Police informants - 467/15
Dated: 01 Jun 2015
Date of request: 11/05/15
Date of response: 01/06/15
Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')(FOIA)
Thank you for your email dated 11 May 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.
This Freedom of Information request is in relation to police payments to informants (members of the public) for information.
1. Could you please list all payments to police informants (non-police employees) between 1 April 2011 and 2015.
In terms of the format, could you outline whether the payment is to a female or a male, how much it was for, when it was paid and where more than one payment is made to the same person could this please be made clear.
2.Where a police informant is on a retainer (paid a regular amount), could the amount per month be made clear and how long it was paid for to give the overall amount.
3. Could you also provide the overall total for the amount paid by the force to police informants over the four years.
Could all the information be provided in Excel spreadsheet format.
Male - £3,5000 - May 2012
£200 - Sept 2013
£400-per-month (April 2013 to April 2014)
Female - £8,500 - September 2014
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.
1 and 2
With regards to these parts of your request, this information will not be disclosed and by withholding we rely on the following exemptions.
Section 30(2) Investigations and Proceedings conducted by Public Authorities
Section 38(1)(a) Health and Safety
Section 40(2) Personal Information
Section 40(2) - This a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest in disclosure. That being said where Section 40(2) is engaged in order to make the exemption absolute there needs to be evidence that a data protection principle would be breached by disclosure. In this case it would not be fair to process information which could lead to the identification of an individual. Therefore the first principle of the Data Protection Act would be breached.
Section 30 is a qualified and class based exemptions and accordingly Northumbria Police does not need to carry out a harm test , however the application of a public interest test is required and I have set this out below.
Section 38 is a qualified exemption and requires the application of a Harm and Public Interest Test which I have set out below.
Public Interest Test - Section 30
Factors Favouring Disclosure - Section 30
There is information within the public domain confirming that police use covert human intelligence sources (CHIS) 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 Northumbria Police and how the intelligence received assists in day-to-day investigations and operations to assist 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 - Section 30
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. The disclosure would undermine the relationship between the police and the informant which could lead to key investigations to break down as vital information is not fed through.
Harm Test - Section 38
The release of information down to such a low time level should give cause for concern. Information should not be disclosed if the release of that information may lead to the identification of an individual who then may be subject to any treatment which would endanger that person's health and safety or that of their friends, relatives and associates. The individual can be anyone, and the harm may be real or perceived. Such disclosures would deter others from passing information to the police.
Public Interest Test - Section 38
Factors Favouring Disclosure - Section 38
Disclosure would increase public awareness and debate of such issues. This could increase public confidence as disclosure could show that positive action is taken by the police when the safety of an individual is threatened.
Factors Favouring Non-disclosure - Section 38
The disclosure of details requested, coupled with any information already known could lead to the identification of an individual. For example, if a criminal suspects someone has provided the force with information then they will become aware that there is intelligence available and this could therefore place that individual at risk. The slightest indication or evidence confirming their suspicions would be enough for them to justify taking unlawful action against those they ‘suspect’ have provided the police with intelligence. An informant provides the information solely on the grounds that it is completely confidential; disclosure of any kind, could adversely affect the reputation of an individual with dangerous consequences.
Release of this information may also adversely affect wider public safety if the criminal fraternity/less law abiding individuals are provided with a tactical advantage over Northumbria Police.
There is information within the public domain confirming that police use CHIS 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. If disclosed, there could be the likelihood that the future law enforcement role of the force could be compromised and the safety of individuals and the public put at risk. It can not be justified that the public's interest would be served in releasing this specific information if either of these aspects were to be compromised in any way.
Northumbria Police would never disclose information which would compromise police tactics, investigations or the safety of an individual just to satisfy a Freedom of Information request.
It is therefore our opinion that the balance lies in favour of non-disclosure of the information at these points.
3. Regarding the total amount paid by the force to police informants for the four financial years specified, the below exemption applies.
As the information you have requested at these points 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 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, and is therefore freely available.
The link to the Log is below and related FOI's include FOI 811/12, FOI 519/13 and FOI 337/15.
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/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.