Case number: OIC-95599-M5N9V1

Whether AGS was justified in refusing access to case records sought by the applicant on the ground that the records are not subject to the FOI Act, pursuant to Schedule 1, Part1(n) of the FOI Act

11 September 2020

Background

In a request dated 7 July 2020, the applicant sought access to all documents in relation to a specific case to include:

  • All statements/notes taken by or held by An Garda Siochana,
  • All documentation in relation to why no supporting statement was taken by the investigating Garda,
  • All documentation in relation to the conduct of the Superintendent in regard to this case,
  • A full copy of the alleged GSOC file that was allegedly sent to the Garda Commissioner and the Commissioner’s response (if any was given).

On 7 July 2020, AGS refused the applicant’s request on the ground that the records sought fall outside the scope of the FOI Act. The applicant sought an internal review of that decision, following which AGS affirmed its original decision. On 30 July 2020, the applicant sought a review by this Office of the refusal of his request.

I have now completed my review in accordance with section 22(2) of the FOI Act.  In carrying out my review, I have had regard to the correspondence between the applicant and AGS as outlined above and to correspondence between this Office and both parties. I have decided to conclude this review by way of a formal, binding decision.

Scope of Review

This review is concerned solely with whether AGS was justified in refusing to grant access to the records sought by the applicant on the ground that the FOI Act does not apply in respect of the records sought.

Preliminary Matter

In his application for review, the applicant argued that the internal review was not conducted in line with the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017. This Office has no role in examining the administrative actions of FOI bodies. We are confined to considering whether the decisions taken by FOI bodies on requests for information are in accordance with the provisions of the FOI Act.

Analysis and Findings

Section 6(2) 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 descriptions 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. In other words, the only records held by AGS that are subject to the FOI Act are those that relate to administrative matters concerning human resources, finance, or procurement. In accordance with Part 1(n), all other records held by AGS are excluded.

In its submission to this Office, AGS stated that the information sought by the applicant relates to operational policing matters and not to administrative matters. Having regard to the nature of the request and the description of the records sought, I am satisfied that the records concern the core function of AGS, as opposed to administrative matters relating to human resources, or finance or procurement. Records relating to the core functions of AGS, such as operational policing matters, are outside the ambit of the Act. 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, pursuant to Schedule 1, Part(1)(n) of the Act.

Decision

Having carried out a review under section 22(2) of the FOI Act, I hereby affirm the decision of AGS in this case.

Right of Appeal

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.

 

Stephen Rafferty

Senior Investigator