This  summer  edition  of  the  Information  Law  Update  considers  decisions  of  interest  from  June  and  July  2013.   With  fewer  decisions  of  note  being  handed  down  during  the  summer  season,  we  have  taken  the  opportunity   to   include   a   more   detailed   consideration   of   the   hot   topic   of   surveillance  from   Eleanor   Grey   QC.  We   also   consider   two  cases  which  raise  issues  in  relation   to disclosure  of  data  by   the  police  as  well  as  returning   to   the   topic   of   vexatious  requests,   this   time   focusing   on   the   approach   to   the   ‘manifestly   unreasonable’   test   under  the  Environmental  Information  Regulations  2004.

The  Attorney-­‐General’s  power  of  veto

  1. The   most   notable   case   of   the   last   few   months   has   been   R(Evans)   v   Attorney   General [2013]   EWHC   1960   (Admin),  in  which  the  Divisional  Court  upheld  the  use  of  the  Attorney  General’s  veto  under  the  Freedom  of   Information Act   and   as   it   applies   to   the   Environmental   Information   Regulations   2004. The   AG   vetoed   the   disclosure   of   correspondence   between   HRH   Prince   of   Wales   and   ministers   in   seven   government   departments;   the   legal   challenge   to   his   decision   failed. Although   the “executive   override”   represented   by   the veto  has  been  described  as  a  ‘constitutional  aberration’,  it  could  be  argued  that  giving the  government   the   final  say  in  the  release  of  documents  under  FOIA  represented an  essential  element  of  the  ‘package’  of   reforms   contained   in   the   Act,   and   was   one   of   the   elements   which   enabled  the   Act   to   come   into   being. Further,  it  might  also  be  argued   that   the  power  has  been  used  with   reasonable   restraint,  given   that  it  has   been  used  on  only  six  occasions since  the  Act  took  effect.

     Surveillance:  Cameras  and  Consent
  2. Surveillance  has  been  a  hot  topic  recently,  whether  as  a  result  of  the  ‘Prism’  or  ‘Tempora’  revelations about   the   US’s   National   Security   Agency or   the   UK’s   GCHQ’s   activities,   or   because   of   recent   developments   regarding  the  use  of  CCTV  cameras. As  to  CCTV,  according  to  a  newspaper  report 1 of  a recent  survey  by  the   British   Security   Industry   Association,   5.9  million   CCTV   cameras   are   watching   us,   roughly   one   for   every   10   citizens. This   is   not   an   ‘inevitable’   consequence   of   modern   life   but   a   peculiarly   British   development. Apparently,  we   have   20%  of  all  CCTV  in   the  world,  more  official  eyes   than  China. Global   retailers   fit  CCTV   into   their   stores in   the   UK,   while feeling   no   need   to   do   so   elsewhere. Whatever   the   purpose   of   a   new   building   is,   architects   design   integral   CCTV   and   a   surveillance   budget   is   set   aside. The  ultra-­‐cautious   “you   never   know   when...”   approach   takes   over;   councils  make   having   CCTV   a   pre-­‐condition   of   getting   a   liquor   licence,  whether  dealing  with  a  big  city-­‐centre  nightclub  or  a  quiet  village  pub. 2 All  this  sits  side  by  side  with   a  degree  of  incompetence. The  BSIA  notes  that  most  private  CCTV  is  a  sham;  cameras are  rarely  monitored   and  badly  positioned,  more  likely  to  catch  the  heads  of  shoppers  than  their faces.
  3. So,  is  it  necessary  or  lawful   to  record  children  in  youth  clubs  by (as  was  apparently   the  case in  a  parish  in   Gloucestershire),  streaming  the   footage  to  the  living  room  TV  of  two  parish  councillors? Practitioners  have   to  date  been  able  to  look  at  the  ICO’s  CCTV Code  of  Practice 3 for  guidance. But  on  4   June  2013,  the  Home   Secretary  laid  a  “Surveillance  Camera  Code  of  Practice” 4 before  Parliament.  The  Code  came  into  force  on  12   August  2013. It  applies  to  ‘relevant  authorities’  as  defined  by  s33  of  the  Protection  of  Freedoms  Act  2012;   that   is,  mostly   local   authorities   and   policing   authorities. 5 The   Code   applies   to   ‘overt’   surveillance;   ‘covert’   surveillance  is  regulated  by  RIPA  (the  Regulation  of  Investigatory  Powers  Act  2000). The  duty  upon  relevant   authorities  is to  ‘have  regard  to’  the  Code. Although  this  is  not  an  absolute  duty  to  follow  the  Code,  a  failure   to   apply   its   provisions   would   call   for reasoned   explanation,   and   would   be   taken   into   account   in   civil   or   criminal  proceedings.
