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Decision Summary

  • Case Ref: FS50272235
  • Date: 2 February 2010
  • Public Authority: Northern Ireland Office
  • Summary: The complainant made a request in May 2009 for information relating to the 1981 hunger strike in the Maze prison. The Northern Ireland Office (“NIO”) acknowledged the request and subsequently replied in June 2009 that section 27 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the “Act”) applied to some of the information. It went on to inform the complainant that it would carry out a public interest determination within a target timeframe. The Commissioner finds that sections 17(1) and 10(1) of the Act were breached at this stage as the public authority failed to inform the complainant that all the requested information was subject to an exemption within 20 working days. Furthermore, where the NIO stated that section 27 did apply, it did not specify the relevant sub-section of the exemption or give reasons setting out why the exemption was engaged, thereby breaching sections 17(1)(b) and 17(1)(c). The NIO subsequently adjusted its time frame to provide a substantive response on a number of separate occasions. The Commissioner has found the delay in carrying out a public interest assessment to be in breach of section 17(3)(b) of the Act. He therefore requires the public authority to issue a notice explaining why section 27 is engaged and where it believes the balance of the public interest lies. If the NIO concludes that the balance of the public interest favours disclosure, the requested information should be provided to the complainant.
  • View PDF of Decision Notice: [1]