Unintended FOI consequences

A nice little example of how a Freedom of Information (FOI) request can sometimes bring about an unexpected change, and advance a cause which has little to do with FOI.  Although in this instance I’m undecided whether this was a good thing or not.

On 3 January this year the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued a decision notice in respect of two requests for information made to Thames Valley Police (TVP) relating to

an incident in which the complainant’s driveway was blocked by the vehicle of someone he believes was visiting TVP headquarters

The ICO was satisfied, on the correct test of the balance of probabilities that TVP did not hold this information.

Nonetheless, the requester appealed that decision to the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights), which has just issued a decision, in the form of a Consent Order disposing of the proceedings. The Schedule to the Consent Order explains

Thames Valley Police will give full and reasonable consideration to the reinstatement of 6 monthly liaison meetings with residents living in the vicinity of TVP HQ South with the objective of avoiding any unreasonable impact of operational activities on local residents

In consequence of this (and the agreement of the ICO) the request and the appeal have been withdrawn by the requester. So, a satisfactory outcome for the parties was achieved (although one notes that if the meetings are not arranged to the satisfaction of the requester, he will submit a further FOI request about the original incident!).

Of course, it would be have been preferable if this compromise could have been agreed in February 2011, when the requests first started. And a large amount of public money has been expended on something which is only very loosely, if at all, related to the aim of FOI (as stated in the explanatory notes to the Act): to provide a right of access to recorded information held by public authorities.

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Filed under Freedom of Information, Information Commissioner, Information Tribunal

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