  4. Many   operators   of   cameras,   including   those   in   the   private   sector,   will   fall   outside   the   definition   of   a   ‘relevant  authority.’  The  Code  states  that  “...  the  government  fully  recognises  that  many  surveillance  camera   systems   within   public   places   are   operated   by   the   private   sector,   by   the   third   sector   or   by   other   public   authorities   (for   example,   shops   and   shopping   centres,   sports   grounds   and   other   sports   venues,   schools,   transport  systems  and  hospitals). ...  the government  will  keep  the  code  under  review  and  may  in  due  course   consider  adding  others  to  the  list  of  relevant  authorities.”
  5. The  Code  draws  upon  the  framework  of  Article  8,  ECHR,  to  suggest  that  overt  surveillance  cameras  may  be   used   in   a   public   place   whenever   that   use   is   “in   pursuit   of   a   legitimate   aim;   necessary   to  meet   a   pressing   need;  proportionate;  effective; and compliant  with  any  relevant  legal  obligations”. Such  surveillance  should   be  “surveillance  by  consent”;  but  that  consent  must  be  informed  and  not  assumed  by  the  system  operator. There  are  12  guiding  principles  set  out by  the  Code:-­‐
    “2.6  System  operators  should  adopt  the  following  12  guiding  principles:
    1. Use  of  a  surveillance  camera  system  must  always  be   for  a  specified  purpose  which  is  in  pursuit  of  a   legitimate  aim  and  necessary  to  meet  an  identified  pressing  need.
    2. The   use   of   a   surveillance   camera   system   must   take   into   account   its   effect   on   individuals   and   their   privacy,  with  regular  reviews  to  ensure  its  use  remains  justified.
    3. There  must  be  as  much  transparency  in  the  use  of  a  surveillance  camera  system  as  possible,  including   a  published  contact  point  for  access  to  information  and  complaints.
    4. There   must   be   clear   responsibility   and   accountability   for   all   surveillance   camera   system   activities   including  images  and  information  collected,  held  and  used.
    5. Clear  rules,  policies  and  procedures  must  be  in  place  before  a  surveillance  camera  system  is  used,  and   these  must  be  communicated  to  all  who  need  to  comply  with  them.                                                                                                                            
    6. No  more  images  and  information  should  be  stored  than  that  which  is  strictly  required  for  the  stated   purpose  of  a  surveillance  camera  system,  and  such  images  and  information  should  be  deleted  once  its   purpose  has  been  discharged.
    7. Access   to   retained   images   and   information   should   be   restricted   and   there   must   be   clearly   defined   rules  on  who  can  gain  access  and  for  what  purpose  such  access  is  granted;  the  disclosure  of  images  and   information   should   only   take   place   when   it   is   necessary   for   such   a   purpose   or   for   law   enforcement   purposes.
    8. Surveillance   camera   system   operators   should   consider   any   approved   operational,   technical   and   competency   standards   relevant   to   a   system   and   its   purpose   and   work   to   meet   and   maintain   those   standards.
    9. Surveillance   camera   system   images   and   information   should   be   subject   to   appropriate   security   measures  to  safeguard  against  unauthorised  access  and  use.
    10. There  should  be  effective   review  and  audit  mechanisms   to  ensure  legal   requirements,  policies  and   standards  are  complied  with  in  practice,  and  regular  reports  should  be  published.
    11. When  the  use  of  a  surveillance  camera  system  is  in  pursuit  of  a  legitimate  aim  and  a  pressing  need,  it   should   then  be  used  in   the  most  effective  way   to  support  public  safety  and  law  enforcement  with   the   aim  of  processing  images  and  information  of  evidential  value.
    12. Any  information  used   to   support  a   surveillance  camera   system  which  matches  against  a   reference   database  for  matching  purposes  should  be  accurate  and  kept  up  to  date.
