Decisions Round-up: 10 to 14 July 2017

A short round-up this week, but with some key learning points including: when an authority is relying on a harm-based exemption the link between disclosure and the harm identified must be shown. Similarly, when stating that it would cost too much to respond to a request, an authority's cost calculations must be robust, realistic and not overstated.

Learning points:


  • An authority must understand the information before withholding it
    An authority must ensure that it knows what's in the information (here, board meeting minutes) before deciding to withhold it. Decision 105/2017 is a case where the authority couldn't persuade us that it had considered the information adequately before deciding to withhold it.


  • Will it really cost that much?
    When an authority has refused a request on grounds of costs, we expect to see robust cost calculations before we will accept this. Costs should be accurate, realistic and should not be overstated. Again, see Decision 105/2017.


  • Will harm really result from release?
    When looking at an exemption with a "harm-test" (i.e. one where the authority must demonstrate that harm will result from release) it's important that the authority doesn't just describe the harm it believes will result from disclosure. There needs to be a clear link between disclosure of the information and that harm. Decision 106/2017 is a good example of a case where we weren't persuaded that there was such a link.


  • As ever, respond on time
    We're still regularly seeing cases where the public authority has failed to respond on time - a basic requirement of the legislation. Decisions 102/2017 and 103/2017 are two examples from this week.


Decisions issued:


  • Decision 103/2017 Mr K and City of Edinburgh Council
    The Council was asked for information on interment and lair records for Ratho Burial Ground. In both cases we found that the Council failed to respond to the review requests within the 20-working day timescale, and ordered the Council to respond.


  • Decision 104/2017 Martin Conaghan and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland
    Mr Conaghan asked for information about reports of alleged criminal behaviour. Police Scotland refused to confirm or deny whether the information existed or was held by them. We accepted that this was an appropriate response in the circumstances.


  • Decision 105/2017 Andrew Picken and Glasgow Prestwick Airport Limited (GPA)
    GPA was asked for copies of its board meeting minutes. GPA stated that it was not obliged to respond as the cost of doing so would be more than £600. We weren't satisfied that GPA's calculations were adequate, and ordered GPA to give another response.


  • Decision 106/2017 Douglas W Tott and CalMac Ferries Ltd (CalMac)
    CalMac was asked for the number of late cancellations of pre-booked commercial vehicle sailings by a specified haulier. CalMac refused to provide the information as it considered it to be "commercially confidential", and so exempt from disclosure. The Commissioner investigated and found that CalMac had incorrectly withheld the information. She ordered CalMac to disclose the information.



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