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Round-up iconDecisions Round-up: 19 to 23 October 2015

Balancing the public interest arguments for and against disclosure can be one of the more challenging aspects of FOI. This week we feature a case that hinged on an assessment of the public interest in relation to rendition flights that passed through Scotland. What did we decide?  Find out below...

 

Key messages:

 

  •  In the public interest - or of interest to the public?
    Decision 158/2015 looks at a request for information about rendition flights passing through Scottish airports. Rendition flights are something that many people are interested in, with considerable speculation on whether Scottish airports have been used by aircraft carrying prisoners from one country to another. Our decision considered whether the information should be disclosed "in the public interest". We found that the public interest was best served in this case by withholding information as it related to an ongoing investigation, to prevent that investigation being compromised. 

    Want to know more?  Read our briefing on the public interest test.

 

  • The timing of a request can be significant
    Decision 159/2015 looks at a case where a request for information was made shortly before a judicial review was completed. This was a key factor in our decision that the information was correctly withheld. We must consider the circumstances at the time of the request (or, at the latest, at the time of the review request) and we can't take account of any developments after that time.

 

  • Help requesters understand why information isn't held
    There's often a mis-match between the information which requesters expect to be held, and what public authorities actually hold. In Decision 160/2015, the requester asked about legislation affecting an ancient Scots Law remedy relating to threats of violence. The public authority told him that it didn't hold any information, and helpfully went on to explain why it wouldn't normally hold this kind of information.

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 158/2015 Marc Ellison and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland (Police Scotland)
    Mr Ellison asked for a copy of the interim report to the Lord Advocate regarding his investigation of alleged rendition flights passing through Scottish airports. Police Scotland withheld the report under a number of exemptions. We accepted that it is generally in the public interest to preserve the integrity of information relating to the investigation of a crime or potential crime, and that the interim report was correctly withheld.

 

  • Decision 159/2015 Friends of Loch Etive and Argyll and Bute Council
    The Friends of Loch Etive asked for information relating to a "section 75" planning agreement. This was their second request for information on this matter: their first request was refused and we upheld this in Decision 242/2014. The Friends of Loch Etive argued that circumstances had changed since the previous request, as a judicial review was now underway. We found that, despite this and despite the passage of time, the Council was still entitled to withhold the information.

 

  • Decision 160/2015 James Duff and the Scottish Ministers
    Mr Duff asked the Ministers for information about new legislation which changed the procedure by which a debate could be fixed in the legal proceedings known as "Lawburrows" (an ancient Scots Law remedy relating to threats of violence). The Ministers told him that they didn't hold any relevant information, and would not expect to hold information of this kind. They explained that they do not hold copies of legislation, but rely on sources such as "Westlaw" and "legislation.gov.uk" to access legislation.

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