  6. A  recent  example  of  the  need  to  justify  the  use  of  CCTV  can  be  found  in  the  enforcement  notice  served  on   15  July by  the  ICO,  on  the  Chief  Constable of  Hertfordshire  Constabulary. The  ICO  declared the  CCTV  “ring  of   steel”  around  Royston, Hertfordshire,  unlawful. Seven  static  Automatic  Number  Plate  Recognition  cameras   covered   the  entrances  and  exits   to Royston,  recording   the  number-­‐plates  of  each  car   that  drove  in  or  out. The  ICO  found  that  “no  satisfactory  explanation”  of  the  policy  had  been  given  to  him. He  held  that  there  was   a   breach   of   the   first   data   protection   principle   (fair   and   lawful   processing)   and   also   the   third   principle   (excessive   processing). He   made   explicit   reference   to   Article   8   of   the   ECHR   in   reaching   this   conclusion,   holding   that   there  was  an  unlawful  interference  with   the   right   to   respect   for  a  private  and   family  life. The   remedy   referred  back   to   the  absence  of  a  “satisfactory  explanation”   for   the  policy;   the  CC  was   to  “refrain   from  processing”  the  data  “except  to  the  extent  that  that  such  processing  can  be  justified  to  the  satisfaction   of   the   Commissioner   … following   the   conduct   of   a   Privacy   Impact   Assessment”.   The   assessment   was   to   define  the  “pressing  social  need”,  to  assess  the  effectiveness  of  the  measures  in  addressing  it,  the  impact  on   the  private  lives  of  individuals  and  to  determine  whether  the  measures  were  “a  proportionate  interference”.
  7. Practitioners  will  recognise  the  influence  of  the  requirements  of  Article  8,  ECHR,  upon  these  required  steps.

    Data  Protection  in  the  Supreme  Court
  8. In  a  rare  development,  the  subject  of  data  protection  has  been  considered  by  the  UK’s  Supreme  Court:  see   South   Lanarkshire   Council (Appellant)   v   The   Scottish   Information   Commissioner   (Respondent) [2013]   UKSC   55,   which   considered   the   Scottish   Freedom   of   Information   Act   2002’s   equivalent   of   s40(2),   FOIA. The   Supreme   Court   was   considering   a   request   for   information   about   the   number   (but   not   the   identity)   of   its   employees   in   a   particular   post   at   points   on   the   Council’s   pay   scales. The   requestor’s purpose   was   to   investigate  whether  the  appellant’s  pay  gradings  favoured  work  traditionally  done  by  men. The  request  was   refused on  the  basis  that  to  release  the  information  would  contravene  the  DPA,  but  the  Scottish  Information   Commissioner  decided  that  the  information  should  be  released. The  Council  appealed.
  9. The  Supreme  Court  upheld the  ICO’s  decision. Baroness  Hale  considered  the  relationship  between  Article  8   of   the   ECHR   and   Condition   6   of   Schedule   2   of   the   DPA   (i.e. the   requirement   that   “the processing   [be]   necessary   for   the   purposes   of   legitimate   interests   pursued   by   the   data   controller   or   by   the   third   party   or   parties  to  whom  the  data  are  disclosed,  except  where  the  processing  is  unwarranted  in  any  particular  case   by   reason  of  prejudice   to  the   rights  and   freedoms  or  legitimate  interests  of   the  data  subject”). She  stated   that:

    “It  is  obvious  that  condition  6  requires  three  questions  to  be  answered:
    1. Is   the   data   controller   or   the   third   party   or   parties   to   whom   the   data   are   disclosed   pursuing   a   legitimate  interest  or  interests?
    2. Is  the  processing  involved  necessary  for  the  purposes  of  those  interests?
    3. Is  the  processing  unwarranted  in  this  case  by  reason  of  prejudice  to  the  rights  and  freedoms  or   legitimate  interests  of  the  data  subject?”
  10. Baroness  Hale  held  that:
    1. The  word  “necessary”  has  to  be  considered  in  relation  to  the  processing  to  which  it  relates.  If  the processing  in  question  would  involve  an  interference  with  the  data  subject’s  right  to  respect  for  his   private  life,  then  the  requirements  of  article  8(2)  of  the  European  Convention  on  Human  Rights  must   be  fulfilled. In  a  case  involving  Condition  6,  the  balancing  exercise  required  by  Article  8(2)  is  built   into  the  condition  itself;  what  matters  is  that  the  overall  result  is  compliant  with  the  Convention.
