Freedom of information | Suffolk Constabulary

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Freedom of information

The Freedom of Information Act was introduced to give the public greater access to information, in relation to the workings of government and public bodies. Ensuring a more open and transparent public authority, with greater accountability.

The Act gives a general right of access of all information recorded by the Constabulary, sets out the relevant exemptions that can be applied and places a number of obligations on public authorities.

The Act encourages public authorities to effectively manage their information, to ensure accurate and efficient disclosure of information, both proactively onto the Publication Scheme and after a request is received, subject to the application of exemptions.

Any individual can make a request for information under the Act and there are two specific related rights to individuals making a request for information:

  • The right to be told whether the information exists
  • The right to receive the information

The above rights are subject to the application of relevant exemptions, which can remove the right of the Constabulary to provide the data. Further information regarding exemptions can be found within the College of Policing’s Authorised Professional Practice (APP). 

Personal Data Requests

Requests for personal information will not be dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act.

Requests for personal data held on Constabulary systems are dealt with under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998. Further details regarding the Subject Access process can be found within the Data Protection Pages

Chief Officer contact with media

At Suffolk Police we are committed to having a healthy and robust relationship with the media, ensuring that we take the default stance of being open and transparent unless there is a genuine policing purpose not to do so.

Although the force corporate communications team have daily engagement with the media, there are occasions when our Chief Officers engage with the media either during meetings, press conferences, ceremonies, campaign launches or interviews.

Chief Officer Media Engagements are published below.

Media Log

Contact Us

The Head of Information Management (Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies) has operational oversight of Information Security, Records Management and Information Compliance. 

The Information Compliance Unit comprises of three specific area of information management:

  • Data Protection 
  • Disclosure and Barring 
  • Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Team is based at Suffolk Constabulary Police Headquarters, and can be contacted via the following details:

Post :    Suffolk Constabulary Police Headquarters
Portal Avenue
Martlesham Heath
Ipswich
Suffolk
IP5 3QS

Email :     [email protected]

Phone :     01473 613888 Ext 3919 and 2051
 

Force Compliance

Suffolk Constabulary is committed in being fully compliant with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations.

Suffolk FOI Compliance Statistics

Under our duty to be open and transparent, Suffolk Constabulary will publish their FOI compliance stats on a quarterly basis. Information is updated on a quarterly basis and can be found in the table below for the 2012/13 to current financial years:

Financial Year

Total Requests

Compliance Rate

2012/13

731

99.6%

2013/14

884

98.9%

2014/15

989

98.7%

2015/16

1136

99.4%

2016/17

-

100%

ICO monitoring

The Information Commissioner is responsible for ensuring that all public authorities comply with the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations.

The ICO will routinely assess compliance of public authorities by focussing on those who appear to have the most serious or repeated examples of poor performance.  Further guidance can be located on their website.

The Information Commissioner will actively monitor authorities who are non-compliant with the legislation. The list of authorities who have, and are currently being, monitored are published on their website.

Complaints Process

A copy of the Constabulary’s complaints process for FOI and EIR requests, can be located here.

Publication Scheme

The Information Commissioners Office undertook a monitoring exercise of all public sector publication schemes from October 2009 to January 2010. The result of this assessment was published in March 2010. The report is available on the Information Commissioners website

Fees and Charges

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) gives a right of public access to information held by public authorities. Under the terms of the publication scheme, Authorities are required to provide details of any information that is subject to charge.

Where Authorities have historically levied a fee for certain types of information as part of normal business processes, prior to the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act, they will continue to charge for that information. Suffolk Constabulary will not make this information available via the publication scheme; rather will deal with such requests as business as usual by the relevant department. For example, Subject Access requests are and will continue to be dealt under the Data Protection Act and the Traffic Justice Unit will continue to deal with requests for Road Traffic Collision reports.

With the development in electronic systems, there will be few occasions where actual hard copy documents are required however; consideration can be made to apply a fee for copying and postage reimbursements, when it is regarded as excessive. This will be judged on a case-by-case basis and will be periodically revised and updated. Any fees will be communicated to the applicant on receipt of a request for the information.

Requests for information held by the Constabulary, which are dealt with under Freedom of Information, are free with the exception of those requests where section 10 (time for compliance) is exceeded, or for general disbursement costs.

Costs for Disbursements

Where the limit is not exceeded, the only charges that can be passed to the applicant are those associated with providing the information, for example photocopying and postage. These are collectively known as disbursements.

If you require a document in another format or language, the Constabulary will do its best to help you. Please email your request, together with your contact details to [email protected].

In general, at the discretion of the FOI Decision Maker, disbursement costs will be waived however; in exceptional circumstances a fee of 10 pence per sheet of paper can be charged plus appropriate postage costs.

With regards to those requests, which take in excess of 18 hours to locate, retrieve and extract the information, a response will not be provided rather exempt on the grounds of cost. There is discretion to issue a fees notice for such information on the request of the applicant and on a case-by-case basis. Further information with regards to section 12 can be found below.

