Recently in Ministry of Justice Category

The Campaign for Freedom of Information has analysed the appalling delays experienced by the majority of people who have had to resort to making a Complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office, regarding their Freedom of Information Act requests.

"Severe delays" in investigating freedom of information complaints "undermining" FOI Act

[...]

The report analyses nearly 500 formal decision notices issued by the ICO in the 18 months to 31 March 2009. The decisions were made under the FOI Act and the associated Environmental Information Regulations. It finds that -

  • on average it took 19.7 months from the date of a complaint to the ICO to the date on which the ICO's decision on the complaint was issued

  • in 46% of cases it took between 1 and 2 years from complaint to decision

  • a quarter of formal decisions took between 2 and 3 years while 5% of cases (23 complaints) took more than 3 years

  • the longest case took 3 years and 10 and a half months

  • only 24% of decisions were issued within 12 months of the complaint.

The report also found that on average the ICO's investigation into a complaint did not begin until 8 months after the complaint had been received. In 28% of cases, there was a delay of more than a year before the investigation began and 19 cases waited more than 18 months. One complaint had been with the ICO for 22 months before the investigation began.


[...]


According to the report's authors, Maurice Frankel and Katherine Gundersen: "A delay of 2 to 3 years or more in reaching a decision, as happens in over a quarter of cases means that even if the information is ultimately disclosed it may no longer be of interest or use to the requester. Requesters who experience such delays may be so frustrated by the experience that they become reluctant to use the Act again or to complain to the ICO about refusals. Delays may also mean that authorities carry on repeating mistakes over long periods, affecting many requests, before the ICO puts them right. Finally, if authorities calculate that they can safely withhold information for several years before the Commissioner compels disclosure, a minority may do so deliberately, just to 'buy time'."

[...]


ICO response to report by the Campaign for Freedom of Information

[...]

Whilst only 10% of complaints result in a Decision Notice, these cases take longer to resolve than we would like

[...]

Despite the improvements already made with additional funding from the Ministry of
Justice, the popularity of FOI means that the number of complaints we are receiving is
outstripping forecasts

Our experience with the long, frustrating delays regarding the bureaucratic Freedom of Information Act process, is not made any less unacceptable, because other people seem to be suffering the same.

The ICO should not be allowed to refuse a Complaint, if a public body has exceeded the 20 working days or "no more than 40 working days" reasonable suggested time limit for Internal Reviews. At the very least they should officially remind the public body of this limit, and criticise any further delays, as deliberate flouting of the spirit of the FOIA when the ICO finally does issue a Decision Notice.

The Ministry of Justice also needs to provide sufficient monetary resources to allow the ICO to clear its backlog of FOIA complaints, by hiring its own, independent staff,rather than by embedding Whitehall civil servants "on secondment".


About this blog

This United Kingdom based blog has been spawned from Spy Blog, and is meant to provide a place to track our Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests to United Kingdom Government and other Public Authorities.

If you have suggestions for other FOIA requests,  bearing in mind the large list of exemptions, then email them to us, or use the comments facility on this blog, and we will see  what we can do, without you yourself having to come under the direct scrutiny of  "Sir Humphrey Appleby" or his minions.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email us your views about this website or news about the issues it tries to comment on:

email: blog @spy[dot]org[dot]uk

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WhatDoTheyKnow.com

WhatDoTheyKnow.com - FOIA request submission and publication website from MySociety.org

Campaign Buttons

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Campaign for the Freedom of Information

NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Watching Them, Watching Us, UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond

Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

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Amnesty International 's irrepressible.info campaign

Yes, Minister

Yes, Minister Series 1, Episode 1, "Open Government" First airtime BBC: 25 February 1980

"Bernard Woolley: "Well, yes, Sir...I mean, it [open government] is the Minister's policy after all."
Sir Arnold: "My dear boy, it is a contradiction in terms: you can be open or you can have government."

FOIA Links

Campaign for the Freedom of Information

Office of the Information Commissioner,
who is meant to regulate the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scottish Information Commissioner,
who similarly regulates the Freedom of Information Act (Scotland) 2002

Information Tribunal - deals with appeals against decisions by the Information Commissioners.

Freedom of Information pages - Department for Constitutional Affairs

Friends of the Earth FOIA Request Generator and links to contact details for Central Government Departments and their Publication Schemes

UK Government Information Asset Register - in theory, this should point you to the correct Government documents, but in practice...well see for yourself.

Access all Information is also logging some FOIA requests

foi.mysociety.org - prototype FOIA request submission, tracking and publication website

Blog Links

Spy Blog

UK Freedom of Information Act Blog - started by Steve Wood, now handed over to Katherine Gundersen

Your Right To Know - Heather Brooke

Informaticopia - Rod Ward

Open Secrets - a blog about freedom of information by BBC journalist Martin Rosenbaum

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

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