Decisions Round-up: 20 February - 3 March 2017

Some important reminders of elements of FOI practice that are often forgotten or overlooked this week…do you remember about them?


Learning points:

  • Even if most information is exempt, there may still be some which can be disclosed
    It's important to consider information fully and carefully when asked for it. Even if most of it is exempt from disclosure, it may still be possible to disclose some parts. Typically, this can occur with factual background information.

    In Decision 022/2017, for example, we found that the exemption applied did not cover general descriptions of the aims of a programme to treat sex offenders. The public authority agreed to disclose this information during our investigation, and is now considering proactive publication in future.

  • Environmental information must be treated differently
    If information is environmental information the public authority must respond under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs). It can also exempt any environmental information under FOI legislation, so it shouldn't be necessary to give a detailed response under both regimes.

    Requests for information about major construction projects are likely to be requests for environmental information. In Decision 025/2017, we found that an authority hadn't responded to a request of this nature under the EIRs - we required it to do so.


Decisions issued:

  • Decision 022/2017 Mr X and the Scottish Ministers
    The Ministers were asked for information from Moving Forward, Making Changes, a treatment programme for adult male sex offenders. The Ministers withheld the information, arguing that it could be used to manipulate the outcome of the programme. We accepted that most of the information was correctly withheld, but ordered disclosure of information describing the programme modules.


  • Decision 023/2017 James Clarke and Renfrewshire Council
    The Council was asked for the minutes of a specific meeting. We found that the Council failed to respond to the request and the request for review within the required timescales.


  • Decision 024/2017 Charles Welsh and Police Scotland
    Police Scotland were asked for information concerning a complaint made to them about alleged criminal offences by public officials. Police Scotland refused to confirm or deny whether the information existed or was held by them.

    The Commissioner accepted that it would not be in the public interest for Police Scotland to reveal whether the information existed or was held.


  • Decision 025/2017 Billy Briggs and Inverness College
    The College was asked for contract information relating to the construction of its new campus. The College withheld some of the information requested on the basis that it was commercially sensitive under the FOI Act.

    The Commissioner found that the College had considered the request under the wrong legislation. The requested information was environmental information and so the College should have considered it under the EIRs. We required the College to respond to the request as a request for environmental information.

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