Decisions Round-up: 9 to 20 March 2015



We published five decisions between 9 and 20 March - details, links and learning points below.

Key messages:

  • When is information held, but not held?
    Two of the decisions we issued this week look at section 3 of the FOI Act. The FOI Act gives everyone the right to ask for information held by public authorities. However, if a public authority holds the information on behalf of someone else, the public authority doesn't hold the information for the purposes of the Act (section 3(2)(a)(i)). In Decision 031/2015, the authority originally argued that it held information on behalf of another authority, although it later changed its mind. In Decision 032/2015, we agreed that, even if the authority had correspondence from a councillor on its systems, it would be information held on behalf of the councillor and therefore not accessible from the authority.
  • How far do reviews have to go?
    For a request for review to be valid, it must set out why the requester is dissatisfied with the way their request was responded to. In Decision 030/2015, the authority didn't respond to all of the points raised by the requester at review and the requester asked us to consider whether a proper review had been carried out. As we say in the decision, the FOI Act doesn't require authorities to provide a point by point rebuttal of each and every argument made by the requester. In this case, it was clear that the authority had reviewed the information afresh and had concluded that the exemptions and public interest test had been correctly applied. We found that a proper review had been carried out.

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 028/2015 Mr K and the Scottish Prison Service
    Mr K asked the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) about arrangements to access standalone PC facilities within a particular prison. The SPS provided some information. Mr K believed that the SPS held more information than had been disclosed to him and was also unhappy that the SPS had treated correspondence from him as new requests for information rather than as part of its review of his original request. We investigated and found that the SPS had properly responded to Mr K's request.
  • Decision 029/2015 Mr X and Lothian Health Board
    Mr X asked the Health Board about incidents and accidents forms completed by healthcare staff in Edinburgh Prison. The Health Board disclosed the forms, after redacting some names. Mr X thought that the Health Board held more forms than they had disclosed to him. After an investigation, we were satisfied that it didn't.
  • Decision 030/2015 Ewan McLean and Police Scotland
    Mr McLean asked the Police for a list of all vehicles used, owned or operated by the Police, including registration, make, model, colour, etc. He also wanted to know whether the vehicles were marked or unmarked, what their primary use was and where they were used. The Police disclosed information about high visibility vehicles, but withheld the other information Mr McLean had asked for. We agreed that disclosing the information would substantially prejudice the prevention or detection of crime and the apprehension or prosecution of offenders and that the Police had been entitled to withhold the information.
  • Decision 031/2015 Roy Mackay and City of Edinburgh Council
    The City of Edinburgh Council undertook an investigation on behalf of Scottish Borders Council. Mr Mackay asked Edinburgh for information about the investigation. Edinburgh told Mr Mackay that it held the information on behalf of Scottish Borders, which meant it didn't hold the information for the purposes of the FOI Act. During the investigation, Edinburgh changed its mind and issued a different response to Mr Mackay.
  • Decision 032/2015 Dr Ruth Thomas and South Lanarkshire Council
    Dr Thomas asked the Council for correspondence sent by Councillor Hamish Stewart to Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) about a bus route between Edinburgh and Dumfries. Councillor Stewart is a member of SPT. Following an investigation, we were satisfied that, even if the Council did have the correspondence on its systems, it would hold the emails on behalf of Councillor Stewart and not on its own behalf.

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