investigations, or other high-profile ongoing investigations.  This is particularly relevant in relation to the seizure of firearms.

In this respect, disclosing, exempting or even confirming or denying whether any other information is or is not held relative to this request would indicate the levels of activity of police and other law enforcement agencies across the country.  This would have the effect of undermining national security as it could lead to terrorists or other individuals or groups with criminal intent becoming aware of whether or not their activities have been detected and could ultimately compromise policing tactics, operations and future prosecutions.

Public Interest Test

Factors favouring confirming or denial for Section 24 -
The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and how resources are distributed within an area of policing.  To confirm whether any other information is held relating to this request would enable the general public to hold the force to account on the way in which they deploy resources in order to investigate offences relating to illegal firearms.  In the current financial climate of cuts and with the call for transparency of public spending this would enable improved public debate.

Factors against confirming or denial for Section 24 -
Security measures are put in place to protect the community we serve.  As evidenced within the harm, to confirm whether any other information relevant to this request is/is not held would highlight to terrorists and individuals intent on carrying out terrorist atrocities and criminal behaviour, the investigative activity within Northumbria Police.
Taking into account the current security climate within the United Kingdom, no information (such as the citing of an exemption which confirms any other information pertinent to this request is held, or conversely, stating ‘no information is held’) which may aid a terrorist should be disclosed.  To what extent this information may aid a terrorist is unknown, but it is clear that it will have an impact on a force’s ability to monitor terrorist activity.
Irrespective of what information is or is not held, the public entrust the Police Service to make appropriate decisions with regard to their safety and protection and the only way or reducing risk is to be cautious with what is placed into the public domain.
The cumulative effect of terrorists gathering information from various sources would be even more impactive when linked to other information gathered from various sources about terrorism.  The more information that is disclosed over time will provide a detailed account of the tactical infrastructure of not only a force area but also the country as a whole, should similar requests be submitted across the country.
Any incident that results from such a disclosure would by default affect National Security.

Factors favouring confirming or denial for Section 30/31 -
There is confirmation within the public domain that police forces liaise and carry out joint operations into the seizure of weapons with other law enforcement agencies such as the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), see below link:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-497368/118-arrested-1-300-guns-seized-massive-firearms-raid.html
Complying with Section 1(1)(a) would enhance the public’s knowledge about where operational activity is located and would stop any incorrect rumours or falsehoods that may already exist.
Additionally, the public has a right to know that the Northumbria Police focuses its attention and responsibility to ensuring illegal weapons are confiscated and/or recovered when in the wrong hands.

Factors against confirming or denial for Section 30/31 -  
As stated within the harm to confirm whether or not any other information is held would compromise any ongoing high profile criminal investigations/operations by revealing where there is current law enforcement activity and intelligence.  This in turn would compromise Northumbria Police's ability and that of our partners to engage with each other in confidence.  Ongoing or future operations into any planned serious organised crime investigations involving the confiscation or recovery of illegal guns would be compromised and tactics rendered less effective.  This would affect the force’s future law enforcement capabilities.

Balancing Test

The Police Service is tasked with the delivery of effective law enforcement ensuring the detection and prevention of crime.  It is our belief that, irrespective of whether or not any other information is held, what is important is the ability to ensure investigations run smoothly and that liaison between other law enforcement agencies has the ability to be undertaken with the utmost integrity.  To reveal information which could highlight the operational activity of another agency would not be in the public interest.

Also, weakening the mechanism used to monitor any types of criminal activity, and specifically serious organised gun crime potentially involving terrorists would place the security of the country at an increased level of danger.

For the reasons outlined above, it is our opinion that the balancing test lies in favour of neither confirming nor denying that any other information is held.

No inference can be drawn from this response as to the existence or not of any other information.

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.

Downloads

FOI Complaint Rights Procedure_tcm4-67103