Decisions Round-up: 29 September to 3 October 2014


We published four decisions between 29 September and 3 October – details, links and learning points below.


         Key messages:

  • Disclose what you can
    In three of the decisions we published this week, authorities disclosed redacted versions of documents to requesters.  It’s always good practice to disclose what you can.  Even if a report is mostly personal data, as was the case in Decision 208/2014, there will often be information that you can disclose, such as recommendations and outcomes.


  • Speak to the requester if you’re struggling to work out what information they want
    In Decision 209/2014, it was clear that the authority had found it difficult to identify what information the requester wanted.  This was because some of the terms used by the requester had specific technical meanings which aren’t in common use.  Although the Commissioner believes that words should usually be given their plain, ordinary meaning, there will be cases where it’s a good idea speaking to a requester to make sure you’re clear what information it is they want.


  • If you want to withhold information, apply an exemption
    It sounds obvious, but when withholding information, it is important to make clear what exemption you want to apply and why.  In Decision 208/2014, HMICS withheld some information, but, failed to tell us why, despite being asked..  We ordered HMICS to disclose the information.


    Decisions issued:

  • Decision 206/2014 Shetland Line (1984) Ltd and Transport Scotland
    Shetland Line (1984) wanted to see the minutes of a meeting held between Transport Scotland and David MacBrayne Ltd to discuss the Northern Isles ferry service.  Transport Scotland disclosed the minutes, but redacted information it believed to be exempt on the basis that disclosure would breach confidentiality or would substantially prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.  We agreed that this information did not have to be disclosed.


  • Decision 207/2014 Ian Jones and Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS)
    The Bank Street Medical Centre in Cupar carried out a survey asking members of staff to give their views about the practice’s safety culture.  Mr Jones asked for an anonymised version of the survey results – and how the results compared with the rest of Fife and with Scotland.  HIS gave Mr Jones some information about how the results compared with elsewhere, but refused to disclose practice level information, arguing that, in future, this would make it less likely that practices would take part in these surveys, with a negative impact on public safety.  We accepted the authority’s arguments in this case.


  • Decision 208/2014 Michael Roulston and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspectors of Constabulary (HMICS)
    This involved a request for a report HMICS had prepared into governance arrangements made by the former Central Scotland Joint Police Board for the post of Assistant Chief Constable.  HMICS withheld the entire report on the basis that it was personal data.   During the investigation, HMICS agreed with us that parts of the report did not comprise personal data – and disclosed a redacted version of the report to Mr Roulston.  Although some of the information was correctly withheld, we found that some of the remaining personal data should also have been disclosed.


  • Decision 209/2014 Patricia Wade and City of Edinburgh Council
    Mrs Wade asked the Council about the choice of vehicle for the Edinburgh trams.  Following our investigation, we were satisfied that the Council didn’t hold any information falling within the scope of Mrs Wade’s request. However, it was evident that the Council had found it difficult to identify what information Mrs Wade was looking for because of the terms she’d used in her request.  This is a good example of a case where the public authority should have taken time to discuss with the requester what the information request was actually for.

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