Case number: OIC-57310-Z5J7Z5
17 January 2020
In a request dated 22 February 2019, the applicant sought access to “all documents, notes, reports, evidences, witness statements, and the like garnered by AGS and its investigative prosecutorial collaborators, throughout the course of its investigation and prosecution” relating to a fatal road traffic accident. In a decision dated 28 February 2019, AGS refused access to records pursuant to Schedule 1, Part 1(n) of the FOI Act. The applicant sought an internal review of that decision, following which AGS affirmed its original decision. On 30 September 2019, the applicant applied to this Office for a review of AGS’s 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 correspondence between the applicant and AGS and correspondence between this Office and both the applicant and AGS on the matter. I have decided to conclude this review by way of a formal, binding decision.
This review is concerned solely with whether AGS was justified in refusing access to records relating a fatal road traffic accident on the ground that the FOI Act does not apply in respect of the records sought, pursuant to Schedule 1, Part 1(n) of the Act.
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 description of the exclusions in Part 1, then the Act does not apply and no right of access exists to such records held by the body.
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 his internal review request the applicant argued that the scope of his request should encompass administrative and financial records documenting logistical aspects of the case management e.g. scheduled work hours, overtime etc.
In its submission to this Office, AGS stated that the information sought by the applicant relates to information regarding the investigative and prosecution aspect of the fatal road traffic incident. It stated that the information sought does not constitute administrative records insofar as the FOI Act relates to AGS. I note that the Information Commissioner previously found in OIC Case 160054 that the term ‘administrative records’ is commonly understood to mean records relating to the processes of running/managing a business or organisation. Records relating to the core functions of AGS, such as the investigation of criminal activity, are outside the ambit of the Act.
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. 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.
Finally, in his correspondence with AGS and this Office the applicant suggested that the records could be released to him outside of the FOI Act. This Office has no role in adjudicating on any such release.
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.