The Scottish Information Commissioner - It's Public Knowledge
Tweet this page:
Text Size Icon

- Text Size Up | Down

Round-up iconDecisions Round-up: 2 to 20 September 2019

We've seen a growing number of cases recently where failure to respond within FOI timescales has been a factor in the case. Over half of the decisions we issued over the last month feature a failure to respond. We've said it before: meeting FOI timescales is a statutory requirement, and failing to do so is a breach of the law. Fortunately, there's help available for authorities having trouble in this area, as we discuss below...

 

Learning points:

  • Read requests carefully
    In two decisions this week we found failings in the authority's interpretation of a request. In one, the authority failed to address the specific terms of the request and in another we found the authority had interpreted a request too narrowly. When in doubt, authorities should contact the requester to ensure they fully understand the terms and scope of the request. And requesters, it's also a good idea to read your request carefully before sending to ensure it's as clear as possible. This can often help the FOI process run more smoothly.
  • Reasons for withholding must relate to the information withheld
    The Commissioner will not accept arguments to uphold an exemption which are general in nature: they must relate to the actual information the authority is seeking to withhold. In Decision 134/2019, we found that the arguments made were general and didn't relate to the information at hand.
  • Respecting timescales
    In over half of the decision we've issued over the last month we've identified failings by authorities to respond on time. FOI law requires that requests are responded to 'promptly', and 'not later than' 20 working days. The twentieth working day is therefore not a target date: it's the last possible day on which a response should be made. And remember, failing to respond is not only a statutory failing: it can also harm to the relationship between the authority and requester. Our Self-assessment Toolkit on responding on time can help any authority having problems in this area.



Decisions issued:

  • Decision 130/2019 Glasgow City Council
    The Council was asked for information about a café. The Commissioner found that the Council failed to respond to the review on time.
  • Decision 131/2019 Scottish Prison Service (SPS)
    The SPS was asked for information about Autistic Spectrum Disorder. The Commissioner found that the SPS failed to respond to the request and review on time.
  • Decision 132/2019 NHS Dumfries and Galloway
    NHS Dumfries and Galloway was asked whether it held correspondence from an individual that was "aggressive". We investigated and found that NHS Dumfries and Galloway did not respond to the terms of the request. As a further response was provided to the applicant during our investigation, we did not require any action.
  • Decision 133/2019 Perth and Kinross Council
    The Council was asked for information about defects and maintenance on a stretch of road outside a primary school. The Council provided some information and weblinks to information available online. We accepted that the published information was reasonably accessible but found that the Council had failed to recognise this as a request for environmental information. We also found that the Council had not interpreted the scope of the request appropriately and required it to conduct further searches.
  • Decision 134/2019 Police Service of Scotland
    Police Scotland were asked what cooperation they had given the makers of a television programme ("The Investigator: A British Crime Story") broadcast on STV in April 2018. Police Scotland provided some information, but withheld other information under a number of exemptions. Following an investigation we found that Police Scotland had been entitled to withhold personal information, but had wrongly applied other exemptions. We required Police Scotland to disclose non-exempt information.
  • Decision 135/2019 Scottish Prison Service (SPS)
    The SPS received a seven part request relating to prisoners with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. The SPS initially considered the whole request to be vexatious. During the investigation, the SPS stated that it no longer considered part of the request to be vexatious. After an investigation we agreed that most of the request was vexatious but required the SPS to respond to the part of the request that it no longer considered vexatious.
  • Decision 136/2019 Midlothian Council
    The Council was asked for information relating to a new primary school. The Commissioner found that the Council had failed to respond to the review on time.
  • Decision 137/2019 North Ayrshire Council
    The Council was asked about the site of the former Dalry gasworks. We found that the Council had failed to identify and disclose all the information falling within the scope of this request. We also found that the Council had failed to respond to the request and review on time.
  • Decision 138/2019 Fife Council
    The Council was asked for details of complaints made about Graham's Dairy. We found the Council failed to respond to the request and review on time.

 

Back to Top