Police force use of commercial genealogy databses

Adam Vaughan made this Freedom of Information request to Northumbria Police as part of a batch sent to 49 authorities

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by Northumbria Police.

Dear police force FOI officer,
Please can you tell me if you have submitted any samples to (1) GEDmatch and (2) Family Tree DNA, either independently or through a US genetic genealogy service such as Parabon or through the genealogists who worked on the Golden State Killer case. I would like this request considered under FOI rules. Please advise if the request's scope needs narrowing to make it deliverable.
Yours faithfully,
Adam Vaughan

Freedom of Information Mailbox, Northumbria Police

Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)

Thank you for your email received today in which you make a request for information that Northumbria Police may hold in accordance with the Freedom Of Information Act 2000

We are in the process of dealing with your request and a response should be provided to you by 18/03/2019 which is in accordance with the legislation.

Yours sincerely

Information Management Unit

www.northumbria.police.uk | www.northumbria-pcc.gov.uk

'Northumbria Police will be outstanding in the service we provide'

'We will do this through protecting the Vulnerable, delivering quality Investigations and applying Problem solving to everything we do to protect the communities we serve.'

show quoted sections

Freedom of Information Mailbox, Northumbria Police

1 Attachment

 

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

 

Thank you for your e mail dated 15 February 2019 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 at the time of a request, by a Public Authority
(including the Police), subject to certain limitations and exemptions.

 

You asked:

Please can you tell me if you have submitted any samples to (1) GEDmatch
and (2) Family Tree DNA, either independently or through a US genetic
genealogy service such as Parabon or through the genealogists who worked
on the Golden State Killer case.

 

 

We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I
provide a response for your attention.

 

Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) places two duties
on public authorities.  Unless exemptions apply, the first duty at
s1(1)(a) is to confirm or deny whether the information specified in a
request is held.  The second duty at s1(1)(b) is to disclose information
that has been confirmed as being held.  Where exemptions are relied upon
Section 17 of the FOIA requires that we provide the applicant with a
notice which: a) states that face; b) specifies the exemptions in
questions and c) state (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the
exemption(s) apply.

 

Northumbria Police  neither confirms nor denies that it holds information
relevant to this request by virtue of the following exemptions:

 

Section 30(3) Investigations

Section 31(3) Law Enforcement

 

Section 30 is a class based qualified exemption and consideration of the
public interest must be given as to whether neither confirming nor denying
information exists is the appropriate response.

Section 31 is prejudice based and qualified which means that there is a
requirement to articulate the harm in confirming or not whether
information is held as well as carrying out a public interest test.

 

Evidence of Harm in complying with Section 1(1)(a) – to confirm or not
whether information is or isn’t held

The public expect police forces to use all powers and tactics available to
prevent and detect crime or disorder and maintain public safety.  Details
of contracts awarded to forensics companies for them to provide a service
to police forces is published on the Bluelight Procurement Database, see
below link:

[1]https://www.blpd.gov.uk/foi/foicontractv...

In this case, your request is trying to determine whether any samples have
been submitted by UK police forces to individual US genealogy companies
which undoubtedly is sensitive information which may only be known by the
Senior Investigating Officer and their team.  Confirmation or denial would
highlight whether or not Northumbria Police is using these companies as
part of their tactical investigative process in a bid to identify
offenders and bring them to justice.   

Irrespective of what information may or may not be held, to confirm
information is held by citing a substantive exemption or, conversely,
stating ‘no information held’, would undermine the effective delivery of
operational law enforcement by compromising potentially ongoing
investigations, some of which may be covert, as well as undermining an
evidential tactic and the strength that evidence may have if used in a
court of law for the prosecution. 

The Forensic Science Regulator ensures that the provision of forensic
science services across the criminal justice system is subject to an
appropriate regime of scientific quality standards. 

Biometric forensics is at the forefront of many investigations which
remained unsolved for a considerable amount of time.  With the advancement
in biometrics and DNA testing, individuals have now been brought to
justice, examples being:

The murder of Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway resulted in the conviction
of Russell Bishop, see below link:

[2]https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-su...

 

The murder of Georgina Edmonds which resulted in the conviction of Matthew
Hamlen, see below link:

[3]https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-ha...

 

Public Interest Considerations

 

Section 30(3) Investigations

 

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a) confirming that
information is held

Confirming or denying that information exists relevant to this request
would lead to a better informed general public improving their knowledge
and understanding as to how the Police Service deal with forensic samples.

