Disclosure Details

Informants - 519/13

Dated: 08 Aug 2013

Date of request:     4/07/2013

Date of response:   08/08/2013

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

Thank you for your email dated 4 July 2013 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. Can I get the amount of money paid to criminal informants for information by your force in the last four financial years.

  2. Can I get the amount of money paid to informants for information by your force in the last four financial years.

To clarify by this I mean individuals who have been paid money by the force for information. Criminal informants, as people with criminal records that have been paid money by the force for information.

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 Crime and Finance Departments of Northumbria Police. I can confirm that the information you have requested is held in part by Northumbria Police.

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

With regards to part one:
We shall not be disclosing information at this part and by with holding we rely on the following exemption.
Section 30(2)(i)(a) (Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities)

This is a qualified exemption for which I am required to conduct a public interest test, which I have set out below.

Section 30 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 Constabulary 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 would compromise our tactics.

It is therefore our opinion that the balance lies in favour of non-disclosure of the information.

2. The figure paid in the financial year 2012/13 for those authorised as CHIS under the Regulations of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is £142,368.

As the remainder of 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 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 has been requested previously under the Act and is published on our Disclosure Log, details of which are below.

FOI 811/12 and 319/11 refer.

Additionally, Northumbria Police can neither confirm nor deny that we hold any other information relevant to the whole of your request by virtue of the following exemptions:-
Section 23 (5) Information Supplied by, or Concerning, Certain Security Bodies listed at Section 23 (3)
Section 24 (2) National Security
Section 23 of the Act States:
Section 23 Information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters (5).  The duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that, compliance with Section 1(1)(a) would involve the disclosure of any information (whether or not already recorded) which was directly or indirectly supplied to the public authority by, or relates to, any of the bodies specified in subsection (3).
Section 23(5) is a class based absolute exemption and we are not required to provide complete a public interest test.
Section 24 National Security:
(1) Information which does not fall within Section 23(1) is exempt information if exemption from Section 1(1)(b) is required for the purpose of safeguarding national security.
(2) The duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that, exemption from Section 1(1)(a) is required for the purpose of safeguarding national security.
Section 24(2) is a prejudice based qualified exemption and as such there is a requirement to provide evidence of the harm disclosure could cause and consideration of the public interest must also be given as to whether neither confirming nor denying the information exists is the appropriate response, which we provide below.
The police service works in partnership with other agencies in order to combat issues such as terrorism and organised crime.  As such, information may sometimes be provided by bodies listed at section 23(3).  In this case, we are unable to confirm or deny whether Northumbria Police hold any other information relevant to your request and Sections 23(5) and 24(2) are cited, to protect the involvement or non-involvement of bodies listed at Section 23(3).
The above quoted total payment to informants does not include any payments made to informants where funding may have been supplied by exempt bodies.

Harm for Neither Confirming Nor Denying that any other Information is Held:

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 a recent 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 payment 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

Factors Favouring Confirming or Denying that any other Information is Held:

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:

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 infra-structure of the UK and increase the risk of harm to the public.

Balance Test

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 any other 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 investigations, 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.

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