Tobacco seizures - 371/12
Dated: 07 Jun 2011
Date of request: 16/04/2012
Date of response: 02/05/2012
Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')(FOIA)
Thank you for your email dated 16 April 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.
In each of the financial years 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012 to date (16th April), on how many occasions has your force been involved in seizing counterfeit or illegally imported tobacco? Please give as much detail as possible about each seizure since the beginning of the financial year 2011-12: what kind of tobacco was recovered, how many cigarettes/how much tobacco was recovered, what was its estimated value, what was the date and location of the operation, were any people charged in connection with the seizure, was any other department involved, and were any other illicit goods recovered in the same operation?
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 however can not be disclosed for the following reason.
Whilst Northumbria Police may assist Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and the UK Borders Agency when appropriate, this information is not held in an easily retrievable format. During the period specified there were more than 1.7million incidents recorded by this force. Within those incidents there is the facility to append to incidents a code which indicates that the incident was to provide 'Assistance to another agency'. Those agencies can include HM Revenue and Customs, UK Borders Agency, Ambulance, Fire Service, Armed Forces, Coast Guard, Serious Organised Crime Agency, HM Prisons Service, Local Authority etc., - there is no separate classification for HMRC or UKBA or incidents which involve cigarettes or tobacco. For the period 2009/10 only there were in excess of 2600 incidents in the category of 'Assistance to another agency'. To provide a response to just the first part of your request, "how many occasions has your force been involved in seizing counterfeit or illegally imported tobacco?" it would be necessary to read the full computerised incident report to establish whether the incident had involved the seizure of counterfeit or illegally imported tobacco. Even at a conservative estimate of 3 minutes per record, which we have considered as reasonable, we have estimated that to extract this information would take over 160 hours for that part of your request alone, therefore Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act would apply. This section does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the authority estimated that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit of 18 hours, equating to £450.00
You should consider this to be a refusal notice under Section 17 of the Act for that part of your request.
When applying Section 12 exemption our duty to assist under Section 16 of the Act would normally entail that we contact you to determine whether it is possible to refine the scope of your request to bring it within the cost limits. However, from the information we have outlined above I see no reasonable way in which we can do so.
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.