FOIA Section 31 Exemption

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Section 31: Law Enforcement

Section 31 is concerned with protecting a wide range of law enforcement interests and its application turns on whether disclosure would be likely to prejudice those interests.

Some interests that are protected by section 31 are drawn quite widely, for example: the administration of justice, the prevention or detection of crime and the operation of immigration controls. But section 31 also applies where the exercise by any public authority of certain specified functions would be prejudiced by disclosure. Those functions include: ascertaining whether a person is responsible for improper conduct, determining the cause of an accident and ascertaining a person's fitness to carry on a profession.

Key points:

  • Section 31 only applies in cases where the information does not fall within section 30;
  • The structure of section 31 is quite complex and it will be necessary to have careful regard to the important differences between the way in which the various categories of information are framed
  • The categories within section 31 may overlap and consideration should be given to all categories that may apply.
  • Section 31 is subject to a public interest balance.

Official DCA guidance: http://www.dca.gov.uk/foi/guidance/exguide/sec31/index.htm

What the law says

31 Law enforcement

(1) Information which is not exempt information by virtue of section 30 is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice—
(a) the prevention or detection of crime,
(b) the apprehension or prosecution of offenders,
(c) the administration of justice,
(d) the assessment or collection of any tax or duty or of any imposition of a similar nature,
(e) the operation of the immigration controls,
(f) the maintenance of security and good order in prisons or in other institutions where persons are lawfully detained,
(g) the exercise by any public authority of its functions for any of the purposes specified in subsection (2),
(h) any civil proceedings which are brought by or on behalf of a public authority and arise out of an investigation conducted, for any of the purposes specified in subsection (2), by or on behalf of the authority by virtue of Her Majesty’s prerogative or by virtue of powers conferred by or under an enactment, or
(i) any inquiry held under the [1976 c. 14.] Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiries (Scotland) Act 1976 to the extent that the inquiry arises out of an investigation conducted, for any of the purposes specified in subsection (2), by or on behalf of the authority by virtue of Her Majesty’s prerogative or by virtue of powers conferred by or under an enactment.
(2) The purposes referred to in subsection (1)(g) to (i) are—
(a) the purpose of ascertaining whether any person has failed to comply with the law,
(b) the purpose of ascertaining whether any person is responsible for any conduct which is improper,
(c) the purpose of ascertaining whether circumstances which would justify regulatory action in pursuance of any enactment exist or may arise,
(d) the purpose of ascertaining a person’s fitness or competence in relation to the management of bodies corporate or in relation to any profession or other activity which he is, or seeks to become, authorised to carry on,
(e) the purpose of ascertaining the cause of an accident,
(f) the purpose of protecting charities against misconduct or mismanagement (whether by trustees or other persons) in their administration,
(g) the purpose of protecting the property of charities from loss or misapplication,
(h) the purpose of recovering the property of charities,
(i) the purpose of securing the health, safety and welfare of persons at work, and
(j) the purpose of protecting persons other than persons at work against risk to health or safety arising out of or in connection with the actions of persons at work.
(3) The duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that, compliance with section 1(1)(a) would, or would be likely to, prejudice any of the matters mentioned in subsection (1).

ICO Lines To Take

Relevant Lines to Take
  • LTT158 - Functions exercised for specified purposes under section 31 - 19/11/2010
  • LTT173 - Impact of disclosure under FOIA on the voluntary supply of information to regulatory bodies - 04/09/2010
  • LTT67 - Public interest in s30(1) & s31 - 14/11/2008
  • LTT81 - Parking enforcement - 11/11/2007
  • LTT75 - Inter-relation of s35 & s36, and of s30 & s31 - 10/11/2007
  • LTT70 - Public interest in preventing crime against individuals - 24/09/2007
  • LTT64 - Neither confirm nor deny - 08/07/2007
  • LTT30 - Disclosure of vehicle identification numbers - 16/02/2007