    2. In  this  case,  the identity  of  the  data  subjects  would  not  be  identified  from  the  disclosures  sought;  as   a  result  it  was  “quite  difficult  to  see  why  there  is  any  interference  with  their  right  to  respect  for  their   private  lives.”
    3. The  meaning  of  the  word  “necessary”  was  clearly  established  in  community  law. It means   “reasonably”  rather  than  absolutely  or  strictly  necessary,  and  forms  a  part  of  the  proportionality   test.  A  measure  which  interferes  with  a  right  protected  by  community  law  must  be  the  least   restrictive  for  the  achievement  of  a  legitimate  aim. “Indeed,  in  ordinary  language  we  would   understand  that  a  measure  would  not  be  necessary  if  the  legitimate  aim  could  be  achieved  by   something  less.”
  11. Finally,   the   Supreme   Court   noted   that   the   Information   Commissioner   was   bound   by   the   requirements   of   natural  justice  when  conducting  an  investigation;  this would  require  disclosure  of  any  new  material  that  was   adverse   to   the   interests   of   the   participants,  which   he   had   received.  It   is   noteworthy   that   in   Scotland,   the   Scottish  Information  Commissioner  is  the  sole  finder  of  facts. There  is  a  right  of  appeal  to  the  Inner  House  of   the   Court   of   Session,   but   on   a   point   of   law   only. That   stands   in   contrast   to   the   wider   role   of  the   FTT   in   England   and  Wales,   which   can   re-­‐hear   cases. So   the   need   for   the   Commissioner to   act   fairly   was   of  even   greater importance in  Scotland.

    Challenges  to  the  disclosure  of  data  by  the  police.
  12. Also   from   Scotland   is   the   case   of   Lyons   v   CC   of   Strathclyde   Police [2013]   CSIH   46. The   Lyons case   demonstrates  the  many  difficulties  of  using  the  DPA  to  challenge the  disclosure  of  information  by  (here)  the police. In   this   case,   the   Chief   Constable   of   Strathclyde   had   twice  written   to   regulatory   bodies,   to   say   that   intelligence   held   by   the   police   indicated   that   Mr   Lyons   was   involved   in   serious   and   organised   crime,   including   drug   trafficking. Mr   Lyons   challenged  the   truth   of   these   disclosures   of   ‘sensitive’   personal   data,   saying  that  he  had  led  “a  straight  life”. His attempt  to  use  the  DPA  to  stop  such  disclosures  being  made  was   unsuccessful. He  suggested  that  there  was  a  breach  of  the  fourth  data  protection  principle  (“Personal  data   shall  be  accurate”).  But  it  was  held  that  the  police  letter was  no  more than a  statement  that  “the  police  held   intelligence   that   indicates   that   the   claimant   was   involved   in   serious   and   organised   crime.” That   was   an   accurate  statement. Furthermore,  “a  data  controller  is  not  required  to  guarantee  that  information  obtained   from  a   third  party   [i.e,  a  police  source]  and   then  held  by   the  data  controller  is   factually  correct”;   the  data   controller   is   merely   required   to   take   “reasonable   steps”   to   ensure   the   accuracy   of   the   data,   and   also   to   record  any  objections  expressed  by   the  data  subject   (see  paragraph  7  of  Part  II  of  Schedule  1,  which  gives   further  commentary  on  the  application  of  the  data  protection  principles).
  13. An   argument   might   have   been   developed   that   this   processing   was   “unfair”,   having   regard   to   the   requirements  of   the   first  data  protection  principle. After all,   the  problem   for  Mr  Lyons  was   that   the  police   were  – at  least  implicitly  – giving  weight   to   the  allegations   they  were  passing  on,  but  he  had  no  means  of   knowing  their  sources:  the  information  was  “shorn  of  any  indication  where  the  information  came  from”. As   a  result,  it  would  be  difficult  to  question  the  accuracy  or  credibility  of  the  information. However,  this  was  not   properly   pleaded   (see   paragraph   24   of   the   judgment),   and   the   Court   was   not   prepared   to   entertain   the   point.
