Internal reviews

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This information is off the hoizol!

Freedom of Information Act 2000 (England, Wales & NI)

The relevant legislation is contained within the "Part VI of the Secretary of State's Section 45 Code of Practice". Important quotes are:

  • "36. Each public authority should have a procedure in place for dealing with complaints both in relation to its handling of requests for information."
  • "38. Any written reply from the applicant (including one transmitted by electronic means) expressing dissatisfaction with an authority's response to a request for information should be treated as a complaint"
  • "39. The complaints procedure should provide a fair and thorough review of handling issues and of decisions taken pursuant to the Act"

Bear in mind that whilst the MoJ describes the complaints procedure of Part VI of the Code of Practice as an Internal Review, the text of the Code of Practice itself does not mention these words - some public authorities incorrectly only allow refusals under Section 17 of the FOIA to be reviewed, often by an "appeals panel".

The ICO recommend that reviews should be carried out within 20 working days - see their "Good Practice Guidance 5 - Time limits on carrying out internal reviews".

There are very few circumstances where you can complain directly to the ICO. These are:

  • Where the public authority does not have a complaints process
  • For the BBC - for appeals against them applying the journalism, art or literature "derogation" - you should complain direct to the ICO. Background information on this
  • Many public authorities won't provide an appeals process for requests they consider to be vexatious.

Also see the ICO's When & How to Complain leaflet.

ICO's Lines to take on Section 45

Relevant Lines to Take
  • LTT89 - More than one objective reading of a request - 14/11/2008
  • LTT88 - Clarifying requests - 02/04/2008
  • LTT87 - Limits of s16 - 02/04/2008

Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2000

  • the end of the period for responding to your request (if the authority did not reply to your request), or
  • the date the authority responded, or
  • the date the authority sent you a fees notice, or
  • the date the authority sent you a refusal notice or a notice saying that it does not have the information
  • The review should take no longer than 20 working days.
  • The authority does not have to provide a review when a vexatious or repeated request had been made.
  • The guidelines for Internal Reviews are based on the Scottish Ministers Section 60 Code of Practice

Environmental Information Regulations

  • Regulation 16 of the Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs) provides for the issue of a Code of Practice by the Secretary of State - section XII covers the review/complaints procedure
  • Paragraph 58 - "Each public authority must have a review procedure in place. This procedure may be used by any person who considers that their request has not been properly handled or who are otherwise dissatisfied with the outcome of the consideration of their request and where the issue is such that it cannot be resolved informally in discussion with the official dealing with the request."
  • Paragraph 60 - "Any written reply from the applicant ... expressing dissatisfaction ... should be treated as a complaint, as should any written communication from a person who perceives the authority is not complying with its publication scheme where it has one."
  • Paragraph 63 - "Authorities must consider each complaint ... and respond to the complainant within 40 working days"
  • For the Environmental Information Regulations (Scotland) the Code of Practice can be found here
  • The wording is very similar to the England/Wales/N.I. Regulations, however it stipulates a response within 20 working days, and to provide updates and reasons for any delay beyond 20 days.