By Heather Brooke
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Read or Download Your Right To Know: A Citizen's Guide to the Freedom of Information Act PDF
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Additional info for Your Right To Know: A Citizen's Guide to the Freedom of Information Act
Below, I highlight the most relevant points. A large percentage of the Freedom of Information law is taken up with a list of exemptions for keeping information secret. There’s a whole grab-bag of exemptions for the secrecy-loving bureaucrat to choose from. First, though, let’s first consider the main rights of access. The FOIA starts off well enough: Brooke2 01 intro 33 18/8/06 14:40:08 34 Your Right to Know Any person making a request for information to a public authority is entitled – (a) to be informed in writing by the public authority whether it holds information of the description specified in the request, and (b) if that is the case, to have that information communicated to him.
Cost is one of the most common reasons cited for refusing information requests. A single large request may cost too much, but the Act defines many small requests at once as ‘vexatious’. A solution may be to make small requests consecutively. Also, under the duty to provide assistance, FOI officers should explore ways to help reduce the fee. For example, they could provide the information electronically instead of in hard copy or invite you to view the information and take your own notes, or to select the information you feel would be most useful to you.
The only requirement is that the authority must currently hold it. The law makes it an offence to ‘alter, destroy, hide or deface information’ once an FOIA request has been made but it is not an offence to destroy records before a request is made. 2 But Whitehall officials insisted that any increase in shredding was solely to deal with mounting volumes of records. Any request for information in writing (including email and fax) can be classed as a request under the FOIA even without mentioning the law specifically.