  14. The  most   recent  English  case  on  police  powers  of   retention   (rather   than  disclosure)  of  information  is  TD  v   Metropolitan   Police   Commissioner [2013]   EWHC   2231   (Admin)   (25.7.13),   in   which   the   Divisional   Court   upheld   the   Defendant’s   decision   to   retain   information   about   an   allegation   of   sexual   assault   on   the   Police   National   Computer. The  allegation,  in   respect   of  which   no  action  was   taken  against  TD   by   the   police,   had   been   retained   on   the   files   for   nearly   9   years   by   the   time   that   the   case   came   to   court. The   police   had   demonstrated  that  they  would  not  disclose  it  to  a  future  employer  for  the  purpose  of  an  Enhanced  Criminal   Records  Certificate, but  wished  to  be  able  to  examine  it  should  another  allegation  be  made  against  TD or  by   the   same   complainant. The   Defendant’s   guidance   for   “serious   specified   offences”   (which   this   potentially   was)  was  that  the  information  would  be  retained  indefinitely.
  15. It  was  plain  that  the  retention  of  the  information  constituted  an  “interference”  with the  Claimant’s  Article  8   rights;   the   question   was   whether   it   could   be   justified   under   Article   8(2). The   Court   accepted   that   it   was   justified,  at  least  at  the  present  time:

    “When  considering   the   policy   for   review  and   retention   the  interests  at   stake  may   be  wider   than   the   rights   of   the   individual   concerned   and   the   detection   of   crime. The   striking   feature   on   the   claimant’s   account   of   the   allegation   in   this   case   is   that   it   was   fabricated   altogether. It   is   not   uncommon  in  cases  alleging  sexual  impropriety  for  evidence  of  a  complainant’s  history  of  previous   unfounded   allegations,   disclosed   by   the   prosecuting   authorities,   to   be   essential   to   ensure   a   fair   trial.”  [19].
  16. But  Moses  LJ  and  Burnett  J  criticised  the  absence  of  provision  for  a  review  of  the  necessity  of  retention;  the   Defendant’s  policy  needed  to  incorporate  this.
  17. The  general  pattern  of  cases  such  as  TD and  the  ‘Ring  of  Steel’  enforcement  decision  is  to  link  issues  under   the   DPA   to   an   analysis   of   rights   under   Article   8,   ECHR. Whether   this   is   necessary,   given   the   very   specific   language  and  requirements  of  the  DPA,  may  be  questioned. After  all,  as  Baroness  Hale  observed,  in  a  case   involving   Condition   6 the   balancing  exercise   required   by   Article   8(2)   is   built   into   the   condition   itself. So   it   should  not  be  necessary  to  conduct  a  ‘parallel’  exercise  by  reference  to  Article  8,  ECHR.

    The  Upper  Tribunal
  18. In   the   April   -­‐ May   update,   we   reported   on   Home   Office   v   ICO   and   others;   John   O   v   ICO (EA/2011/0265/022/0280)   and   Browning   v   ICO [2013]   UKUT   0236   (AAC),   both   of   which   concerned   the   ‘closed’  procedure  of  the  Information  Rights  Tribunal. The  Upper  Tribunal  (UT)  returned  to  the  subject  in  the   case   of   FCO   v   Information   Commissioner   and   Plowden [2013]   UKUT   0275   (AAC),   in   which   Judge   Jacobs   emphasized  that  the  FTT  should  always  ensure  that  as  much  evidence  as  possible  is  given  in  open  hearing. After  evidence   has   been  given   in   closed   hearing,   the   other   party   should   be   told   of  any  evidence   that   can   properly  be  disclosed.  The  FTT  is  entitled  to  the  cooperation  of  the  public  authority  calling  evidence  in  the   closed  hearing  in  achieving  these  ends. Judge  Jacobs  reminded  the  parties  that  an FTT  decision  may  be  set   aside  if  these  principles  are  not  observed.
  19. Judge  Jacobs  further  held  that  the  UT  will  be  less  reluctant  to  hold  that  the  FTT  has  made  an  error  of  law  in   assessing   the   public   interest   balance,   if   the FTT   has   assessed   a   policy   area   in   which   it   has   no   particular   expertise   (such   as   foreign   affairs   and   diplomacy,   the   subject   of   the   case).   Further,   an   assessment   of   the   public  interest  balance  requires  assessment  of  both  the  detrimental  effects  of  disclosure and the  benefits  of   disclosure. In  this  case,  the  benefits  of  disclosing  information  which  was  ‘not  particularly  informative’  had  to   be   justified,   when   set   against   the   high   public   interest   in   maintaining   the   exemption   in   a   case   relating   to   diplomatic  exchanges.
