In this Section
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 provides a right of access to information held by public bodies (including schools and universities). Individuals requesting information have a right to be informed whether information that they have requested is in fact held, and if available, this information should be communicated to the requester, unless an exemption applies.
Public bodies have 20 working days in which to respond to a Freedom of Information Request. This timescale commences when a request is first received by the public body. In the case of schools, the phrase “working day” may be applied to days in which the school is “open for business” and therefore may not include term breaks.
A request may be deemed as a valid request if it provides a means of responding, such as postal address or email, and may be compliant with the appropriate limit.
A list of common exemptions are included below:
Section 40(2) Personal Details:
Personal information where the request is for access to third party information, is exempt, if disclosure would breach any of the Data Protection Act Principles. This part of the exemption is ‘absolute’. A list of the Data Protection principles are included below:
1. Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully
2. Personal data shall be processed for limited purposes
3. Personal data shall be adequate relevant & not excessive
4. Personal data shall be accurate and where possible kept up to date
5. Personal data must not be kept for longer than necessary
6. Personal data shall be processed in accordance with individuals rights
7. Personal data shall be kept secure
8. Personal data must not be transferred to countries without adequate security
It can be argued that if the release of information allows third parties to be identified, that this could constitute a breach of the Data Protection Act, and hereto the public body may site Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act as a valid exemption in this case.
Should only part of the information requested actually serve to identify third parties, it is acceptable to redact (remove) this information from any subsequent disclosure. Material that can be redacted can include the name of individuals, anything that constitutes their personal details (such as address, email or telephone number), but can also refer to information that may allow an individual to be identified.
Section 1(1) of the Freedom of information act does not oblige a public body to comply with a Freedom of Information request, if the organisation estimates that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit (18 hours or £450).
The Freedom of Information Act stipulates under Section 16 that public bodies must provide advice and assistance to requesters. In respect of the cost of compliance, public bodies must provide reasonable advice to a requester to allow them to refine their request so that the request may be compliant with the appropriate limit.
There are a further 22 exemptions from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, further details of each are available from the Information Commissioners Office website.
There are over 23 statutory exemptions under the Freedom of Infomation Act, which are split into absolute exemptions under the FOI Act, and Qualified, the latter are the subject of a public interest test. For more details of the available exemptions under the FOI Act, please view the Information Commissioners Office guidance on FOI exemptions.
Further guidance on Freedom of Information requests may be sought from the Devon County Council Information Governance team. For more information and for specific guidance, please telephone 01392 384678 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further guidance is available from the Information Commissioners website www.ico.gov.uk