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Round-up iconDecisions Round-up: 29 February to 4 March 2016

Does the evidence support the decision? This week's Round-up features cases where authorities were able to provide evidence which clearly supported their approach: including two cases where, without that evidence, there may have been no obvious reason why the request should be refused.

 

Learning points:

 

  • Evidence is all-important
    In all three decisions issued this week, we upheld the authority's response because they were able to provide evidence to support their position. If you are refusing a request for any reason, you should be able to show clearly why you reached that conclusion.

    In Decision 041/2016 the authority didn't hold information from correspondence dating back some years. FOI only covers information which is held by an authority, and the authority was able to show that it had carried out searches of areas most likely to hold the information, without finding any. It gave reasons why it was unlikely that the information had been created in the first place. It also explained why, if the information had existed, it was likely to have been either transferred to another body, or routinely destroyed. 

    Decisions 042/2016 and 043/2016 both concern requests which were refused because of the cost of complying with them. Under FOI, requests can be refused where the cost to the authority exceeds £600. In both cases, there was no obvious reason why it would be difficult or time-consuming to provide the requested information. However, the authority was able to show that the searches required would be more complex and wide-ranging than was first apparent, partly because of the number of people who would be involved, and partly because of the way information is indexed. Because of the evidence provided, we accepted that the cost of complying with these apparently reasonable requests would be more than the £600 limit.

    Keeping records of searches and cost calculations can be well worth the effort if the requester comes to us for a decision later on.  Our toolkit module on searching for information has useful advice on improving searches, while our provides guidance on charging under FOI and the EIRs.

 

Decisions issued:

 

  • Decision 041/2016 James Duff and Dumfries and Galloway Council
    Mr Duff asked for correspondence between the Council and the Law Society of Scotland, relating to complaints he had made. The Council stated that it did not hold the information. After investigating, we accepted that no relevant information was held. 

 

  • Decision 042/2016 Tommy Kane and the Scottish Ministers
    Mr Kane asked for details of meetings between the Scottish Government and representatives of Edinburgh Airport during a specified period. He was told that it would cost more than £600 to respond to his request and so the Ministers were not required to comply. After investiging, we accepted this.

 

  • Decision 043/2016 Tommy Kane and the Scottish Ministers
    Mr Kane also asked for details of meetings between the Scottish Government and representatives of Edinburgh Airport during another specified period. He was again told that responding would cost more than £600 and, following investigation, we again accepted this.

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