Disclosure Details

Facebook/Twitter crimes - 286/15

Dated: 23 Apr 2015

Date of request:      16/03/15

Date of response:    25/03/15

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

Thank you for your email dated 16 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: 


For the years 2012, 2013, 2014 and the period 1st January 2015 to 15th March 2015, could you please provide the following information:
 
1. How many crimes your force has recorded where the key term 'Facebook' has been used? (e.g. where the word "Facebook have been mentioned in the MO field of a crime report)
 
2. How many crimes your force has recorded where the key term 'Twitter' has been used? (e.g. where the word "Twitter" have been mentioned in the MO field of a crime report)
 
If it falls within the cost limit, details of the types of crimes involving Facebook and/or Twitter recorded by your force (e.g. harassment, grooming, etc) and numbers of each type.
 

 
 

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 Corporate Development 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.

With regards to the years 2012 and 2013:

As per your previous request on this subject, FOI 144/14 refers,  the information you have requested at these points is accessible by other means therefore 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 those parts 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.

This information is already in the public domain and can be found on our Disclosure Log, FOI 095/14 refers, and is therefore freely available.  The link to the Log can be found below.

With regards to the remainder of your request please see the below attached.

The response is based on a search of crimes recorded between 01/01/2014 and 15/03/2015 where the instrument is recorded as one of the following: computer, internet, computer tablet or Facebook. The MO of the crime was then reviewed for any mention of Facebook or Twitter.
The results of those searches is as below.

Additionally Northumbria Police  can neither confirm nor deny that it holds any other information relevant to this part of your 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 23 is a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest in this case.  Confirming or denying the existence of whether information is held would contravene the constrictions laid out with Section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in that this stipulates a generic bar on disclosure of any information applied by, or concerning, certain Security Bodies. 

Sections  24 is a prejudice based qualified exemption and there is a requirement to evidence the prejudice (harm) in disclosure and consider the public interest to ensure neither confirming or denying that information is held is appropriate.

I have set this out below.

Harm


Modern-day policing is intelligence led which is particularly pertinent with regard to any operation that may be undercover.  The National Intelligence Model is adhered to by all police forces across England and Wales.  It is a business process with an intention to provide focus to operational policing and to achieve a disproportionately greater impact from the resources applied to any problem.  It is dependant on a clear framework of analysis of information and intelligence allowing a problem solving approach to law enforcement crime prevention techniques.  To confirm whether or not Northumbria Police used social media as a covert investigative tool would undermine any ongoing covert operation by revealing tactical capability and intelligence within this area.

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 substantial.  I have provided a link below which you may find useful.

https://www.mi5.gov.uk/home/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 obtain intelligence within current legislative frameworks to assist in the investigative process to ensure the successful arrest and prosecution of offenders who commit or plan to commit acts of terrorism.

To achieve this goal, it is vitally important that information sharing takes place between police officers, members of the public, police forces as well as other security law enforcement bodies within the United Kingdom.  Such an action supports counter-terrorism measures in the fight to deprive terrorist networks of their ability to commit crime.

To confirm or deny whether any other information is held would be extremely useful to those involved in terrorist activity as it would enable them to identify whether or not a specific covert tactic, such as using social media to assist with an investigation, has been used.

Public Interest Considerations

Section 24(2) – National Security

Terrorist activity within the United Kingdom is a real and current threat and the Police Service has a duty of care to protect the public they serve.

It could by argued that by confirming that the information is held would make the community at large aware of where terrorist activity has occurred in the past.  This knowledge would enable them to take steps in order to protect themselves.  By citing exemptions or stating ‘no information held’ would identify investigative activity and potentially undermine a current ongoing covert investigation.  Such action could undermine the security and/or infrastructure of the United Kingdom.

Balancing Test

Public safety and the security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police Service will not divulge whether information is or isn’t held if to do so would place the safety of an individual at risk or undermine National Security.  Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues the balancing test for disclosure is not made out.

No inference can be taken from this refusal that the information you have requested does or does not exist. 


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.

You may be interested to know that Northumbria Police routinely publish information via the Disclosure Log.  The aim of the Disclosure Log is to promote openness and transparency by voluntarily placing information into the public arena.

The Disclosure Log contains copies of some of the information that has been disclosed by Northumbria Police in response to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Whilst it is not possible to publish all responses we will endeavour to publish those where we feel that the information disclosed is in the public interest.

The Disclosure Log will be updated once responses have been sent to the requester.

I have provided the relevant link below.

http://www.northumbria.police.uk/foi/disclosurelog/index.asp


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
FOI 286-15_tcm4-106570