Suffolk Constabulary’s Publication Scheme contains proactively published information and is generally free to access however, where information is not included in the scheme but is noted as being available, or where a hard copy of that information is required, a request will need to be submitted to the FOI team using the contact details supplied within the ‘Contact Us’ section of this page. The FOI team will endeavour to respond to the request as quickly as possible. The statutory timeframe of 20 working days, depicted by the Act, is not relevant in these circumstances.

FOI Fees regulations

The Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 (the Fees Regulations) provide the framework for setting the maximum fee that can be charged when complying with a request for information under FOIA.

The appropriate cost limit for a request is £450 for public authorities excluding government. When a request is received the Constabulary will estimate how much it will cost to deal with the request and if it will be within this limit.

When estimating the cost of compliance, the Constabulary will consider the cost of:

  • determining whether the information requested is held
  • locating the information
  • retrieving such information or documents

The cost of staff time associated with these activities is currently calculated at £25 per hour. The time spent considering whether or not information is exempt from disclosure cannot be taken into account when estimating the cost of compliance.

Where redaction time is considered excessive, the Constabulary may consider the application of Section 14 (Vexatious requests), but such occurrences are rare and will ordinarily engage with the applicant in the first instance.

An FOI request can be rejected on the basis that it will be too costly to process if it is anticipated that the time spent to locate and collate the information required will exceed 18 hours of work. A Section 12 refusal notice will be issued to the applicant.

Under Section 16 of the FOI Act, public authorities have a duty to assist the applicant. Suffolk Constabulary will endeavour to fulfil this duty wherever possible, providing advice and guidance as to how the request could be refined. 

Further, as a gesture of goodwill, the Constabulary will endeavour to provide any information retrieved prior to it being realised the cost limit would be exceeded, subject to any applicable exemptions.

Suffolk Constabulary will, by the request of the applicant, be willing to provide the information even where the cost exceeds the time limit. Under section 9 of the FOIA, a fees notice will be issued to the applicant. The Fees notice must specify the fee that is being charged by the authority in complying with a request made under section 1 of the FOIA, and on receipt of payment, the request will processed. 

Further assistance with regards charging under FOI can be found on the Information Commissioners website.

EIR regulations – Manifestly Unreasonable

An EIR request can be rejected on the basis that the request is manifestly unreasonable, in accordance with regulation 12(4)(b), which states the request is likely to cause unjustified distress, disruption or irritation without any proper or justified cause.

In such cases, the public interest requires consideration, accounting for the context of the request and any additional historical considerations.  

Police Investigations

Police investigations are conducted with due regard to the confidentiality and privacy of victims, witnesses and suspects. Such investigations may also frequently involve the use of policing tactics or techniques that, if widely known, would hinder the ability of the police service to prevent and detect crime. The release of information concerning current investigations may compromise any subsequent court proceedings.

For these reasons the police service will, in most cases, seek to apply an exemption to prevent the release of information concerning investigations when requested under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

When exempting information concerning police investigations, we will rely on section 30, which states the information that should be exempt from disclosure is:

  • That which is or has been held for the purposes of a criminal investigation;
  • that which is or has been held for criminal proceedings conducted by a public authority;
  • that which was obtained or recorded for various investigative functions from confidential sources and relates to those confidential sources.

The first part of the exemption covers particular criminal investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities. The second part provides protection to information about confidential sources for a wider range of investigative responsibilities.

Whilst adopting this general position, we recognise that in some cases there will be significant and compelling issues of public interest that require the disclosure of information. In order to ensure that these public interest issues are fully considered, all applications for information concerning investigations will be considered on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the requirements of the Act. Therefore, although not required to provide any evidence of harm for a disclosure to take place, we are required to complete a public interest test (PIT) to identify whether it would be in the public’s best interest to disclose or exempt the information.

Collaborative Working

Suffolk and Norfolk Freedom of Information Teams work in collaboration to ensure the most effective and efficient service is provided to individuals requesting information under FOI and EIR legislation.

Both Constabularies remain separate public authorities, but will work in collaboration on requests received by both teams, that concern a collaborated function or department. A lead force will be designated by agreement of both FOI teams who will ensure the administrative and statutory obligations are adhered to.

A joint response on behalf of both Constabularies will be issued by the lead force in consultation with the other force.

Further information concerning the Constabularies collaborative arrangements can be found on the Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioners website.

http://www.suffolk-pcc.gov.uk/collaboration

http://www.suffolk-pcc.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Collaboration-Update-Information-Management.pdf

Information concerning the legal framework for collaborative working in the police service, is published by the Home Office

Disclosure log

Suffolk Constabulary will publish partial and full FOI and EIR disclosures within the Disclosure log section of the Publication Scheme

The Constabulary will publish the data for the current and previous two calendar years and will categorise each disclosure by department.

Disclosure logs can be viewed via the following link.