    Manifestly  unreasonable  requests.
  20. In   the  April-­‐May  edition  of   this  newsletter,  we   reported  on   the  IC’s  guidance  on  vexatious   requests  under   s14(1)   FOIA. With   two   new   FTT   decisions   which   consider the   application   of   the   test   for   “manifestly   unreasonable”  requests  under  the  EIR,  it  is  now  that  test  which  is  under  the  microscope. The  EIR  provides  no   binding  definition  of the  term  ‘manifestly  unreasonable’  but  case  law  has  held  it  to  be  coterminous  with  the   term  ‘vexatious’  under  section  14  FOIA   (see  Craven  v  IC  &  DECC [2012  UKUT  442   (AC)  at  30).  It  is  of  note,   however,  that  in  both  of  the  decisions  discussed  below,  the  Tribunal  did  not  agree  with the  IC’s  importation   of   the   FOIA   time   limits,   raising   questions   about   the   extent   to   which   the   approach   taken   to   vexatious   requests  under  the  FOIA  should  be  transposed  to  requests  made  under  the  EIR.
  21. In  Yeoman  v Information  Commissioner  (EA/2013/0008)  the  IC’s  approach to  this  test  was  overruled  by  the   FTT. The  case  concerned  requests  for  disclosure,  from  Cornwall  Council,  of  all  ‘section  106  agreements’  (i.e.  -­‐ agreements   between   developers   and   local   planning   authorities   that   are   negotiated   under   the   Town   and   Country  Planning  Act  1990 as  part  of  a  condition  of  planning  consent).  When   reaching   the  conclusion   that   the  request  was  manifestly  unreasonable,  the  IC  had  taken  into  account:
    1. the  time that  it  would  take  the  public  authority  to  respond  to  the  requests  (the  Council  estimated  that  it would  take around  28  hours  47  minutes of  staff  time);
    2. the  effective  staff  time  limit  of  18  hours  in  relation  to  FOIA  applications.  There  was  no  similar  effective   time  limit  under  the  EIR,  but,  the  IC  felt  that  the  time  estimate  was  so  far  in  excess of  the  FOIA  limit  as  to   render  the  request  ‘clearly  unreasonable’;  and
    3. whether  the  public  interest  test  favoured  non-­‐disclosure.  The  IC  concluded  that  given  the  time  involved   in  meeting  the  request,  this  would  disrupt  the  Council’s  ‘core  duties’.
  22.  The  tribunal  agreed  with  the  IC’s  analysis  that  the  amount  of  staff time  that  it  would  take  to  respond  to  the   request  rendered  it  manifestly  unreasonable.  However,  the  Tribunal  did  not  agree  with  the  IC’s  importation   of   the   FOIA   time   limits.   It   held   that   the   absence   of   time   limits   from   the   EIR   framework   was   a   “fairly   compelling   indication”   that   the   FOIA   time   limits   were   not   a   pertinent   consideration   in   relation   to   EIR   applications.
  23. The  Tribunal  was  also  critical  of  the  IC's  approach  to  the  issue  of  the  public  interest.  The  Tribunal  concluded   that   the  IC  had  considered   the  public  interest   too  narrowly,   focusing  only  on   the  interests  of   the  business   community. The   Tribunal   stressed   that   there   was   a   broader   and   “manifest   public   interest”   in   having   the   information  sought  released  to  the  wider  public   (and  not  just  the  business  community)  so  that  they would   know  about  the  amount  of  money  (or  other  obligations)  associated  with  section  106  agreements.  The  public   would   also   be   able   to   check   when   commitments   under   section   106   agreements   were   due   to   arise   and   whether  developers  were  honouring  their  commitments.  This  was  a  “core  function”  of  the  public  authority   rather  than  a  distraction.