The public are entitled to know how public funds are spent, particularly
when money from the ‘public purse’ is used as part of forensic analysis. 

 

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a)

Modern-day policing is intelligence led and Northumbria Police where
appropriate share information with outside companies as part of their
investigative process.  To confirm or not whether forensic samples are
submitted to named companies could hinder the prevention and detection of
crime as well as undermine the partnership approach to investigations and
law enforcement.

Should offenders take evasive action to avoid detection, police resources
may well be diverted from frontline duties and other areas of policing in
order to locate and apprehend these individuals.  In addition, the safety
of individuals and victims would be compromised. 

 

Section 31(3) Law Enforcement

 

Factors favouring complying with Section 1(1)(a)

There is media speculation and rumour surrounding the subject of UK police
forces using the Ancestry website, see below link, and this fact alone
favours disclosure. 

[4]https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/02...

Factors against complying with Section 1(1)(a)

To Neither Confirm Nor Deny whether or not forensic samples have been
submitted to named UK companies would suggest that Northumbria Police take
their responsibility to robustly investigate all crimes in order to reach
a successful conclusion, seriously and appropriately to ensure the
effective delivery of operational law enforcement.

Irrespective of what information is or isn’t held, by applying substantive
exemptions would indicate that information is held and that Northumbria
Police is proactively investigating unsolved cases.  Such action would
hinder the prevention and detection of crime.

 

Balancing Test

The points above highlight the merits of confirming or denying that
information pertinent to this request exists.  The Police Service
proactively uses all tactics available to them, particularly when trying
to reach a successful conclusion to investigations and solve crime.  Any
tactics are used in line with current regulators and following set
policies and procedures.  

The effective delivery of operational law enforcement takes priority and
is at the forefront of Northumbria Police to ensure the prevention and
detection of crime is carried out and the effective apprehension or
prosecution of offenders is maintained.

Therefore, at this moment in time, it is our opinion that for these issues
the balance test for confirming, nor denying, that information is held is
not made out.

No inference can be taken from this refusal that information does or does
not exist.

 

 

Due to the different methods of recording information across 43 forces, a
specific response from one constabulary should not be seen as an
indication of what information could be supplied (within cost) by another.
Systems used for recording these figures are not generic, nor are the
procedures used locally in capturing the data. For this reason responses
between forces may differ, and should not be used for comparative
purposes.

 

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.

 

You may be interested to know that Northumbria Police routinely publish
information via the Disclosure Log. The aim of the Disclosure Log is to
promote openness and transparency by voluntarily placing information into
the public arena.

 

The Disclosure Log contains copies of some of the information that has
been disclosed by Northumbria Police in response to requests made under
the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

 

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 wider
public interest.

 

The Disclosure Log will be updated once responses have been sent to the
requester.

 

I have provided the relevant link below.

 

[5]https://beta.northumbria.police.uk/about...

 

 

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, attached.

 

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.

Yours sincerely

 

Michael Cleugh

Data Protection and Disclosure Advisor

 

[NOT PROTECTIVELY MARKED]

 

'Northumbria Police will be outstanding in the service we provide'

'We will do this through protecting the Vulnerable, delivering quality
Investigations and applying Problem solving to everything we do to protect
the communities we serve.'

 

 

 

 

NORTHUMBRIA POLICE PRIVACY AND CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE The information
contained in this message and any attachment(s) is confidential and
intended only for the attention of the named organisation or individual to
whom it is addressed. The message may contain information that is covered
by legal, professional or other privilege. No mistake in transmission is
intended to waive or compromise any such privilege. This message has been
sent over public networks and the sender cannot be held responsible for
its integrity. If you are not the intended recipient be aware that any
disclosure, copying, distribution or action taken in reliance of the
information contained herein is strictly prohibited, and is contrary to
the provisions of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act, 1988 and of the
Data Protection Act, 2018. Any views expressed are those of the sender
and, unless specifically stated, do not necessarily represent the view of
Northumbria Police. We cannot accept any liability for any loss or damage
sustained as a result of software viruses. It is your responsibility to
carry out such virus checking as is necessary. If you have received this
message in error, please notify the sender by e-mail at once and delete
the message immediately. For more information about Northumbria Police
please visit our website - http://www.northumbria.police.uk

References

Visible links
1. https://www.blpd.gov.uk/foi/foicontractv...
2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-su...
3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-ha...
4. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/02...
5. https://beta.northumbria.police.uk/about...