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How the Commissioner deals with review applications

You will be notified, in writing, when your application is accepted

When the Commissioner decides on whether or not to accept your application for review, you will receive a letter from his Office. In some circumstances the Commissioner may refuse to accept the application as provided for in section 22(9) of the FOI Act.

Before writing to you, the Commissioner's staff will have checked whether your application is valid. The FOI body will be provided with a copy of your application for review (this is required under the FOI Act) and copies of your original FOI request to the body will be provided to the Commissioner's Office, together with the FOI body's original decision to you, your internal review request and the body's internal review decision (where decisions issued). The Commissioner will also notify any other person whom he decides should be notified of his intention to review the decision.

The Commissioner will ask the FOI body for the records (documents) and a submission

To allow him to review the decision, the Commissioner will request the records from the FOI body and will invite it to make a submission to him as to why it decided as it did on the FOI request in question.

The Commissioner will invite you to make a submission

The Commissioner will also invite you to make a written submission. You are not obliged to, but this can often assist the Commissioner in bringing the review to a conclusion. The Commissioner's staff may also contact you by telephone to discuss your case.

The Review will be assigned to an Investigator

Once your application is accepted, the Investigator will be the principal point of contact point between you and the Commissioner. The Investigator will generally :

  • try to establish all the relevant facts in relation to the decision made by the FOI body,
  • ask for submissions from the parties to the review and consider any arguments put forward,
  • see if it is possible to effect a settlement between the parties,
  • where a settlement cannot be reached, make a recommendation to the Commissioner on your case.

Settlements

The FOI Act provides that the Commissioner should operate in as informal a way as possible. In many cases the Commissioner will settle the matter by agreement rather than issue a formal, binding decision.

Binding Decisions

Where the Commissioner issues a binding decision, he may affirm (uphold) or vary (change) the original decision. Alternatively he may annul (cancel) the original FOI decision and make a new binding decision. You can read examples of the Commissioner's Decisions on this site.

How long will the Review take?

Reviews are completed as quickly as possible and, as far as is practicable, within four months of the date of receipt of the application. Some cases may take longer than 4 months if they are very complex or involve a large number of records (documents).

What if I no longer wish the Commissioner to review my case?

If at any stage you decide that you no longer wish the Commissioner to proceed with a review, you should write to the Office of the Information Commissioner stating clearly that you wish to withdraw your application for review.

Can I appeal the Commissioner's Decision?

The Commissioner's final, binding decision can be appealed to the High Court, but only on a point of law. This means that you cannot appeal the decision unless you think the Commissioner has interpreted the law incorrectly. An appeal to the High Court must be made not later than eight weeks after the date of the notification of the decision.  A decision of the High Court on such an appeal may be appealed to the Supreme Court. 

Generally, where the Commissioner makes a decision directing an FOI body to release further records those records will not be released pending the expiry of the 8 week period allowed to appeal to the High Court.

What if I am unhappy with the decision?

Section 24(4)(a) of the FOI Act 2014 provides that an appeal of a decision of the Information Commissioner must generally be initiated not later than 4 weeks after notice of the decision concerned was given to the person bringing the appeal. However, where the decision is to grant access to some records (including parts of records) but not all records requested, section 24(4)(b)(i) provides that the requester shall have 8 weeks after the date of the notification of the decision to initiate an appeal to the High Court.