UK Liberty

If a court takes a decision you don’t like, what should you do about it?

Posted in freedom of information, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on June 5, 2008

Asks the BBC’s Martin Rosenbaum:

If a court takes a decision you don’t like, what should you do about it?

One possible response is to tell everyone to ignore it, although that’s probably not the reaction you’d expect from the Ministry of Justice, the government department which oversees the country’s judicial system.

Yet that’s what it’s been doing, according to Maurice Frankel of the Campaign for Freedom of Information in a speech given to the FOILive conference yesterday. He drew attention to several cases where MoJ guidance on how to process FOI requests appears to conflict with Information Tribunal decisions.

For example, does the time taken to redact information count when deciding if a request is too costly to process? The MoJ says yes, the Tribunal says no.

See the section of Frankel’s presentation (3.73 Mb PDF) entitled Adopting Case Law.

Belinda Crowe of the MoJ responded to Frankel by saying that the MoJ was sticking to its position where it thought the Tribunal had misinterpreted the law.

I think she prevaricates rather more than that, but essentially, yes, ignore the decisions.

However my guess would be that officials who tell the Information Commissioner that they decided to follow the MoJ’s interpretation of the law in preference to the Tribunal’s are unlikely to impress him.

I should hope so.

Michael Wills, Minister at the Ministry of Justice with responsibility for Freedom of Information, was only the day saying how “proud” he was of it all.  Trebles all round.

Worth looking at the FOILive conference stuff by the way.


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