Disclosure Details

Seized Property - 180/12

Dated: 07 Jun 2011

Date of request: 10/02/2012

Date of response: 08/03/2012

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

Thank you for your email dated 10 February 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: 

  1. Who is directly responsible for returning items and property seized during the course of a criminal investigation to the accused, when the case is discontinued, no evidence offered or a ‘not guilty’ verdict has been given?

  2. What are your obligations under law to insure the items and property are returned in the same condition as they were in when you seized them?

  3. If the items or property are damaged while in Police care or during the course of investigations, what is your policy on compensating or replacing the damaged terms/property to the innocent party?

  4. How would an innocent party make such a claim?

  5. Baring in mind that such a seizure and any damage caused could cause the innocent person great stress, inconvenience and loss of earning

    1. How long would such a claim take to process?

    2. How exactly (step by step) would an innocent party make such a claim?

    3. What could you do to speed the process up so that the innocent party suffers as little stress and inconvenience as possible bearing in mind the loss would be your fault?

  6. If South Yorkshire Police requested the seizure be made by the Northumbria Police on their behalf, would Northumbria Police consider that the Northumbria Police were acting as agents of South Yorkshire Police?

  7. If any items seized by the Northumbria Police at the direct request of South Yorkshire Police were later released by Northumbria Police for collection by the owner but there was a time limit in place within which the owner must reclaim his property and if he did not the property would be destroyed;
     a. Who is directly responsible for making the owner aware of any time limit, Northumbria Police or the South Yorkshire Police? I respectfully direct you to your responsibilities under the Police (Property) Act 1987.

  8. If South Yorkshire Police are the responsible party, and an innocent persons property has been damaged or destroyed by the South Yorkshire Police because it can be proven that Northumbria Police failed to notify the owner of any such time limits:  

    1. What is your policy on compensating or replacing the damaged items/property to the innocent party?

    2. How exactly (step by step) would an innocent party make such a claim?

    3. What could you do to speed the process up so that the innocent party suffers as little stress and inconvenience as possible bearing in mind the loss would be your fault?

  9. Baring in mind that such a seizure and any damage caused could cause the innocent person great stress, inconvenience and loss of earnings;

    1. How long would such a claim take to process?

    2. Would Nottinghamshire Police dispute any claim and on what grounds?


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 Criminal Justice and Legal Departments of Northumbria Police.  I can confirm that the information you have requested is held, in part, by Northumbria Police.

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

Please note that the Legal Department have provided a response to questions 3 to 5 with regards to Civil Claims, and questions 6 - 9 with regards to the Police Property Act.  With this in mind please see the below.

  1. As the information you have requested at this point 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.

    This Northumbria Police Property Procedure contains information relevant to this point of your request.  This document has been released previously in response to an FOI request and is therefore already available within the public domain.  In order to aid and assist you further I have provided a link below to the Property Procedure:-

    Property Procedure

    The Police Property Act 1997 stipulates powers in relation to the seizure, retention and disposal of property by police, there is no provision within this Act that outlines obligations in relation to condition of items returned to a suspect.  However, Northumbria Police have procedures in place to facilitate the appropriate storage and handling of both seized and found property, to ensure the property is not damaged.

  2. The only policy concerning damage to property administered by the Legal Department is damage to doors during forced entry when, in restricted circumstances, we will make an ex-gratia payment, even when we acted lawfully.  Otherwise, the Legal Department will only ever make a payment of compensation for damage to property when it is proved that damage was caused and that damage was unlawful.

  3. To make a claim for compensation, a Claimant should write a letter to the Legal Department, explaining what was damaged, the circumstances surrounding the damage and why they think Northumbria Police is liable to compensate them.

    1. We normally follow the procedure set down in the Civil Procedure Rule's Pre Action protocol which allows us three months from receiving a letter of claim to provide a decision on whether or not we accept liability.  Obviously we respond earlier than this if we are able.

    2. Other than telling the Claimant that they can send a letter to the Legal Department to make a claim, we would not provide a step-by-step guidance on making a claim.  This is because we can not provide legal advice to members of the public, if such advice is required this should be sought independently.

    3. We investigate any claim received expediently and respond to the Claimant as soon as we are able.  The Claimant should ensure that they include sufficient information in their letter of claim so that time is not wasted writing back to him for further information.

  4. Yes, Northumbria Police would consider themselves as agents for South Yorkshire Police in such circumstances.

  5. If Northumbria Police had seized property, it would be usual for them to inform the person from whom the property were seized of any collection or time limits in relation to reclamation or return.  Although acting as agents the force  may wish to communicate with the property owner direct.

    1. Please see our responses to 3, 4 and 5b.

    2. As per our response to 8a.

    3. All our procedures are designed to minimise delay/stress and inconvenience so far as is possible given our responsibility under Statute and case law.

    1. All cases are unique and it is therefore impossible to say how long individual cases will take.

    2. No information held.  This question should be directed to Nottinghamshire Police.

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_tcm4-28029