Freedom of Information news, Issue 15

1. ICO orders disclosure of some information relating to Iraq war

The Information Commissioner has served the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers a single Enforcement Notice relating to information requested about the Iraq war. The notice requires the secretariat to release some, but not all information that has been requested by several complainants.

The Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, reasons that the balance of the competing public interest tests calls for disclosure of the recorded information which led to, or supported, the views which were made public by the Attorney General.

Thomas said: “As the government chose to outline an unequivocal legal position, on such a critical issue at such a critical time, the balance of public interest calls for disclosure of the recorded information which lay behind those views.”

“But I have also concluded that those arguments for maintaining the exemptions are sufficiently powerful that the balance of the competing public interests does not require the disclosure of those parts of the requested information which were of preliminary, provisional or tentative nature or which may reveal legal risks, reservations, or possible counter-argument.”

For more information, see ICO press release of 25th May at

2. Tribunal upholds ICO decision on speed cameras

The Information Tribunal has dismissed the appeal of Mr Paul Hemsley with regard to his FOI request to Northamptonshire Police on speed camera offences, including times and speeds at which others have been caught.

Mr Hemsley, who was convicted for speeding, had requested information about similar cases for the purposes of his defense. The information was refused on grounds of the section 31 exemption on the prevention and detection of crime and the apprehension and prosecution of offenders, and the public interest test. The Tribunal concluded that the case raises fears of misuse of this type of information.

The Tribunal decision of 10th April can be found at (re FS50084565).

Reports on this and other Information Tribunal decisions were published this week in the June edition of the Privacy Laws & Business’s UK Newsletter.

3. DCA publishes statistics on clearing house

The volume of FOI requests has remained largely the same over the last 12 months, reveals the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) in its Annual Report 2005.

The report contains statistics about FOI performance within central government, including information about the number of referrals made to the DCA Central Clearing House. The two departments that were the most keen to refer FOI requests were the Cabinet Office and the Home Office (more than 500 cases each).

The overall FOI performance in 2005 could have been better, as only 66 per cent of requests received were granted in full. A further 13 per cent were answered in part.

The report was laid before the Parliament on 22nd May.

4. ICO releases FOI statistics

In the first quarter of 2006, the Information Commissioner received 676 complaints under the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations. While 736 cases were resolved, and 53 decision notices issued, there were 18 appeals to the Information Tribunal.

The Tribunal, which currently has more than 30 cases pending, has so far taken decisions on 12 cases.

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