Publication Scheme

The Publication Scheme can be found here

Public authorities are required under Section 19 of the Freedom of Information Act, to adopt and maintain a Publication scheme, which is approved by the Information Commissioner (ICO) and that is reviewed and updated on a regular basis. 

As of 1st January 2009 the Information Commissioner introduced to all public authorities an approved model Publication Scheme, enforced by Section 19 of the Act, which sets out the statutory requirements that each public authority must adhere to.

Suffolk Constabulary is committed to adopt the standard format used by police services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In doing so, information will be effectively managed within specific classes at a high level, confirming the way information can be provided and whether a fee applies.

The Scheme aims to make as much information as possible available to the public on a continual basis; delivering up to date information, ensuring that the contents of the scheme are reviewed and updated within specified timeframes.

To ensure information can be accessed quickly and easily, the Publication Scheme is maintained in accordance with ICO minimum standards and is split into the following information classes:

  • Who we are and what we do
  • What we spend & how we spend it
  • Our priorities and how we are doing
  • Our policies and procedures
  • How we make decisions
  • Lists and registers
  • Services we provide
  • Significant Public Interest

Information published onto the Publication Scheme is free of charge however, there may be additional disbursement costs; i.e. for printing or postage, in cases where a large quantity of information is required.

If you require information, which has not already been published, but is within the minimum standards as set by the ICO, please contact the Freedom of Information Team via [email protected] 

For information, which is not routinely published, you will need to submit a Freedom of Information request. Please refer to the ‘Request Information’ section of this page for more information.

The Publication Scheme is monitored and developed by the Freedom of Information Team at Police Headquarters.

The FOI team contact details can be found on the ‘Contact us’ section of this page                       

Copies of documents

If you require a hard copy of any of the information provided within the Publication Scheme, please contact the Freedom of Information team, who can advise whether or not there will be a copying charge. Please refer to the fees and charges section of this page for more details.

Translation Requests

If you require a document in another format or language, the Constabulary will do its best to help you. Please e-mail your request, together with your contact details to [email protected]

Request information

Before making a request, it is worth checking to see if the information required has been published on the website already by searching our Publication Scheme and Disclosure Log pages.

Where the information you require isn't already available online, you can make a request using one of the methods below.

To ensure that you make a valid request please include the following details:

  • Name and address – In order to comply with Section 8 of the Act, the Constabulary will require your full name, either to include first and surnames, or to include title and surname.
  • A description of the information you would like to access
  • The way you would like the information to be sent to you (eg hard copy, email) - unless stated otherwise we will respond in the same way as the request has been made. 

You can make a freedom of information request by applying in writing:

By post:    

Freedom of Information Team
Suffolk Constabulary
Police Headquarters
Portal Avenue
Martlesham Heath
Ipswich;
IP5 3QS;

By Email:   [email protected]

Requests for Environmental Information can be made in the same manner as an FOI request and can also be requested either in person, or via the telephone. In addition to the contact details supplied above, if you wish to make a request for environmental information via the phone, our telephone contact details are: 01473 613888 Ext 2051 or 3919

Responding

Once we have received your request for information, we have a statutory obligation to respond within twenty working days from the date the Constabulary received your request for information. However this can be extended in certain circumstances, where the public interest is being considered.

Further Information

More detailed information concerning the Freedom of Information Act and the exemptions can be found via the Information Commisioners Website and the College of Policing’s Authorised Professional Practice (APP).

 

Enviromental information regulations

The Environmental Information Regulations were enacted into UK law in 2004, and were introduced to all public authorities on 1 January 2005.

The Regulations derive from European Directive 2003/4/CE, which principally provides public access to environmental information, encouraging greater awareness of issues that affect the environment.

The source of the directive originated from an international agreement entitled the Aarhus Convention, which was signed by the UK in 1998. The Convention confirms what the signatories must do to provide access to environmental information:

“In order to contribute to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, each party shall guarantee the rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice on environmental matters in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.”

The main principles of the Regulations are to provide a right of access to information about the environment held by public authorities, subject to the application of specific exceptions.

Environmental Information is defined within Article 2(1) of the Directive, as any information in written, visual, aural, electronic or any other material form concerning:

  1. The state of the elements of the environment, such as air, water, soil, land, fauna (including human beings)
  2. Factors, such as substances, energy, noise, radiation, waste, emissions, discharges and other releases into the environment, affecting, or likely to affect, the elements of the environment
  3. Measures and activities, such as policies, legislation, plans, programmes and environmental agreements, affecting or likely to affect the elements and factors of the environment
  4. Reports on the implementation of environmental legislation
  5. Cost benefit and other economic analyses and assumptions used within the framework of the measures and activities
  6. The state of human health and safety, including the contamination of the food chain, conditions of human life, cultural sites and built structures inasmuch as they are or may be affected by the state of the elements

Requests under the EIRs can be made by letter, email and verbally via telephone or in person. Please refer to the ‘Request Information’ section of this page for more information.

There is a presumption in favour of disclosure under EIR. Part 3 of the Regulations details the Exceptions to the duty to disclose environmental information.