The High Court has recently handed down its judgment in the case of Home Office and Ministry of Justice v Information Commissioner, which can be accessed here.
The background to the case is that a journalist made several requests for information from the Home Office, some of which were refused. The journalist then requested information about the way in which his previous requests had been handled to see if the Home Office had dealt with his application differently to requests from others. The Home Office refused the request on the basis that this was justified under section 36(2) Freedom of Information Act. This exemption applies to information which it is argued would be prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs. The Home Office argued the public interest in maintaining the exemption on disclosure outweighed the public interest in disclosure and the time and expense involved in dealing with the request was too high. The tribunal disagreed.
Two important points were made:
- The journalist had a right to see how the request for information had been handled so that he could see if his request had been subjected to different treatment.
- The tribunal decided that, in estimating the cost of complying with a request for information, the time taken in considering whether particular information was covered by an exemption could not be taken into account.