Disclosure Details

Olympic Torch - 544/12

Dated: 31 Jul 2015

Date of request:   26/06/2012

Date of response:   20/07/2012

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

Thank you for your email dated 26 June 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: 

"How many people have been visited at their home by officers to ask about their intentions with regards to the Olympic torch.

By this I mean people were visited/spoken to in relation to the Policing of the Olympic Torch relay through the Northumbria Police force area in order to ensure that the force could support its obligations in relation to the facilitation of peaceful protest as well as the safety and security of the Olympic Torch and bearers."

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 Operations Department of Northumbria Police.  I can confirm that the information you have requested is held by Northumbria Police, however we shall not be disclosing the requested information and by doing so we shall rely on the following exemptions:

Section 24(1) National Security 
Section 31(1) (a)(b) - Law Enforcement

We believe disclosure of this information would cause operational harm to Northumbria Police and affect our ability to fulfil our core function of law enforcement in the future as disclosure of information would allow members of the public to identify the resources used to police future high profile events.  This would enable individuals and organisations that are intent on causing disruption to identify strengths and weaknesses which could be exploited causing harm to members of the public.  This harm would extend nationally as the Olympic Torch Relay passes through the whole of the UK.

Should these weaknesses be exploited, then there is a strong possibility of disruption causing distress to members of the public and subsequently loss of confidence in Northumbria Police. 

Resources would have to be reallocated which would impact on the ability of Northumbria Police to prevent and detect crime.  Regular abstractions would hinder other Northumbria Police priorities.

Sections 24 and 31 are prejudice based, qualified exemptions and there is a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused as well as carrying out a public interest test.  I have set these out below.

Public Interest Test

The public interest is not what interests the public, but what will be of greater good if released to the community as a whole.  It is not in the public interest to disclose information that may compromise Northumbria Police's ability to fulfil its core functions.  Detailed information pertaining to the planning of security and safety of high profile events is rarely disclosed so that the tactics and resources and intelligence used do not become public knowledge thereby rendering them ineffective.

Section 24(1) National Security

Evidence of Harm

There is a long held tradition of peaceful protest in the UK and the Northumbria Police stance on protest during the torch relay is no different to normal.

Northumbria Police seeks to engage with those who wish to protest in order to work with them so that we can balance their rights with the rights of others.  Of concern to Northumbria Police is the manner in which people may wish to protest.

Northumbria Police in conjunction with all Home Office forces is working closely with local authorities and the Organising Committee for the Olympic and Para Olympic Games, which has overall responsibility for the planning and staging of the Torch Relay and its route to ensure a safe and secure celebration.

Northumbria Police working in conjunction with other forces on a regional basis, are responsible for planning and delivering the wider policing operation for the relay and other associated events.  Northumbria Police are providing the wider policing operation around these events, including managing intelligence, providing a crime and incident response and maintaining public order and safety.

The release of information identifying the focus of policing activity in safeguarding public order and the prevention of terrorism could be used to the advantage of terrorists or criminal organisations.  The disclosure of information that undermines operational integrity will adversely affect public safety, and have a negative impact on national security. 

Historically, the Olympic Torch Relay has attracted protest because of the high profile nature of the event.  For example, in 2008, the French leg of the Olympic Torch Relay ended in chaos when protestors forced officials to repeatedly extinguish the flame.  The Relay was abandoned and a planned ceremony to greet the torch outside of Paris City Hall had to be cancelled.

The Olympic Torch Relay will pass many iconic UK sites which may be potential targets for national and international terrorists and protestors.  To disclose intelligence, tactics and methods used to ensure the safety and security of the Olympic Torch Relay may make them ineffectual for future similar events and future Olympic Torch Relays which may pass through the UK.

Considerations favouring disclosure

The threat from national and international terrorism is ever present and the public are entitled to know how public funds are spent and resources are distributed within an area of policing.  In the current financial climate of cuts and with the call for transparency of public spending, disclosure would enable improved public debate.

