Decisions Round-up: 13 to 17 January 2014

Read the learning points from the Commissioner's first three decisions of 2014.



Key messages:


  • Search for all relevant information
    Our investigations often result in further information being identified and disclosed to the requester. It has been said before, but authorities should ensure that they conduct a full search for all relevant information as early as possible on receiving a request. This won’t just reduce the likelihood of a decision finding against an authority; it also means that an appeal is less likely to be made to the Commissioner in the first place (Decision 001/2014).


  • Whether you issue or receive a refusal on cost grounds, remember the duty to advise and assist
    Whenever a refusal is made on cost grounds, authorities should provide advice and assistance to the requester as appropriate. For example, this may involve helping the requester to narrow their request to allow access to information within the £600 limit. Appropriate advice should be considered whenever excessive cost is cited, even, as in Decision 002/2014, when it is not cited until after the Commissioner begins her investigation.

    And requesters should also be aware that authorities have this duty.  You don’t have to wait for an authority to contact you to offer advice; you are free to contact the authority directly to ask for help. 

Decisions issued:


  • Decision 001/2014 - Ross Gilligan and the Scottish Ministers
    Mr Gilligan asked the Ministers for correspondence which was either with or about Sir Brian Souter.  When no response was provided within 20 working days, Mr Gilligan requested a review.  The Ministers then responded to parts, but not all, of Mr Gilligan’s request.  Mr Gilligan appealed to the Commissioner, and further information was identified and released during our investigation.  We subsequently found that no further information was held.


  • Decision 002/2014 – Mr X and the Scottish Prison Service (SPS)
    Mr X asked the SPS for information relating to the personal items prisoners have been authorised to use in HMP Edinburgh. Some, but not all, information was provided in response.During our investigation, we found that the SPS had interpreted the request too narrowly. After reconsidering the request, the SPS released some additional information, and argued that the remainder could be withheld on cost grounds. We concluded that the SPS was entitled to apply the excessive cost provision, but also found that it had failed to provide appropriate advice and assistance on what might be provided within the upper cost limit.

  • Decision 003/2014 – John Munro and East Dunbartonshire Council
    The Council failed to respond to a request for information about care services relating to an accident involving Mr Munro.  Our decision requires the Council to provide a response. 

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