FOIA Section 23 Exemption

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Section 23: Information Supplied by, or Related to, Bodies Dealing with Security Matters

Section 23 applies to two categories of information:

  1. information supplied directly or indirectly by the Security Bodies that are listed in section 23(3) (this includes the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ). Whether this aspect of section 23 applies in a particular case will turn on the source of the information; and
  2. information that relates to one of the Security Bodies. The application of this part of section 23 will turn on the content of the information.

Key points

  • The fact that a public authority does not hold information supplied by one of the Security Bodies can itself be information relating to those bodies. If information falls within the exemption in section 23, it will very often be important to consider whether it is necessary to rely on the exclusion of the duty to confirm or deny whether the information is held.
  • The interaction between section 23 and section 24 (national security) is quite complex and needs to be considered carefully in order to ensure that the relevant public interests are protected;
  • It may be necessary to consult the Security Body concerned if it is anticipated that section 23 might apply
  • Section 23 is not subject to any public interest balance
  • A ministerial certification procedure exists where it becomes necessary to rely on this exemption.

What the law says


Official Guidance


Decision Notices