Considerations favouring non-disclosure

Disclosure of operational information, no matter how generic, cannot be in the public interest if ongoing or future operations or investigations to protect the security of individuals, organisations and strategic sites in the UK would be compromised.  Security measures are put in place to protect the community we serve.  As evidenced within the harm, disclosure would have an impact on certain intelligence operations which could have implications for safeguarding national security.

Section 31(1) (a)(b) - Law Enforcement

Evidence of Harm

Under the Act, we cannot, and do not request the motives of any application for information.  We have no doubt that the vast majority of requests made under the Act are legitimate and the applicants do not have any ulterior motives.  However, in disclosing information to one applicant, we are expressing a willingness to provide it to anyone in the world.  This means that a disclosure to a genuinely interested and concerned person automatically opens it up for a similar disclosure, including those who would use the information to gain an advantage over our ability to proportionately police protests, demonstrations and other public order type events.

In considering whether or not this information should be disclosed, consideration has been given to the potential harm that could be caused by disclosure.

Policing is intelligence led.  Disclosure of the requested information is likely to show the level of policing interest that has or has not occurred in a specific area of policing and would enable those intent on public disorder and those engaged in criminal activity to identify the focus of policing.  The release of such information would reveal operational information which would be to the detriment of providing an efficient policing service and a failure in providing a duty of care to all members of the public.  This would affect law enforcement as more resources would be required to police future high profile events.

Considerations favouring disclosure

There is a public interest in disclosure of this type of information.  Disclosure would enable the public to see where public funds are being spent, provide accurate information and reduce speculation and falsehoods around the policing of high profile events, protests, and demonstrations which would increase public awareness and may reduce crime or lead to more information from the public.

Disclosure of the information would reinforce Northumbria Police's commitment to openness and transparency.

Considerations favouring non-disclosure

I am of the opinion that it is not in the public interest to disclose sensitive operational information that demonstrates intelligence led deployments by Northumbria Police when planning and policing high profile events.  Disclosure would hinder the ability of Northumbria Police to prevent and detect crime and disorder when planning for future events.

It would not be in the public interest to provide the level of detail available to Northumbria Police with regards to the planning and policing of high profile events of this nature.  The requested information would assist those planning to commit acts of violence, for example against torchbearers, members of the Torch Relay Team or acts of damage to iconic sites.  Disclosure of the type of intelligence and capabilities available to the police at a specific point in time would enable people intent on committing acts of disorder and criminal activity to circumvent methods deployed to keep the peace.

As explained within the evidence of harm, to enable the public to be better informed about the intelligence, capabilities and resources available for planning and policing high profile events, would greatly impact on police resources.  There are likely to be individuals who seek to obtain tactical and strategic details.  This information could be used to improve their criminal plans on avoiding detection and apprehension at high profile events, whilst placing individuals at greater risk. It would not be in the public interest to disclose the requested information as it is likely to impact on police resources.

Balance Test

The strongest reason favouring disclosure of the requested information is that it would enable the public to gain an understanding of the considerations, decisions, intelligence and options available to Northumbria Police when planning the policing of high profile events.  This will enable the public to gain a better understanding of the professional and lawful strategies Northumbria Police puts in place to police such events.

The strongest reason favouring non-disclosure is that the disclosure would hinder the ability of Northumbria Police to prevent and detect crime at future similar events.  Northumbria Police is likely to need to adapt its tactics and strategies at future high profile events if through the Act, the public at large are able to ascertain the intelligence, capabilities and resources available for planning and policing such events.  Disclosure of operational capabilities and intelligence would enable criminals to evade apprehension and detection at similar future events.  I consider that the benefit that would result from the information being disclosed does not outweigh the arguments favouring exemption.  For this reason, I am of the opinion that the public interest favours non-disclosure.

After the Games, a post Olympic Report will be published and should be available to the general public by the end of 2012 which will contain some of the information you have requested.

You may be interested to know that Northumbria Police routinely publish information that has been disclosed by Northumbria Police in response to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 via the Disclosure Log.  The aim of the Disclosure Log is to promote openness and transparency by voluntarily placing information into the public arena.

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 underour 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_tcm4-28029