  24. The   Tribunal   found   that   the   IC   had   wrongly   conflated   the   public   interest   test   with   the   ‘manifestly   unreasonable’  test,  finding  that  length  of  time  involved in  answering  the  request  meant  that  disclosure  was   against   the   public   interest.   The   Tribunal   stressed   that   the   public   interest   test   is   distinct   from   and   not   synonymous  with  the  manifestly  unreasonable  test. Thus,  although the  Tribunal  concluded  that,  on  balance,   the   request   could   properly   be   characterised  as  manifestly   unreasonable,   it  also   concluded   that   the   public   interest   strongly favoured   disclosure.  The  appeal  was  allowed  and   the   Council  was   ordered   to   respond   to   the  request.
  25. The   IC   found   his   application   of   the   ‘manifestly   unreasonable’   test   overruled   again in Silverman   v   IC (EA/2013/0027),  a  case  decided  on   the  same  day  and  before   the  same  judge. Requests  had  been  made   to   the  Department  of  Transport  for  information  relating  to  Mr  Silverman’s  campaign  entitled  ‘Clean  Highways’.   The   campaign   sought   to   tackle   litter   problems   on   the   UK’s   road   network. The   Department   of   Transport   estimated   that   it  would   take   it  around   72   hours  of   staff   time  to   respond   to  Mr   Silverman’s   requests.  The   Commissioner  felt  this  estimate  to  be  slightly  excessive but  he  did  not carry  out  his  own  analysis  or  offer  a   substitute  figure.  The  Commissioner  also  considered  the  following  factors:
    1. the  number  of  previous  requests  that  had  been  made  by  Mr  Silverman  since  May  2010;
    2. the  public  authority’s  positive  response  to  previous  representations  from  Mr  Silverman; and
    3. the   unsuccessful   nature   of   the   appellant’s   application   for   a   litter   abatement   order   in   proceedings   brought  against  the  public  authority.
  26. The   Commissioner   concluded   that   these   three   points,   taken   together,   meant   that   Mr   Silverman's   applications   were   ‘manifestly   unreasonable’.   Mr   Silverman   disputed   the   Commissioner's   conclusions 7regarding   the   time   it   would   take   to   respond   to   his   requests, the   conclusion   that   the   requests   would   be   burdensome  and  the  conclusion  that  the  requests  were  obsessive.
  27. Applying IC   v   Devon   County   Council   &   Dransfield [2012]   UKUT   440   (AC),   the   Tribunal   noted that it   was confronted   with   conflicting   evidence on   the   extent   of   the   burden   to   the   public   authority   created   by   the   request. It  felt  unable  to  provide  its  own  time  estimate  but,  on  balance,  it  concluded  that  the  time  incurred   in   responding   to   the   requests   could   not   be   properly   characterised   as   an   unreasonable   burden. It   also   repeated  its  comments  on  the  inappropriateness  of  importing  FOIA  time  limits  to  the  EIR  framework.
  28. The  Tribunal   further   found   that   the  number  of  applications   (13  over  a  period  of   two  and  a  half  years)  was   not   excessive   “in   light   of   the   worthwhile   nature   of   Mr   Silverman's   campaign”.   The   Tribunal   found   the   Commissioner’s  submissions  in  relation  to  the  apparently  obsessive  nature  of  Mr  Silverman's  requests  to  be   muddled  and  unpersuasive.  It  also  rejected  the  conclusion  that  the  failed  application  for  a  litter  abatement   order  had any  notable   relevance.  Finally,  it  noted   the   fact   that  Mr  Silverman  had  made  a  number  of  FOIA   and  EIR  applications   following   this  appeal  which   had   been  answered  without   complaint.  This   undermined   the   suggestion   that   his   requests   had   reached   a   level   where   they   could   be   objectively   characterised   as   obsessive. Consequently,   the   Tribunal   unanimously   concluded   that   Mr   Silverman's   requests   could   not   be   properly  characterised  as  manifestly  unreasonable.  The  appeal  was  allowed  and  the  DoT  ordered  to  respond   to  the  appellant’s  enquiries.
  29. Interestingly,  in  reaching  its  decision,  the  Tribunal  placed  significant  weight  on  what  it  considered  to  be  the   “decent   worthwhile”   nature   of   Mr   Silverman’s   campaign which   it   considered   to   have   a   “serious   aim   and   purpose  which  was  of  general  benefit to  the  whole  community”,  perhaps  suggesting  that  a  campaign  which   was  not  considered  as  worthy  or  ‘decent’  (or  uncontroversial?)  may  be  subject  to  a  different  approach  from   the  Tribunal.