Decisions Round-up: 14 to 18 April 2014

 We published five decisions this week.

 Key messages:


  • Make sure you comply fully with your duty to provide advice and assistance
    When fulfilling your duty to advise and assist, it can be helpful to explain what information you hold, or how you hold it, even if that doesn't answer the request fully. Decision 082/2014 and Decision 087/2014 both consider cases where authorities should have done more to comply with this duty.

  • Check the information you provide accurately reflects the information you hold
    When responding to a request you should ensure that the information you provide appropriately answers the request. In Decision 082/2014, the public authority's response did not do this.

  • It's vital that you meet the timescales for responding to information requests and requests for review
    We still regularly receive appeals where an authority has failed to meet the response timescales. Two of this week's decisions deal with such cases.

  • In "neither confirm nor deny" responses the requester is still entitled to some basic information
    When using the FOI Act's "neither confirm nor deny" provision (section 18), remember that you are required to give the requester some information. For example, you must tell them which exemption would apply to the information if you did hold it, and (unless it's obvious) give at least general reasons why that exemption would apply. The authority in Decision 085/2014 didn't do this.

  • Where the £600 cost limit applies, the authority can't be required to respond
    The Commissioner can't make an authority provide any information where the cost of responding would exceed £600, even if part of the request could be met within that cost limit. However, the duty to provide advice and assistance means that authorities should explain what information can be provided for less than £600, to help the requester make a new request (Decision 087/2014).

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 082/2014 - Mr Y and the Scottish Prison Service
    Mr Y asked how long the Scottish Prison Service kept security footage from CCTV cameras, and also for information about cell searches. We were satisfied that the public authority had supplied all the relevant information by the end of the investigation, but not in responding to Mr Y before he appealed. The authority should have explained that it had a policy on CCTV use, and directed Mr Y to that policy.

  •  Decision 084/2014 - Mrs W and Stirling Council
    A technical decision where we found that the authority failed to respond to the information request and request for review within 20 working days.


  • Decision 085/2014 - Mr Russell Findlay and Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC)
    We found that PIRC was entitled to refuse to confirm or deny whether it held information about the investigation of a complaint against the Police. However, PIRC should have told Mr Findlay which particular exemption would have applied if it did hold it, and why it would have applied.

  • Decision 086/2014 - Mr P and the Scottish Prison Service
    Another technical decision where the authority failed to respond within 20 working days.

  • Decision 087/2014 -  Mr Brian Sheen and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland
    Mr Sheen asked for information about the Police's monitoring of internal internet usage, relating to websites blocked for pornography or gambling. We accepted that the authority didn't have to respond to the request, because doing so would cost more than £600, but the authority should have explained why the cost exceeded the upper limit.

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