FOI 08102019-1 – Correspondence in relation to Harry Dunn


I write with a fresh request for information under the FOIA as follows:

* Please provide copies of all emails between the commissioner’s office and Northamptonshire Police relating to the Harry Dunn case between September 30, 2019, and today’s date (up to the time of this email).


Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) places two duties on public authorities. Unless exemptions apply, the first duty at Section 1(1)(a) is to confirm or deny whether the information specified in a request is held.


The second duty at Section 1(1)(b) is to disclose information that has been confirmed as being held. Where exemptions are relied upon, Section 17 of Freedom of Information Act requires that we provide the applicant with a notice which:


  1. a) States that fact
  2. b) Specifies the exemption(s) in question and
  3. c) State (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies


I can confirm that the Office of the Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner does hold the information that you have requested. However, we are withholding some of that information since we consider that the following exemptions apply to it:


Section 30(1)(a) Investigations and Proceedings conducted by Public Authorities

Section 40(2) Personal information


The Section 30 exemption is a class-based qualified exemption. This means that the legislators when writing the legislation considered that the release of such information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 would cause harm to the public authority or individual concerned. There is therefore no requirement to carry out a HARM Test in respect of such information. However there is a requirement to carry out a Public Interest Test in order to establish whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption may be outweighed by a wider public benefit in disclosure.


Section 30(1)(a) Investigations and Proceedings conducted by Public Authorities

(1) Information held by a public authority is exempt information if it has at any time been held by the authority for the purposes of –

(a) Any investigation which the public authority has a duty to conduct with a view to it being ascertained (i) whether a person should be charged with an offence, or (ii) whether a person charged with an offence is guilty of it.


Public Interest Test


Considerations favouring disclosure:

Disclosure of the information would improve the public’s knowledge and understanding of the investigatory process and, as all police investigations are publically funded, would show how public funds are being spent. RTC investigations can be highly emotive and attract large media interest, therefore disclosure of the information would show the public that the investigation had been conducted properly.


Considerations favouring non-disclosure:

This exemption covers information held at any time for the purpose of an investigation, whether the case is ongoing, closed or abandoned. In addition to this, there are already in place established procedures for disclosure when to do so would aid an investigation, for example an appeal for witnesses through media channels. Disclosure of the requested information would prejudice how investigations are carried out in the future, which in turn would undermine an individual’s right to a fair trial. This would hinder the prevention and detection of crime which would affect the force’s future law enforcement capabilities.


Section 40(2) FoIA – Personal Information

40 (2) Any information to which a request for information relates is also exempt information if-

(a) it constitutes personal data which do not fall within subsection (1), and

(b) either the first or the second condition below is satisfied.

Under section 40(2) FoIA (by virtue of section 40(3A)), personal data of a third party can be withheld

if it would breach any of the data protection principles to disclose it.

Personal data is defined in section 3(2) of the Data Protection Act 2018 as: ‘any information relating to an identified or identifiable living individual’

Section 3(3) defines an identifiable living individual as ‘a living individual who can be identified,

directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to –

(a) an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data or an online identified, or

(b) one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or

social identity of the individual’

The two main elements of personal data are that the information must ‘relate’ to a living person and that the person must be identifiable. Information will relate to a person if it is about them, linked to them, has some biographical significance for them, is used to inform decisions affecting them, and has them as its main focus or impacts on them in any way.

Some of the correspondence being requested contains the contact details of individuals from outside media organisations and it would not be fair and hence, a breach of Article 5, to put this information into the public domain without express consent having been given.

For your information, section 40(2) in these circumstances is an absolute exemption and there is no requirement for the public interest test to be considered.