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Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform v the Information Commissioner & Anor

This judgement was given by the High Court on an appeal by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on a decision given by the Commissioner in a particular case. However, the Office of the Information Commissioner cannot reproduce the text of that decision letter, as to do so would be in contempt of court.

The text of the judgement, which was given by Ms. Justice Carroll on 11 July 2003, has been approved by the Courts Service.

THE HIGH COURT

[2001 No. 72MCA]

IN THE MATTER OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT, 1997 AND IN THE MATTER OF AN APPEAL PURSUANT TO SECTION 42(1) OF THAT ACT BETWEEN:

THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE, EQUALITY AND LAW REFORM

APPELLANT

AND

THE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER

RESPONDENT

AND

(-----)

NOTICE PARTY

JUDGEMENT of Ms. Justice Carroll delivered on the 11th July 2003

This is an appeal by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (the Minister) pursuant to s. 42 of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (the 1997 Act) from a decision of the Information Commissioner (the Commissioner) made the 5th July, 2001. The Commissioner directed the Minister to disclose certain documents to the Notice Party who is the person requesting the documents.

When the matter came before Mr. Justice Kelly for directions he ruled:

  1. That the hearing of the entire appeal be in camera on the ground that this was the only way to ensure that there would be no inadvertent disclosure of material to the Notice Party or other persons.
  2. That there was to be no publication of the identity of the Notice Party pending further order of the court.
  3. That the records which were the subject matter of the appeal and all other material exchanged between the Information Commissioner and the Department were not to be disclosed to the Notice Party.
  4. That affidavits might be exchanged between the Information Commissioner and the Department and that this would involve the Notice Party not being privy to the records, affidavits or submissions herein.
  5. That during the course of the hearing and in order to maintain the integrity of the system and to protect the interests of all involved parties the Notice Party and his legal representatives would have to be excluded from such parts thereof which touch upon the records at issue or submissions made in relation to them.

Full submissions in writing by the Commissioner and the Minister were lodged, not in the Central Office but with the Registrar and have not been seen by the Notice Party or his legal advisers. A second book of pleading exists open only to the Commissioner and the Minister and the court. It contains a further affidavit filed on behalf of the Minister exhibiting the records at issue and the letters/records arising from the requests which the Minister contends ought not to be disclosed to the Notice Party. There is also a second affidavit filed on behalf of the Commissioner. The Notice Party has also filed submissions. It is submitted on his behalf that he is particularly concerned to protect his right to privacy and his reputation from any imputation which might arise by reason of these proceedings.

The Notice Party was heard at the commencement of these proceedings and then withdrew. I should say that I consider that the Commissioner, in arguing for the release of information, fully covered the arguments to be made on behalf of the Notice Party and in my opinion there was no conflict of interest between the Commissioner and the Notice Party.

That being said, I consider the only way I can deal with the judgment in this case without disclosing the nature of the documents and the reasons advanced by the Minister as to why they should not be disclosed, is to decide the case by reference to the legal submissions made by the Minister and the Commissioner.

I find in favour of the Minister on the grounds set out in the legal arguments filed on his behalf. I reject the arguments made on behalf of the Commissioner.

There is to be no publication of the Notice Party’s name. The documents filed in this case shall not be disclosed to the public.

 

Annual Report 2016