Case number: 160184
On 4 March 2016 the applicant submitted a request to AGS for access to details of an investigation carried out into a complaint he made relating to a particular incident and to statements taken by AGS that he believes allowed the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to decide not to prosecute. On 9 March 2016 AGS refused the applicant's request on the ground that it is a public body only in respect of administrative records relating to human resources, finance or procurement matters and that the records sought were not considered to be such administrative records. The applicant sought an internal review of the decision of AGS on 25 March 2016. On 14 April 2016, AGS upheld its original decision. The applicant sought a review by this Office of that decision on 22 April 2016.
I have decided to conclude this review by way of a formal, binding decision. In conducting this review, I have had regard to correspondence between AGS and the applicant as outlined above, to the applicant's correspondence with this Office, and to communications between this Office and AGS on the matter.
This review is concerned solely with whether AGS was justified in refusing access to the records sought by the applicant on the ground that the FOI Act does not apply in respect of the records, in accordance with Schedule 1, Part 1(n) of the Act.
The FOI Act does not confer a general right of access to information; rather it confers a right of access to records. Therefore, the applicant's request for information has been treated as a request for access to records containing the information he seeks.
The applicant has indicated his dissatisfaction with the manner in which AGS handled his complaint. However, the remit of this Office does not extend to examining the manner in which a public body performs its functions generally, or to investigating complaints against a public body. This review, conducted pursuant to section 22 of the FOI Act, is confined to reviewing the decision of AGS to refuse access to the records sought.
I note that AGS informed the applicant that it is open to him to make a complaint to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission if he is unhappy with the investigation of his complaint by AGS. It also informed him that it is open to him to seek reasons from the DPP for its decision not to prosecute.
Section 6(2)(a) of the FOI Act provides that an entity specified in Schedule 1, Part 1 of the Act shall, subject to the provisions of that Part, be a public body for the purposes of the Act. Schedule 1, Part 1 contains details of bodies that are partially included for the purposes of the Act and also details of the certain specified records that are excluded. If the records sought come within the description of the exclusions in Part 1, then the Act does not apply and no right of access exists.
Schedule 1, Part 1(n) provides that AGS is not a public body for the purposes of the FOI Act other than in relation to administrative records relating to human resources, or finance or procurement matters.
During the course of this review, AGS stated that the records sought pertain to criminal investigation by AGS. Having regard to the nature of the request and the description of the records sought, I accept that they are captured by the exclusion of Part 1(n). The records at issue concern the core functions of AGS, as opposed to administrative matters relating to human resources, or finance or procurement. Accordingly, I find that AGS was justified in its decision to refuse access to the records sought on the ground that they are specifically excluded from the scope of the FOI Act.
Having carried out a review under section 22(2) of the FOI Act, I hereby affirm the decision of AGS in this case.
Section 24 of the FOI Act sets out detailed provisions for an appeal to the High Court by a party to a review, or any other person affected by the decision. In summary, such an appeal, normally on a point of law, must be initiated not later than four weeks after notice of the decision was given to the person bringing the appeal.