No reply to FOI request

| 11/04/2016

Who is responsible for the FOI integrity? I made an inquiry and instead of getting a response from the FOI as outlined in their formal policy, I received a call from the RCIPS and called out on harassment. Apparently the question I raised was offensive to the person I was inquiring about. I don’t know why she felt it was offensive because it was never addressed to her. To this date, I have not received a reply, almost 9 months later, way past the 10 days noted in their policy. I guess it’s all who you know so who is responsible for the FOI that would take action on my inquiry instead of telling their friends?

Auntie’s Answer: The first question is easy to answer; the Information Commissioner has responsibility for monitoring compliance with the Freedom of Information Law. I checked with Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers, who confirmed that if an applicant has not received a response to a request (which has to be made in writing, but can be made anonymously) within 30 calendar days and the public authority has not informed them they need to extend that period by a maximum of another 30 days, the applicant should immediately request an internal review by the chief officer responsible.

If the applicant has not had a response to that in 30 calendar days, he/she should immediately inform the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and request an appeal. Liebaers stated, “Under the Law, when a public authority gives no reply, that equals a refusal to disclose the requested information.”

He said that appeals can be about any alleged violation of the FOI Law, not just about whether you receive the requested records or not.

“The ICO will make sure we have jurisdiction and open an appeal to try and resolve the matter and/or open a formal hearing process which results in a binding decision,” the commissioner said. “Sadly, every now and then we hear about cases where people have complaints, but have not acted on them. The ICO is here to resolve these sort of issues, so I would invite everyone to let us know when they think things go wrong.”

Now, quite how your complaint got into the hands of the police is not clear from your question but even if it was deemed abusive by the FOI manager, it does appear on the face of it that your request was mismanaged.

Speaking on the issue generally, Liebaers said, “In those rare cases when an applicant may be abusive, the law provides for a remedy – the public authority can claim that the request was vexatious. That claim can also be appealed to the Information Commissioner.”

If you wish to pursue this, you can email the ICO at I can assure you that you will find everyone in that office to be amazingly helpful.

See the ICO website here

Category: Ask Auntie

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