Case number: OIC-99005-R7Q7F6
8 December 2020
The applicant was a student in TCD in 2005 but left in 2006 without completing his studies. On 2 June 2020, he submitted an application under section 10 of the FOI Act for statements of reasons in respect of five specific acts/decisions that occurred in and around 2005/2006 concerning him. The application comprised two pages, namely a completed standard form that TCD makes available for persons wishing to apply for a statement of reasons, and a second page wherein he indicated that he wanted specific reasons for the five decisions in question.
On 9 June 2020, TCD wrote to the applicant explaining that due to Covid-19 public health measures, university campus was closed and staff were working remotely. It noted that as the request related to historical records TCD was unable to conduct physical search for records. It asked the applicant to consider deferring his request until it re-opened. In correspondence, the applicant asked that a response issue by 21 September 2020.
TCD dealt with the applicant’s correspondence as a request for access to records under section 12 of the Act rather than an application for a statement of reasons under section 10 of the Act. On 21 September 2020, it issued a decision in which it refused the request under section 15(1)(i) on the ground that all relevant records were previously released to the applicant on foot of 22 requests made in 2005/06. It also said that a number of the records previously released were no longer held by it. Furthermore, it said that it would view any further repeated requests for the same information as vexatious or frivolous under section 15(1)(g) of the Act.
On 24 September 2002, the applicant sought a review of that decision, following which TCD affirmed its original decision. On 2 November 2020, the applicant sought a review by this Office of that decision.
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 TCD and the applicant, and to the communications between this Office and both the applicant and TCD on the matter. I have decided to conclude this review by way of a formal, binding decision.
This review is concerned solely with whether TCD was justified in refusing the application submitted by the applicant under section 10 of the Act for a statement of reasons relating to five specific acts that occurred in 2005/2006 concerning him.
Section 10 provides that a person who is affected by an act of an FOI body, and has a material interest in a matter affected by the act or to which it relates, is entitled to a statement of reasons for the act as well as a statement of any findings on any material issues of fact made for the purposes of that act. Under subsection 10, an application under this section must be expressed to be such an application.
During the course of the review, the Investigating Officer wrote to TCD inviting submissions. She drew its attention to the wording of the applicant’s original request, specifically where he explicitly said that he was making an application under section 10 of the FOI Act.
In response, TCD acknowledged that the applicant had submitted an application for a statement of reasons under section 10 which it had mistakenly overlooked. It explained that when processing the request it focused on page two of the request. It agreed with the Investigating Officer’s suggestion that the appropriate action was for the case to be annulled and remitted for fresh consideration.
It is clear that TCD has not dealt with the application submitted in accordance with the provisions of section 10 of the FOI Act. Accordingly, I annul the decision of TCD and direct it to consider the application afresh. For the sake of completeness, the parties should note that I have not made any determination in relation to the applicant’s entitlement to the statements of reasons sought.
Having carried out a review under section 22(2) of the FOI Act, I hereby annul the decision of TCD as specified above, and direct it to conduct a fresh decision-making process in respect of the application submitted by the applicant under section 10 of the Act for a statement of reasons.
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 affect 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 by the person bringing the appeal.