Decisions Round-up: 11 to 15 May 2015

Unusual circumstances that can trip authorities up is the theme emerging from the three decisions we published this week.

Key messages:

  • Watch out for review requests that don't follow the standard pattern
    Requesters have to ask an authority to review the handling of their request, before they can appeal to the Commissioner. In Decision 061/2015 the authority failed to respond to a review request within the statutory 20 days. In this case, the authority explained that the request for review hadn't been sent to the email address given in the response, and the requester hadn't stated that she wanted a review to be carried out.

    We always encourage requesters to send their review requests to the address given in the response, but the FOI Act doesn't require them to do so. Nor does it require requesters to say that they are seeking a review - it's enough if they show why they are dissatisfied with the response. We found that this review request did make clear that the requester was dissatisfied, and had been copied to the authority's FOI team, so should have been picked up.

  • Don't forget absent staff when searching for information
    In Decision 062/2015, the authority failed to search the email account of a key official who was on extended leave. Although an "out of office" response had been set up for this account, no one checked whether any new messages had been received. During our investigation, we prompted the public authority to search this email account, and found an email covered by the request. It's important to have adequate arrangements in place for staff absences, both planned and unplanned (see guidance on our website).

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 060/2015 Robert Dowdles and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC)
    Mr Dowdles asked the SLCC for information it had received while investigating his complaint. He got some information but the rest was withheld because its disclosure was prohibited under the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007. This meant that the information was exempt from disclosure under section 26(a) of the FOI Act. We agreed that the exemption applied.


  • Decision 061/2015 Rona Hamilton and East Dunbartonshire Council
    Ms Hamilton asked the Council for information about works to be carried out at a Primary school. The Council failed to respond to her request for review in time.


  • Decision 062/2015 Jon Darch and Glasgow City Council
    Mr Darch asked for information from correspondence about "safe standing" areas for fans at Celtic Park. The Council told him that it was withholding information, then - at review - told him it did not hold any information. Mr Darch provided us with an email which appeared to fall within the scope of his request. After searching the emails of an officer who had been on extended leave, the Council found this email. We accepted that it didn't hold any more information covered by the request.

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