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Round-up iconDecisions Round-up: 5 to 9 February 2018

The wording of an FOI request is key to ensuring that a requester receives the information they're looking for. This week's round-up reinforces the importance of ensuring that requests are clearly worded, and cover information likely to be held by a public authority.

 Learning points:

  • Will a search find all the information the requester's looking for?
    It's important that authorities consider all requests carefully, and ensure the searches they carry out will capture all the information they hold which falls within the scope of the request. It doesn't look good if more information is found during our investigation - as happened in Decisions 010/2018 and 013/2018.

 

  • Take care when considering poorly worded requests
    For an FOI request to be valid, it has to describe the information sought. If this isn't described clearly, the request could be invalid. Authorities should, however, take care if considering a refusal for this reason. They should be certain that the information can't actually be identified: this isn't the same as saying a lot of time and resources would be needed to find it (Decision 011/2018).

    Our Tips for Requesters also give useful advice on wording requests.

 

  • Requesters - you can only ask for information the public authority currently holds
    A request for information can only capture the information the public authority holds when it receives that request. You can't expect the authority to provide information it held at some point in the past, but which has been deleted or destroyed. We looked at this briefly in Decision 011/2018.
     

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 010/2018 Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
    SEPA was asked about a report on the environmental impact of sea lice medicine.

    At review, SEPA said that it had disclosed all the information it held. During our investigation, however, SEPA found and disclosed more information falling within the scope of the request.

    We found that SEPA failed to comply with the EIRs by initially failing to identify and disclose all of the relevant information it held.

 

  • Decision 011/2018 Keith Banks and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland (Police Scotland)
    Police Scotland refused Mr Banks' request because it was not satisfied that he had described the information he was seeking.

    We found that the request met the requirements for a valid request. We required Police Scotland to review their handling of the request.

 

  • Decision 012/2018 Mark Irvine and Glasgow City Council
    The Council was asked for minutes of meetings compiled by its Corporate Management Team. We found that the Council failed to respond to the request for review within the required timescale.

 

  • Decision 013/2018 Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
    SEPA was asked for correspondence between it and Marine Scotland concerning a report on the environmental impact of sea lice medicine.

    SEPA initially said that there was no such correspondence. On review, it said that information was published on its website, while during our investigation it found and disclosed additional information.

    We found that SEPA failed to comply with the EIRs by initially failing to disclose all of the information it held. We also found that SEPA failed to meet the EIR timescales.

 

Resolved cases

We resolved nine cases in January without the need for a formal decision.

  • In five cases, the public authority disclosed all of the information they'd previously withheld and the requesters withdrew their appeals.
  • In another two cases, the requesters were happy to withdraw after some information was disclosed during our investigation. In one case we were satisfied that the authority didn't hold other information the requester had asked for and in another we were satisfied that the public authority was entitled to apply an exemption.
  • In one case, the requester decided not to continue with their appeal.
  • In the final case, we treated the appeal as abandoned when the requester did not respond to our calls or emails.

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