Case number: OIC-104955-Q1W9P4
20 April 2021
On 14 July 2020, the applicant made a request to the PRA for a copy of the map/plan that relates to lands as registered in 1916/1917 under a specified closed folio. He also requested copies of any other Land Registry maps relating to these lands, “In particular any maps from 1916, 1927, 1935 and 1966”. In a decision issued on 23 July 2020, the PRA granted access to two archived plan maps dated July 1984 relating to the folio in question.
From the documentation available to this Office, it would appear that further telephone communication took place between the applicant and the PRA following the issuing of its decision of 23 July 2020, in the course of which the applicant requested a copy of the original registration records for the folio, known as an Instrument. On 27 July 2020, the PRA issued further correspondence to the applicant refusing this aspect of his request under section 41(1)(a) of the FOI Act on the ground that disclosure of the record sought is prohibited by the Land Registration Rules 2012.
On 24 August 2020, the applicant sought an internal review of that decision. The PRA issued an internal review decision on 11 September 2020, in the course of which it varied its original decision. It released copies of archived file plans held on a second folio, some of which relate to property transferred from the closed folio in question. It said that the copies provided, along with the records provided on 23 July 2020 comprised all archived plans held by the PRA relating to the property. It affirmed its original decision to refuse access to the specified Instrument. On 11 March 2021, the applicant sought a review by this Office of that decision, wherein he said the PRA did not release the original 1916 first registration maps and Instrument.
I have decided to conclude this review by way of a formal binding decision. In conducting this review, I have had regard to the correspondence between the applicant and the PRA, and to the correspondence between this Office and both the applicant and the PRA on the matter.
This review is concerned with whether the PRA was justified in its decision to refuse access to any further maps relating to the specified folio on the ground that it holds no further relevant maps and to refuse access, under section 41(1)(a) of the Act, to the specified Instrument.
Does the PRA hold other relevant maps?
In essence, the position of the PRA is that all relevant maps relating to the specified folio have been released to the applicant. Section 15(1)(a) provides for the refusal of a request where the records sought do not exist or cannot be found after all reasonable steps to ascertain their whereabouts have been taken.
In its submission to this Office, the PRA explained that the Land Register consists of textual and spatial information (folios and maps). The folio is the document on which details are recorded on foot of applications for registration completed by the Land Registry. When a property is first registered, the documents lodged for registration must include a suitable map outlining the extent of the property. The relevant property is then recorded on official Land Registry maps. It said that on receipt of the request, a search was undertaken and an archived filed plan map (containing two pages) relating to the specified folio was located and released.
The PRA further explained that folio and map records are now fully digitised, and that when a request for a certified copy of a folio and map was received at the time when records were in paper format, a filed plan map was created and issued along with a copy of the relevant folio. The filed plan map is a copy of the mapping of the relevant property created from the official Land Registry map. It said the filed plan map relating to the specified folio was created on 9 July 1984.
In relation to the applicant’s request for access to a copy of the “…original 1916 first registration maps”, the PRA explained that as the folio in question was first registered in 1927, it would not hold maps relating to the folio before that date. It said there were no alterations to the mapping of the property between 1927 and 1984 when the filed plan map was created. It said the dates of 1935 and 1966 cited by the applicant would appear to relate to changes of ownership of the folio and that any documents relating to those registrations would be held on the relevant Instruments.
It said the filed plan map dated 9 July 1984 which was provided to the applicant on 23 July 2020 was a copy of the original registration as lodged under the relevant Instrument and registered on the official Land Registry map in 1927.
In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I am satisfied that the PRA has released all relevant maps it holds relating to the specified folio. I find, therefore, that it was justified in refusing access to any further relevant records under section 15(1)(a) of the Act.
The Specified Instrument
In relation to the specified Instrument, the PRA argued that it is prohibited from allowing access to an Instrument of the type sought except in accordance with Rule 159 of the Land Registration Rules 2012 (SI 483/2012) and that the record is therefore exempt from release under section 41(1)(a) of the FOI Act. Section 41(1)(a) provides for the mandatory refusal of a request for a record if the disclosure of the record concerned is prohibited by law of the European Union or any enactment (other than a provision specified in column (3) of Part 1 or 2 of Schedule 3 of an enactment specified in that Schedule).
The Land Registration Rules 2012 are not listed in Schedule 3 and are therefore relevant for the purposes of section 41. The question I must consider, therefore, is whether the release of the Instrument sought is prohibited by Rule 159.
Rule 159 is concerned with the inspection of filed documents and with obtaining copies of such documents. It provides that only certain persons are entitled to inspect and obtain copies of the various filed documents. In other words, if a person wishes to inspect or obtain a copy of a filed document, he or she must first establish a right to inspect the document. Rule 159 requires that an application to inspect or obtain a copy of a document under the rule must be made in a particular form as specified in SI 483/2012. Before allowing inspection of a document by a person claiming inspection under Rule 159, the PRA may make such inquiries and give such notices as it may think fit.
It is not a matter for this Office to determine whether the applicant has a right to inspect or obtain a copy of the Instrument sought. In order to do so, he must submit an application in accordance with rule 159. If his application is successful, he will obtain a copy of the record sought. The FOI Act does not afford a right of access to Instruments as an alternative to making an application in accordance with rule 159. In the circumstances, I am satisfied therefore that disclosure of the Instrument is prohibited by Rule 159, and that, as a result, it is exempt from release under section 41(1)(a) of the FOI Act.
Having carried out a review under section 22(2) of the Act, I hereby affirm the decision of the PRA to refuse access to any further maps relating to a specified folio on the ground that it holds no further relevant maps and to refuse access, under section 41(1)(a) of the Act, to the specified Instrument.
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.