The Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Environmental Information Regulations 2004 provide the general public with access to information held by public authorities such as government departments, the NHS and local authorities. The aim of the Act is to help the public understand who those authorities operate and what they do.
The public's right to information is not unlimited; both FOIA and EIR contain wide-ranging exemptions which allow information to be withheld. Exemptions may apply for reasons of confidentiality, the prejudice disclosure would have on commercial interests, or because the information contains personal data. Applying the exemptions is rarely simple.
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Our Information Law team has extensive experience in advising public authorities in responding to requests for information, particularly where the information is complex, sensitive in nature, or subject to intense media scrutiny. We also advise those organisations which engage with public authorities in relation to the protection of their commercial information from disclosure.
We provide support to organisations in responding to requests. This includes collating, reviewing and redacting large quantities of documents which fall within the scope of a request. We also represent public authorities before the Information Commissioner's Office, First Tier Tribunal or Upper Tribunal.
Working with clients
Our Information Law team offer a wide range of services relating to FOIA including
- Advising public authorities in relation to requests for information, including the application of the FOIA exemptions and the application of the public interest test where the exemption is qualified
- Providing advice in relation to the risks and impact of disclosing or withholding information, particularly where the information concerned is confidential in nature, has the potential to prejudice the commercial interest of the authority or a third party or where the information is subject to particular media interest
- Co-ordinating series of requests from one or more individuals in relation to the same underlying subject matter
- Representing public authorities before the Information Commissioner's Office, First Tier (Information Rights) Tribunal or Upper Tribunal
- Providing tailored training for public authorities on their duties under FOIA and practical advice on the application of the Act.
We provided advice and support for an NHS Trust in relation to a series of requests for information from many different individuals concerning the same subject matter. Providing the requested information was complicated by a number of factors including ongoing investigations into the subject matter, the sensitive nature of the information and the impact which disclosure may have on Trust staff and patients. The issue was also the subject of national media interest.
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