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UFO, ghosts, witches and extra-terrestrial activities

Date of request: 17 February 2022
Reference: 226-22


How many reports of UFO, ghosts, witches and extraterrestrial activities were recorded by your force in 2021, 2022


I am writing to confirm that Avon and Somerset Police holds information on the subject you have requested, however, I have to advise you that on this occasion we will not be able to answer your request without exceeding the appropriate cost limit. This is because the information, though held, is not centrally recorded i.e. there is no category, filter or flag for UFOs, ghosts, witches or extra-terrestrial activities which would facilitate an electronic search.  We would be required to manually review all records created within that time-frame to ascertain whether or not it relates to those activities.    As an illustration of how long it would take to conduct a manual review we can advise that 194,104 new records have been created in our crime recording database ‘Niche’ since January 2021.


Consideration was given to undertaking a free text search for UFO / ghosts / witches / extraterrestrial.  However, key word searches are problematic as they do not in any way provide an accurate response. If the key words have not been mentioned (or spelt correctly), the data will not be collected. Equally, if the key words have been mentioned in an unrelated context, irrelevant data will be collected.  As an illustration, a free text search has previously been undertaken for “UFO”.  This search yielded two results, both of which related to theft offences (UFO security tags).


Section 12 of the Act makes provision for public authorities to refuse requests for information where the cost of dealing with them would exceed the appropriate cost limit, which for police authorities is set at £450 or 18 staff hours. This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 2.5 working days in determining whether the department holds the information, locating, retrieving and extracting it.


This serves as a refusal notice under section 17(1) of the FOI Act.


Due to the reasons set out above, I am unable to assist you, under our section 16 obligation, on this occasion in refining your request to fit within the cost and time limits set out within the Freedom of Information Act.

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