Friday, November 30, 2007

Information Tribunal User Group

Notes from the first meeting of the Information Tribunal's User Group have been published. The Tribunal's website states:
"The aim of the group is to provide an opportunity for users of the Tribunal to discuss matters relating to its operations and processes of a non case specific nature with representatives of the Tribunal’s judiciary and administration, so as to identify better ways for the Tribunal to serve users."
Read the meeting notes here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

International Conference of Information Commissioners

The 5th International Conference of Information Commissioners is taking place this week in Wellington. Details of the programme can be found on the ICIC 2007 website, together with abstracts and papers for the open sessions (day one was a closed session for commissioners only)
FOI Podcast

Ibrahim Hasan has asked me to post the following:
Episode 9 of the UK’s first Freedom of Information podcast has just been published.

In September and October 2007, the Information Commissioner published thirty eight decisions whilst the Information Tribunal published nine. My latest podcast guides you through some of these:

In this episode we will be discussing decisions involving

* Vexatious requests and what makes them such

* Disclosure of celebrity pay packets by the BBC

* Disclosure of staff attendance at work

* The applicability of section 21 to information on the internet

* The link between the fees provisions and section 16

* The first Tribunal decision on disclosure of dead peoples’ information

* AND disclosure of information about police speed meters

You can listen directly to the podcast at : www.informationlaw.org.uk

All you need is Windows Media Player or Real Player (most computers have these or are freely downloadable) and a set of headphones.

The direct raw feed is : http://informationlaw.jellycast.com/podcast/feed/5

(Note this only works with specialist podcast software.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Public awareness of FOI in Scotland

SIC press release 19 Nov 2007:
"Research published today by the Scottish Information Commissioner has revealed that public awareness of freedom of information (FOI) remains high, with 74% of those surveyed reporting that they were aware of the law. However, the report also indicated that awareness may be lower within particular groups, including young people, the elderly and people with disabilities.

The research, which was carried out by Progressive Scottish Opinion as the fifth wave of the Commissioner annual public awareness survey, also found that:

• 64% of respondents believed that Scottish public authorities were becoming more open and accountable as a result of FOI;
• 69% felt that more information was available from public authorities than ever before;
• 69% felt that Scottish public authorities are more open and accountable than their equivalents in the rest of the UK;
• 57% nevertheless believed that public authorities would find a way round their FOI responsibilities if they didn't want to provide information.

The study also revealed that the majority of respondents (73%) who reported having made an FOI request to a public authority received all of the information they had asked for."
Full press release here.

Public Awareness Research Report here


Thursday, November 15, 2007

PSNI investigated for FOI offence

ICO press release 15 November 2007:
"While considering a complaint under the Freedom of Information Act, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has investigated whether the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) deliberately concealed information with intent to prevent disclosure. It is a criminal offence under the Act to shred or conceal information that has been requested. The ICO launched a criminal investigation and interviewed a PSNI member of staff under caution.

This case stems from police asking a man to send his firearms licence to the local station for scrutiny. The licence was returned to the man with a number of additional conditions and the man decided to appeal. To assist his case he made a FOI request to the PSNI for policy documents about shotgun licensing. When the PSNI refused to disclose the requested information, the man complained to the ICO. He explained that, in his view, the PSNI had sought to withhold some of the requested information from him in the knowledge that it would assist his appeal about his firearms licence.

The Information Commissioner’s Office is under no doubt that the PSNI wrongly withheld information from the person making the FOI request and in a 15 page ruling the Information Commissioner expressed his concern at the PSNI’s failure to adequately handle the request.

Although there was insufficient evidence to mount a prosecution in this case, ICO staff met with the PSNI to identify the systemic breaches of the Act which the investigation into this complaint identified. This meeting was requested by the PSNI and, as a result of the issues raised in this case, the police have commenced an internal review of their FOI procedures.

The ICO’s decision, published at www.ico.gov.uk, also outlines that the PSNI failed to respond to the complainant’s request within the specified time limit, did not conduct an adequate public interest test and omitted to carry out an internal review of the case.

The PSNI did release some of the requested information, but the Information Commissioner has ordered the identities of more senior staff contained in policy documents, such as Inspector, Chief Inspector and Chief Superintendent, to be disclosed."
Read the full decision.
Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland course

'Scottish Information Commissioner Decisions - what do they mean in practice?' A half-day course in Glasgow on 18 January 2008.

This course, aimed at those with a good working knowledge of the legislation, highlights key developments in the way the main exemptions, the public interest test and the legislation’s procedural requirements are being interpreted.

Further details here.
CIPFA BGF Workshops

CIPFA BGF are presenting a series of workshops in November on Information Governance Update 2007.

Further details available here.

Or telephone: 020 8667 8176

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Comment on recent FOI announcements

A piece by Maurice Frankel on the recent FOI announcements by Gordon Brown has been published by Open Democracy on its OurKingdom site.

It can be read here.
Act Now Newsletter

The Act Now October newsletter is available for viewing or download at http://www.actnow.org.uk/currentnl.pdf
There are stories about the first FOI decision about GPs, a revised guidance note on what is personal data, more information on handling deceased persons records and much more.