FREEDOM OF INFORMATION TWO – “THE COUNCIL DOES NOT APPEAR TO HAVE TARGETED ITS SEARCHES APPROPRIATELY” – ICO

The Information Commissioner’s Office report says:

40. In the Commissioner’s view, the council does not appear to have targeted its searches appropriately. It is not clear, for instance, whether the council has sought to identify those individuals who would have been members of the Carnegie Community Trust at the relevant period.

This organisation is still active and, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it would appear to be relatively straightforward to identify the individuals, and then ask council officers to conduct a search of their electronic mailboxes for correspondence from those individuals over the relevant two-month period. These emails could then have been copied to a folder and a sampling exercise carried out.

4L. The Commissioner notes the council’s concern that it may never be able to be absolutely certain that it has located all the information it holds falling within the scope of the request. However, as the Commissioner explained to the council in a letter dated 2 November 2017, this is true of any FOI request, and it is for this reason that the Commissioner makes her determinations based on adequate and reasonable searches having been carried out, and on the balance of probabilities. In this case, the searches have been neither appropriately targeted nor adequate.

42. The Commissioner is also concerned at the lack of detailed evidence provided by the council as to why it would exceed the appropriate costs limit either to determine whether information is held, and/or to provide the information to the complainant. The council has argued only that it would take five minutes to review any specific email chain. This has not adequately demonstrated that an unreasonable burden would be placed on the council’s resources to determine whether information is held, or to provide information to the complainant.

43. In her letter of 2 November 2017, the Commissioner explained to the council that, in her view, the exception was not engaged, and invited the council to make further submissions and/or provide further evidence that it would place an unreasonable burden on the council to fulfil the request. She has not received any further submissions or evidence.

44. The Commissioner has determined in this case that the exception at regulation 12(a) (b) has not been engaged. She therefore has not gone on to consider the public interest test.

(Note: Lines in bold type by NFCP)

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