Decisions Round-up: 27 to 31 May 2013

Two decisions were published this week.


Key messages:

  • Good FOI and good customer service go hand in hand
    Good customer service is an essential part of effective FOI. While requests must be responded to within 20 working days, it is good practice to respond as soon as practicably possible, with any decisions clearly explained to help the requester fully understand the outcome. The case discussed in Decision 098/2013 represented a failure in both FOI and customer service terms, with the requester not receiving a full response for almost five months, and only after the intervention of the Commissioner.


  • Data derived from confidential information will not automatically be confidential itself
    In Decision 097/2013, the authority argued that data was subject to the FOI Act's confidentiality exemption because the information from which the data was derived was supplied in confidence. While there will be circumstances when a confidential status will be maintained in relation such data, this will not be true in every case, and will ultimately depend on the content of the information. In this case, we found that it was not appropriate to conclude that the relevant information fell within the scope of the confidentiality exemption, despite its origins in information that had been provided in confidence.


Summary of decisions:

  • Decision 097/2013 - Mr Paul Hutcheon and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR)
    Mr Hutcheon asked OSCR for information about its review of independent schools. While some information was disclosed, other information was withheld under various exemptions in the FOI Act. Our investigation found that OSCR had acted correctly in withholding the majority of the information, although some had been incorrectly withheld under the confidentiality exemption. We required the disclosure of that information to Mr Hutcheon.


  • Decision 098/2013 - Mr Paul Blake and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
    Mr Blake's request to the Comhairle, made on 31 December 2012, was only responded to following the Commissioner's intervention on 7 May 2013. This response did not meet the requirements of FOI, and it was not until 22 May that a full response was provided. The Comhairle has since informed the Commissioner that action has been taken to address the administrative failings that led to this delay.

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