Decision Notices

Complaints upheld / partly upheld (P) Complaints not upheld
  • FS50129139(P) - Department for Business, Innovation and Skills - 25/03/2010
  • FS50206324 - Home Office - 01/03/2010
  • FS50243486 - Home Office - 24/02/2010
  • FS50231561 - Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service - 15/02/2010
  • FS50161581 - Greater Manchester Police - 17/12/2009
  • FS50154684 - Department for Culture, Media and Sport - 15/12/2009
  • FS50178276 - Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service - 10/12/2009
  • FS50173181 - Youth Justice Board for England and Wales - 10/12/2009
  • FS50182444(P) - Independent Police Complaints Commission - 26/11/2009
  • FS50129430 - Financial Services Authority - 18/11/2009
  • FS50167298(P) - Department for Transport - 16/11/2009
  • FS50131117 - Home Office - 15/10/2009
  • FS50184898(P) - Charity Commission - 13/10/2009
  • FS50222048 - Chief Constable of Essex Police - 08/09/2009
  • FS50201305 - Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs - 01/09/2009
  • FS50156552(P) - Thames Valley Police - 20/08/2009
  • FS50172159 - Home Office - 17/08/2009
  • FS50159091(P) - Her Majesty's Courts Service - 13/08/2009
  • FS50230583 - Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service - 12/08/2009
  • FS50154876 - Home Office - 04/08/2009
  • FS50113479(P) - Wakefield Metropolitan District Council - 27/07/2009
  • FS50156313(P) - Department for Transport - 01/07/2009
  • FS50125350 - National Police Improvement Agency - 16/06/2009
  • FS50193437 - Financial Services Authority - 19/05/2009
  • FS50145357 - Chief Constable of Hampshire Constabulary - 12/05/2009
  • FS50154349 - Metropolitan Police Service - 20/04/2009
  • FS50121803(P) - Ministry of Justice - 14/04/2009
  • FS50168527 - Civil Aviation Authority - 30/03/2009
  • FS50073464(P) - South Yorkshire Police - 16/03/2009
  • FS50174997(P) - BBC - 02/03/2009
  • FS50123912 - Northumbria Police - 20/01/2009
  • FS50169313 - British Museum - 23/10/2008
  • FS50121687 - The Broads Authority - 10/09/2008
  • FS50106800 - Metropolitan Police Service - 20/08/2008
  • FS50150268(P) - Office of Fair Trading - 18/08/2008
  • FS50129974 - Hampshire Constabulary - 13/08/2008
  • FS50106712 - Financial Services Authority - 11/08/2008
  • FS50150272 - HM Customs and Excise - 30/07/2008
  • FS50169012 - Chief Constable of Hampshire Constabulary - 17/07/2008
  • FS50124800 - Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Trust - 02/06/2008
  • FS50132101 - Civil Aviation Authority - 29/05/2008
  • FS50140492 - Home Office - 04/04/2008
  • FS50150536 - Hampshire County Council - 02/01/2008
  • FS50154913 - Northern Ireland Office - 18/12/2007
  • FS50176919 - Assembly Ombudsman for Northern Ireland - 17/12/2007
  • FS50108122 - Birmingham City Council - 19/11/2007
  • FS50083358 - Home Office - 10/10/2007
  • FS50116822 - Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - 27/09/2007
  • FS50092311 - Financial Services Authority - 27/09/2007
  • FS50133972 - Financial Services Authority - 20/09/2007 … further results
  • FS50215269 - BBC - 30/03/2010
  • FS50225815 - Cumbria Constabulary - 23/03/2010
  • FS50265162 and FS50274024 - Vehicle and Operator Services Agency - 09/02/2010
  • FS50259951 - London Borough of Tower Hamlets - 08/02/2010
  • FS50155352 - Cabinet Office - 11/01/2010
  • FS50145474 - Ministry of Justice - 26/11/2009
  • FS50170394 - UK Borders Agency - 26/11/2009
  • FS50141014 - Foreign and Commonwealth Office - 18/11/2009
  • FS50175323 - South Yorkshire Police - 09/11/2009
  • FS50163685 - Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency - 09/11/2009
  • FS50178905 - Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency - 04/11/2009
  • FS50172691 - Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary - 14/09/2009
  • FS50177654 - Cambridgeshire Constabulary - 07/09/2009
  • FS50129227 - Metropolitan Police Service - 30/06/2009
  • FS50199511 - Transport for London - 29/06/2009
  • FS50123984 - Export Credits Guarantee Department - 21/05/2009
  • FS50097905 - Cabinet Office - 09/03/2009
  • FS50176388 - Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform - 16/02/2009
  • FS50154106 - BBC - 16/10/2008
  • FS50098771 - Department for Children, Schools and Families - 29/05/2008
  • FS50137475 - BBC - 19/05/2008
  • FS50138964 - HM Revenue and Customs - 25/02/2008
  • FS50142321 - HM Revenue and Customs - 19/12/2007
  • FS50122063 - HM Revenue and Customs - 18/12/2007
  • FS50118390 - Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs - 19/11/2007
  • FS50095271 - HM Revenue and Customs - 13/06/2007
  • FS50101614 - Charity Commission - 15/05/2007
  • FS50079972 - National Archives - 04/04/2007
  • FS50121212 - Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service - 15/03/2007
  • FS50072189 - The Treasury Solicitor's Department (TSOL) - 08/03/2007
  • FS50099068 - Cheshire Constabulary - 11/12/2006
  • FS50081570 - Broadland District Council - 27/11/2006
  • FS50064584 - Thames Valley Police - 22/08/2006
  • FS50098965 - Thames Valley Police - 10/08/2006
  • FS50086131 - Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS - 09/08/2006
  • FS50075960 - London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham - 31/07/2006
  • FS50078010 - The Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee for Cheshire on Justices of the Peace - 24/07/2006
  • FS50066998 - Eastern Health & Social Services Board - 10/07/2006
  • FAC0070219 - Salisbury District Council - 07/06/2006
  • FS50089784 - Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs - 24/05/2006
  • FS50082845 - City and County of Swansea - 27/04/2006
  • FS50066050 - Northampton Police - 24/11/2005
  • FS50068601 - Essex Constabulary - 03/08/2005
  • FS50067279 - Hampshire Constabulary - 02/08/2005
  • FS50068017 - Hampshire Constabulary - 02/08/2005

Includes DNs up to: 26 April 2010




Freedom of Information Act 2000
Exemptions
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