Here is a brief guide to the limits on the information that is obtainable under the FOIA.
To make a request under the FOIA, it is not necessary to follow any specific procedure nor to mention the Act, nor indeed does the identity of the enquirer need to be disclosed. It is advisable, however, to make the request as specific as possible. The public authority must respond to the enquiry within 20 days.
There is certain information that will not be provided, however. You will not get:
- information that cannot be disclosed without causing a breach of confidence;
- information that is legally privileged, provided withholding it is in the public interest; and
- other information if it is regarded as being in the public interest to keep it confidential.
In making its decision, the public body will need to bear in mind its responsibility to make its decision-making as transparent and easily understood by the public as possible. Where an application is refused on public interest grounds, an explanation must be given. Such decisions can be appealed to the Information Commissioner. Note that a confidentiality clause in an agreement with a public body may be unenforceable if disclosure of the information to which it relates can be considered to be in the public interest.