Commissioner requires release of information from Wick Harbour death report

The Scottish Information Commissioner today (16 January 2007) has issued a decision requiring Northern Joint Police Board to release a substantial proportion of the information contained within a report relating to the death of Kevin McLeod at Wick Harbour in 1997.

The report considers the manner in which Northern Constabulary dealt with complaints made by the McLeod family regarding its investigation of the case. The report, commissioned by the Board, was produced by Andrew Cameron, the Chief Constable of Central Scotland Police.

Kevin McLeod?s uncle, Allan McLeod, requested a copy of the report findings from the Board under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA). The Board refused this request, arguing that FOISA permitted the report to be withheld under various exemptions. Mr McLeod subsequently appealed to the Commissioner.

Following investigation, the Commissioner found that, while some of the information contained within the report could be withheld, the majority of the information - approximately two-thirds of the report - should be released.

Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, said:

    ?Clearly this case involves sensitive matters. It has not been the practice for such reports to be put into the public domain. However the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act means that authorities have to justify withholding information. The Board argued that the entire content of this report fell within the scope of the various exemptions cited. However, the report covers a range of information, relating not only to complaints about the actions of individual officers, but also to Northern Constabulary?s general policies and procedures when investigating complaints of this nature. ?

    ?I have found that most of the information which relates to the concerns the McLeod family raised with the Police should be disclosed, along with that information relating to the manner in which their complaints were handled. Release of some of this information will promote Northern Constabulary?s accountability.?

The Commissioner added:

    ?While this decision may have a bearing on whether similar reports should be released in the future, each case has to be reviewed on its individual merits, and a decision reached only following careful consideration of the specific circumstances involved.?

The Commissioner required the information to be disclosed to Mr McLeod within 45 days.


For further information contact Claire Sigsworth or Paul Mutch on 01334 464610, out of hours, 07976 511752

Notes to Editors:

Case Background

  • Kevin McLeod?s body was discovered in Wick Harbour in February 1997.
  • The McLeod family made several complaints to Northern Constabulary about the way in which the subsequent investigation into Kevin?s death was carried out.
  • In January 2002, the Northern Joint Police Board appointed Andrew Cameron to consider the manner in which Northern Constabulary had investigated the content of complaints received from the McLeod family, including the conduct of the Chief Officers involved.
  • Mr Cameron?s Report, entitled ?A report of an enquiry into Northern Constabulary?s management of complaints against the Police made by members of the McLeod Family of Wick?, was submitted to the Board in November 2002.
  • Allan McLeod requested a copy of the report findings from the Board under FOISA on 3 June 2005.
  • FOISA allows authorities to withhold information if it falls under one of the exemptions listed in FOISA. The Board argued that the report findings should be withheld under the following exemptions:
  • Section 30(b)(i), 30(b)(ii) and 30(c) ? Prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs
    • Section 34(3) ? Investigations by Scottish public authorities and proceedings arising out of such investigations
    • Section 35(1)(g) ? Law enforcement
    • Section 36(1) - Confidentiality
    • Section 38(1)(b), read with 38(2)(a)(i) and 38(2)(a)(ii) ? Personal information
  • The Board applied the bulk of the exemptions to the report in its entirety, and did not draw any distinction between the differing types of information contained within the report.
  • The Commissioner?s assessment of the report considered these different types of information, and concluded that, while some of the exemptions cited could be applied to some of the report?s content, much of the content did not fall within the scope of an exemption.
  • The Commissioner found that the following exemptions had been applied incorrectly: sections 30(b)(i), 30(b)(ii), 30(c), 34(3) and 38(1)(b) read with 38(2)(a)(ii). The Commissioner also found that, for the most part, the Board was wrong to withhold information under section 35(1)(g), although some limited information was found to fall within the scope of this exemption.
  • The Commissioner also found that some of the personal data in the report was exempt under section 38(1)(b) read with 38(2)(a)(i), while other personal data was not.
  •  The Commissioner upheld the Board?s decision to withhold some information in the report under section 36(1) of FOISA.
  • To receive a full copy of the Commissioner?s decision, contact Claire Sigsworth or Paul Mutch on 01334 464610, out of hours, 07976 511752, email:

The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

  • The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) provides a statutory right of access to all information held by Scottish public authorities. This right came into effect on 1 January 2005.
  • Around 10,000 public authorities in Scotland are covered by FOISA. They include the Scottish Parliament and Executive, police forces, the NHS, local authorities, education institutions, and publicly owned companies.
  • Information can only be withheld by a public authority if it falls under one of the exemptions listed in FOISA. If an individual believes an authority is wrong to withhold information, they ultimately have a right of appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner, who can require release.
  • The parties to any case have the right to appeal against the Commissioner?s decision to the Court of Session on a point of law only.

The Scottish Information Commissioner

  • Kevin Dunion the Scottish Information Commissioner is a fully independent public official, appointed by the Queen on the nomination of the Scottish Parliament.
  • His duties and powers are to ensure that people get the information from Scottish public authorities to which they are entitled.
  • His role actively promotes and enforces compliance with FOISA.

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