Decisions Round-up: 29 October to 2 November 2012

We published two decisions this week.


 Key messages:

Before claiming a request is vexatious, ask yourself if you have sufficient, specific evidence, to back up your claim. Overly general arguments are less likely to be successful if the case is appealed to us.  In seeking such evidence, you may uncover areas where your own practice could be improved.  For example, a request may be overly burdensome because of your own organisational arrangements, rather than the disruptive intent of the requester.

Remember that, where more than one EIR exception applies to the same piece of environmental information, you should first look at the balance of public interest arguments for each exception separately, and then go on to consider the public interest arguments for all the exceptions taken together.  This two stage public interest test is the result of a European Court of Justice judgment in 2010 (OFCOM and the Information Commissioner).  All of our exemption/exception briefings contain advice on how to apply the two stage test.

Summary of decisions:

Mr Rule asked Scottish Ministers for correspondence relating to the handling of requests under FOISA and the EIRs.  Ministers refused, saying that Mr Rule's request was vexatious.  They argued that the request would pose an undue burden on individuals within the First Minister's Private Office, because of the way in which the Office was run.  The Commissioner found that Ministers' arguments of burden were not substantiated by evidence.  She also found that the arguments put forward by Ministers would apply to any request they receive ? and so they could not, in the absence of other relevant considerations, justify finding that Mr Rule's request was vexatious.  Ministers have been ordered to respond to Mr Rule's request.

Mr Henderson asked Transport Scotland for correspondence about changes to national speed limits.  Transport Scotland pointed Mr Henderson towards some information which was already published, but withheld other material under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations, claiming it was i) material in the course of completion and ii) internal communications.  The Commissioner looked at the public interest in relation to each for these two exceptions separately, and found, for each, that the information should be disclosed.  She then cumulatively weighed all grounds for refusing to disclose against all the public interest arguments ? and found that the public interest still favoured disclosure.

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