Enforcement

Clouds over building

The vast majority of public authorities are taking freedom of information seriously. Regrettably, some are not. Public authorities have now had ample opportunity to learn about FOI and to develop suitable systems to properly meet their responsibilities when dealing with information requests. The Commissioner will now be taking a more robust approach towards the small number of public authorities that repeatedly fail to meet these responsibilities.

He will do this through the use of Enforcement Notices and Practice Recommendations, details of which can be found below. The following documents outline how the Commissioner will go about monitoring compliance with the FOIA and the EIR, and explain the approach to using his enforcement powers.

FOI enforcement strategy 
Practice recommendations policy statement
FOI Monitoring Strategy

Enforcement Notices

An enforcement notice is a legal order the Information Commissioner can make to require a public authority to address its failure to comply with Part 1 of the Freedom of Information Act. In practice, this is most likely to be used where there is systemic or repeated non-compliance.

The notice will explain what the public authority has failed to do and set out the Commissioner's reasons for reaching that conclusion. The notice will specify what steps the public authority needs to take in order to comply with the Act and a timescale for doing so.

Failure to comply with an enforcement notice may result in the Commissioner referring the matter to the High Court. The High Court can deal with the public authority as if it had committed contempt of court. A public authority may appeal against an enforcement notice to the Information Tribunal.

The Information Commissioner has issued an enforcement notice concerning information on the legality of military intervention in Iraq
Date: 22/05/06
Public Authority: Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers
Summary: The Information Commissioner has served a single enforcement notice to resolve the issues arising from a number of similar complaints relating to disclosure of advice given by the Attorney General on the legality of military intervention in Iraq in 2003.

Full transcript of enforcement notice 22/05/06
Appendix 6 Disclosure Statement
Annex A Attorney General's Advice 07/03/03
Annex B Statement by the Attorney General 17/3/03
Annex C Memorandum by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Practice Recommendations

Where the Commissioner considers that the practice of a public authority does not conform with that proposed in the codes of practice he may give that authority a practice recommendation.

A practice recommendation will specify the steps the Commissioner considers should be taken to bring about the conformity. It will be in writing and will refer to the particular provisions of the code of practice with which the Commissioner considers the public authority's practice does not conform.

10 August 2009

The Commissioner’s Enforcement team has carried out an audit of a number of complaints received regarding freedom of information requests made to the Ministry of Defence. As a result of this audit, and information supplied from the Department itself, the Commissioner has decided to issue the authority with a practice recommendation in relation to the section 45 Code of Practice. The recommendations result from the Department’s practice of setting an unreasonable timescale for completing its internal reviews.
View a copy of the Ministry of Defence practice recommendation

31 March 2009

Following repeated failures to conduct internal reviews in accordance with the recommended timescales, the Information Commissioner has issued Greater Manchester Police with a practice recommendation. The recommendation makes specific observations about the authority’s conformity to the section 45 Code of Practice. 
Click here to view the practice recommendation

03 March 2009

Following consultation with the National Archives, the Information Commissioner has issued the Department of Health with a practice recommendation in relation its management of records, and specifically, its conformity to the section 46 Code of Practice.
Click here to view the practice recommendation
Click here to view a copy of the accompanying report, authored by the National Archives

3 November 2008

The Commissioner’s Enforcement team has carried out an audit of a number of complaints received regarding freedom of information requests made to the Department for Communities and Local Government. As a result of this audit, and information supplied from the Department itself, the Commissioner has decided to issue the authority with a practice recommendation in relation to the section 45 Code of Practice. The recommendations result from the Department’s practice of delaying the internal review process beyond a reasonable timescale.
View a copy of the Section 45 practice recommendation

31 March 2008

The Commissioner’s Enforcement team have carried out an audit of the complaints received regarding freedom of information requests made to the Department of Health. As a result of this audit the Commissioner has decided to issue the Department with a practice recommendation in relation to the section 45 Code of Practice. The recommendations result mainly from the Department’s practice of carrying out insufficient consultation with third parties, failing to transfer requests appropriately and delaying the internal review process beyond a reasonable timescale.
View a copy of the Department of Health practice recommendation

10 March 2008

Following monitoring by the ICO’s case reception unit, the Commissioner’s Enforcement team have carried out an audit of the complaints received regarding freedom of information requests made to the National Offender Management Service (NOMS). As a result of this review the Commissioner has decided to issue NOMS with a practice recommendation in relation to the section 45 Code of Practice. The recommendations result mainly from the agency’s practice of repeatedly extending the time for the public interest test and also their handling of internal reviews.
View a copy of the NOMS practice recommendation