Decisions Round-up: 14 to 18 September 2015


There's an exception to every rule. For most requests, the reason for requesting the information won't be relevant when considering whether or not it should be released, and requesters won't normally be asked about it. When the request is for someone else's personal data, however, this can be relevant...find out more in this week's Round-up:

Key messages:

  • If you're asking for another person's personal data, be prepared to say why you need it
    Personal data can only be provided under the FOI Act if particular conditions are met. Public bodies have to assess whether your need for the information outweighs the other person's right to privacy, so it helps if you can explain why you asked for the information.

    We also have to consider this when dealing with appeals. Decision 143/2015 is a case where the requester didn't give us enough information about this.
  • A request for the legal basis for an action may be a valid request
    There is sometimes a fine line between a valid request for recorded information, and what is simply a request for an opinion. Decision 145/2015 concerns a request for the legal basis for a charge. We disagreed that the requester was seeking an explanation of the legal basis for this action, and instead considered that it was a request for recorded information.
  • Remember - you can refuse to confirm or deny whether you hold personal data
    This was included in last week's Round-up but is worth repeating. Remember that the personal data exemptions in section 38 of the FOI Act are now included in the list of exemptions where authorities can neither confirm nor deny whether information is held (section 18 of the FOI Act). Decision 142/2015 is another case where we considered this issue.

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 142/2015Mr X and South Lanarkshire Council
    Mr X asked for information about an investigation which he understood the Council had carried out, following a disturbance at a nearby house. The Council refused to confirm or deny whether it held any such information. It argued that if the information existed, it would be personal data which was exempt from disclosure. Following an investigation, we accepted the Council's decision.
  • Decision 143/2015 Mr R and the Scottish Prison Service (the SPS)
    Mr R asked for information about the employment of prisoners in a prison kitchen. The SPS provided some information and told Mr R that some information was already available to him. It withheld some information which was personal data. We found the SPS had acted correctly.
  •  Decision 144/2015 Paul Hutcheon and the Scottish Ministers
    Mr Hutcheon asked for statistical breakdowns of applications for interception warrants in the financial years 2012-13 and 2013-14. (This relates to activities regulated under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 or "RIPA".) The Ministers provided some information but withheld other information, arguing that they were prevented from disclosing it because of a statutory prohibition in RIPA. We accepted this.
  • Decision 145/2015 Allan Milligan and Glasgow City Council
    Mr Milligan asked for evidence of the Council's legal authority to claim a fee when recovering parking charges. We found that the Council failed to respond to his request or request for review within the FOI Act's timescales.

    The Council considered Mr Milligan's request to be for opinion rather than recorded information. We disagreed, requiring the Council to respond to Mr Milligan.

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