Decisions Round-up: 12 to 16 June 2017

Blanket confidentiality agreements are usually inappropriate under FOI, but there are circumstances where confidentiality is essential. In this week's round-up we consider the importance of witness confidentiality when undertaking certain types of investigations.

Learning points:

  • A public authority won't always hold the information you expect
    Remember that we can only investigate what information a public authority actually holds when we consider an appeal. This may not be the same as the information the requester believes it should hold. We looked at this in two decisions this week - 091/2017 and 092/2017.


  • It's often important for witnesses to have the assurance of confidentiality
    In more than one decision recently, we've looked at evidence given to a whistleblowing investigation. We've accepted that such investigations can only be effective if those giving evidence have been assured that they are providing information in confidence. That assurance can't be maintained if the information is disclosed to the public under FOI, so in Decision 093/2017 we accepted that disclosing such information would undermine the whistleblowing process and harm the effective conduct of public affairs.

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 091/2017 Paul Dick and Tayside Health Board (NHS Tayside)
    NHS Tayside was asked about the adoption of guidance from SIGN and NICE (both providers of practice guidance in the health sector) or of any other published sources of guidance. NHS Tayside provided some information, including links to information that was publicly available. It stated it held no other recorded information. We investigated and concluded that NHS Tayside didn't hold any further information.


  • Decision 092/2017 Paul Delamore and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland (Police Scotland)
    Police Scotland were asked for information relating to the death of William McRae in 1985 and the review of the case during 2010 to 2012. Police Scotland informed Mr Delamore that they didn't hold this information, which we accepted after investigating.


  • Decision 093/2017 Mr T and City of Edinburgh Council
    The Council was asked for an investigation report produced following whistleblowing allegations. The Council refused to disclose the information, which it considered was exempt under various exemptions. The Commissioner found that the Council was correct to withhold the information.


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