Decisions Round-up: 11 to 15 January 2016

In this week's Round-up we look at some points that authorities can overlook when issuing responses, particularly:


  • information that has already been published, either by other authorities, or by other parts of the same authority; and
  • telling requesters about their rights of review and appeal in every case, including when you think you are disclosing everything they asked for.

Key messages:

  • Tender information can be very time-sensitive
    When an authority is responding to a request for information about a tender, the closer the request comes to the award of the contract, the more likely it is that the information will be confidential. This was the case in Decision 001/2016.
  • Make sure your responses are fully co-ordinated
    In Decision 002/2016, the authority which responded to the request was an executive agency of the Scottish Ministers. The initial response was that it would be too costly to provide the information, but the majority of it was published on the Ministers' website. We found that the original response to the request was not a fully co-ordinated one representing the position of the Ministers as a whole.
  • Remember to tell requesters about their rights
    You can't assume that a requester will know about their rights to review and to appeal to the Commissioner. Even when you think you're giving the requester a full response to their request, the Section 60 Code makes it clear you should tell them about their rights. In Decision 003/2016 we found that, by not doing this, the Scottish Ministers fell short of good practice.

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 197/2015 Paul Hutcheon and Police Scotland
    Mr Hutcheon asked the Police for the numbers of times they had sought and been granted judicial approval to acquire communications data to identify journalistic sources. The Police failed to respond to Mr Hutcheon's request and request for review within the FOI Act's timescales, but did respond shortly before our decision was issued.
  • Decision 001/2016 Alan Howard and Moray Council
    Mr Howard asked the Council for an Invitation to Tender response questionnaire. The Council provided some of the information, withholding other information under various exemptions in the FOI Act. The Council gave Mr Howard further information during the investigation, and we accepted that the remaining information was correctly withheld under the confidentiality exemption in section 36(2) of the FOI Act.
  • Decision 002/2016 Mark Howarth and the Scottish Ministers (the Ministers)
    Mr Howarth asked the Ministers for information about prisoners released on compassionate grounds. The Scottish Prison Service (the SPS) responded on behalf of the Ministers. Mr Howarth believed the Ministers should have responded directly rather than passing the request to the SPS, but we found that this was acceptable, since the SPS and the Ministers are part of the same public authority for the purposes of the FOI Act. However, we also identified some shortcomings in the Ministers' handling of the request.
  • Decision 003/2016 Ian Lindsay and the Scottish Ministers
    Mr Lindsay asked the Ministers for information about responsibility for safe sewerage discharges. The Ministers responded with an explanation and directed Mr Lindsay to a website containing further relevant information. We found that the Ministers had identified, located and disclosed all the relevant information they held. However, we also found that the Ministers fell short of good practice by failing to provide Mr Lindsay with details of his review and appeal rights.

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