Decisions Round-up: 12 to 16 February 2018

Information disclosed under FOI is not just disclosed to the person who made the request - it's placed into the public domain. This often helps to explain why some information can't be disclosed. This week, a case looks at how this can impact on the neither confirm nor deny provision. Interpretation of the request is another feature of this week's round-up; we're critical of an authority that expected a requester to use its own terminology to describe information in a request.

Learning points:


  • Don't interpret requests too narrowly
    It's important that authorities take a plain English approach to reading information requests. In Decision 014/2018, we were critical of the authority for restricting the scope of a request because the requester hadn't used the authority's own terminology to describe the information.


  • Requesters: information disclosed under FOI is put into the public domain
    In Decision 016/2018, the requester had asked the Police for information about a meeting where he thought he had been the subject of discussion. In this case, we were satisfied that the Police were entitled neither to confirm nor deny whether they held the information. The act of confirming or denying would, of itself, have breached the requester's data protection rights.


Decisions issued:


  • Decision 014/2018 Ian Watt and Aberdeen City Council
    The Council was asked about the project review it was carrying out of its Open Data project. The Council told Mr Watt it didn't hold any information falling within the scope of his request. However, it was clear to the Commissioner, from information disclosed in response to another request, that the Council did hold the requested information, but it described the project review as a project "health check". The Commissioner ordered the Council to carry out a further review of Mr Watt's request.


  • Decision 015/2018 Mr X and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (the SLCC)
    The SLCC was asked about a complaint made against a third party. We found that the SLCC had complied with the request: it did not hold some of the information asked for, and the information it did hold was exempt under section 26 of the FOI Act. Other legislation, the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, made it unlawful for the SLCC to disclose the information.


  • Decision 016/2018 Mr Z and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland (Police Scotland)
    Police Scotland was asked for the name of an officer who had attended a meeting. Police Scotland refused to confirm or deny whether it held the information. In the circumstances, we agreed that it was not in the public interest for Police Scotland to reveal whether the information existed.


  • Decision 017/2018 Brian Gourlay and West Dunbartonshire Council
    This involved a request to the Council about access to the Occupational Health service. The decision finds that the Council failed to respond to Mr Gourlay's request, and request for review, within the timescales allowed by the FOI Act.


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