Commissioner welcomes House of Lords opinion

Press release: 9 July 2008

Kevin Dunion, Scottish Information Commissioner, today welcomed the House of Lords ruling on the appeal by the Common Services Agency against a Court of Session judgement in favour of his decision in the case of Michael Collie (4) and the CSA.

The decision concerned a request in 2005 by a Green Party researcher for data showing the incidence of childhood leukaemia at ward level in Dumfries and Galloway. The Commissioner ordered release of this statistical data in 'barnardised' (5) form ? a method for disguising statistical information to prevent identification. The Court of Session upheld the Commissioner's decision (6) on appeal, after which the CSA took their case to the House of Lords.

The Lords have today ruled to allow the appeal (7), and have remitted the decision back to the Commissioner, to establish whether or not the statistical information can be released without the risk of identifying individuals.

The Commissioner is studying the House of Lords decision carefully."I am pleased that the Lords have upheld my view that the Common Services Agency does hold the information in dispute and I am entitled to require authorities to anonymise personal data so that it can be released. Clearly, developments since the issue of the original decision mean that I need to address again what statistical information can be disclosed in this case whilst protecting the privacy of individual patients. I am looking forward to working with the Common Services Agency to establish what information can be released in light of the House of Lords decision".


For further information contact the Commissioner's Media Team on 01334 464610, out of hours, 07976 511752.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) provides individuals and organisations with a right of access to the information held by Scottish public authorities.
  2. The Data Protection Act 1998 protects persons' right to privacy with respect to the processing of personal data.
  3. Over 10,000 Scottish public authorities are currently covered by FOISA, including the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government, all 32 Scottish local authorities, the NHS, the Police and educational institutions.
  4. The Commissioner issued his decision in the case of Collie and the Common Services Agency (CSA) on 15 August 2005.The decision is available here.
  5. 'Barnardisation' is a recognised data camouflage method which modifies data by +/-1 to protect it from identification.
  6. The CSA appealed the Commissioner's decision to the Court of Session. The Court of Session found in favour of the Scottish Information Commissioner. The Court's judgement can be read on the Scottish Courts website:
  7. The CSA then appealed the case to the House of Lords. The case - Common Services Agency (Appellants) v Scottish Information Commissioner (Respondent) (Scotland) - was heard in April 2008 and the Lords' opinion was published today. The opinion can be read on their website.

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