Line to take - LTT45 - Disclosure to public

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  • FOI/EIR: FOI
  • Section/Regulation: s1
  • Issue: Disclosure to public
  • Source: Information Tribunal
  • Details: Guardian & Brooke / BBC (8 January 2007); PriceWaterhouseCoopers / HMRC (4 March 2010)
  • Related Lines to Take: n/a
  • Related Documents: EA/2006/0011 and EA/2006/0013 (BBC), EA/2009/0049 (HMRC)
  • Contact: EW/HD
  • Date: 30/04/2010
  • Policy Reference: LTT45
  • © Copyright Information Commissioner's Office, re-used with permission
  • Original source linked from here: LTT


Line to take

Disclosure under the FOIA is disclosure to the public rather than to the applicant.

Further Information

The Tribunal in the case of Guardian & Brooke v The Information Commissioner & the BBC (following Hogan and Oxford City Council v The Information Commissioner) confirmed that, “Disclosure under FOIA is effectively an unlimited disclosure to the public as a whole, without conditions.” *

This means that the circumstance of the applicant for information should not be taken into account when considering the exemptions under Part 2, except in the cases of s40, where the applicant is the data subject, and s21 where the information is reasonable accessible to the applicant.

The Tribunal in the case of S v the ICO and the General Register Office (GRO) further confirmed that, “FOIA is [...] applicant and motive blind. It is about disclosure to the public, and public interests. It is not about specified individuals or private interests.” (para 19)

Later in its ruling it stated, “In dealing with a Freedom of Information request there is no provision for the public authority to look at from whom the application has come, the merits of the application or the purpose for which it is to be used. Consequently, there is no provision for the public authority to create conditions of use* pursuant to a FOIA disclosure or to indicate that such disclosure should be treated in confidence.” (para 80)

This approach was reaffirmed by the Tribunal in the case of PriceWaterhouseCoopers v IC and HMRC where it was said at para 50:

“Each request made under FOIA reflects a general right subject to certain exemptions enjoyed by every person to have disclosed to the public, all information legitimately disclosable within the terms of the request held by the requested public authority, irrespective of the requesting person’s interest in the information and irrespective of the subject matter of the information”.

(*) In the Commissioner’s view, information under the Act or EIR can still be subject to copyright restrictions (either the PA’s copyright or a third party’s copyright)