Decisions Round-up: 5 to 9 September 2016



This week's Round-up features a case where the Commissioner found an authority failed to interpret a request in an objective and reasonable way.

We also provide a summary of the cases resolved in August without the need for a formal Decision.

Learning points:

  • Take care when interpreting requests
    When handling a request, it's usually best to be guided by the requester's wording and any context they provide. Public authorities should avoid substituting their own interpretation and construing a request too narrowly. This issue was the focus of Decision 187/2016.
  • We'll generally need some kind of evidence on whether or not you hold information
    Unless it's information the authority could not reasonably be expected to hold, our investigation will ask for evidence of work carried out to establish what information is held. It will rarely be enough to state that you're unlikely to hold the information, or that it would be difficult to identify, as claimed in Decision 188/2016.

Decisions issued:

  • Decision 187/2016Rob Edwards and the Scottish Ministers (the Ministers)
    Mr Edwards asked the Ministers for information relating to discussions with energy companies about a proposed conservation area for harbour porpoises in the Moray Firth.

    The Ministers told Mr Edwards that they did not hold the information he had requested. We did not agree. The Ministers had interpreted Mr Edwards' request too narrowly, and failed to provide him with relevant information or appropriate advice and assistance.
  • Decision 188/2016 The Applicant and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland (Police Scotland)
    Police Scotland were asked for statistical information about the mistreatment of transgender women by police officers. We accepted that Police Scotland did not hold some of the information, but found that they held other information covered by the request. However, we accepted that it would cost more than the £600 limit to respond, so Police Scotland were not required to do so.

Resolved cases:

We also resolved seven cases in August without the need for a formal decision. The summaries below show some of the ways in which this was achieved.

  • Information was disclosed during the investigation
    This happened three times in August. In two cases, the requester was given all the information covered by their request. In the other, only some of the information was disclosed, but the requester accepted this was all he was likely to get in the circumstances.
  • We were unlikely to find in the requester's favour
    In three cases, all involving personal data, we explained to the requester that the information was highly unlikely to be suitable for disclosure. In each case, the requester accepted this and withdrew. In one, information about the requester was disclosed to them under the Data Protection Act.
  • We didn't get all the information we needed
    Occasionally, we'll need further information from the requester to take the investigation forward. If we pursue this with the requester and don't hear from them, we'll treat the case as abandoned: this happened once in July.

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