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Mr C and Dublin City Council (FOI Act 2014)

Case Number: 160297

Whether the Council was justified in refusing the applicant's request for access to all records relating to his applications for housing and related financial contribution on the ground the request related to records already released and available to the applicant

Conducted in accordance with section 22(2) of the FOI Act by Stephen Rafferty, Senior Investigator, who is authorised by the Information Commissioner to conduct this review

Background

On 26 April 2016, the applicant made a request for all records relating to his applications for housing with the Council, including all records pertaining to him and the Financial Contribution Scheme. In its decision of 11 May 2016, the Council referred to the applicant's request as seeking all files held by its Allocations and Transfers Section. It refused the request on the ground that it related to records already released and/or that it was frivolous or vexatious or formed part of a pattern of manifestly unreasonable requests. On 17 May 2016, the applicant sought an internal review of the decision to refuse his request. On 27 June 2016, the Council affirmed its decision. The applicant subsequently sought a review by this Office of the Council's decision.

In carrying out my review, I have had regard to the records to which this review relates and regard to the correspondence between the Council and the applicant as set out above. I have also had regard to the communications between this Office and both the applicant and the Council.

Scope of the Review

The scope of this review is concerned solely with whether the Council was justified in refusing the applicant's request on the ground that it related to records already released and/or that it was frivolous or vexatious or formed part of a pattern of manifestly unreasonable requests

Preliminary Matter

I wish to explain at the outset that a review by this Office is considered to be a de novo review which means that my decision is made in light of the facts and circumstances as they apply at the date of that decision.

Analysis and Findings

Section 15(1)(i)(i) of the FOI Act provides for the discretionary refusal of a request where the request relates to records already released, either to the same or a previous requester, and the records are available to the requester concerned. In a submission to this Office, the Council stated that the applicant had made four previous requests for records relating to his housing applications and or/records relating to his financial contribution and that all records held by the Housing Allocations and Transfers Section were released to arising from those requests. However, the Council also referred to a further tranche of records held by its Housing Management Services. It appears that those records had not previously been released to the applicant.

As outlined above, the Council limited the scope of the request which is the subject of this review to relevant files held by the Housing Allocations and Transfers Section. Following a request by this Office for clarification of this point, the Council stated that the applicant's previous FOI requests referred to records held by that Section and that the latest request was interpreted as a request for records in a similar manner, given that it is the only Section that processes housing applications and administers the financial contribution scheme. The Council apologised for limiting the scope of the request in this manner and stated that it was done in good faith and had not been intended to disadvantage the applicant or to deliberately withhold information. The Council further stated that it had recently released the Housing Management Services file in full to the applicant pursuant to a request made by the applicant under the Data Protection Acts.

It is the Council's position that all relevant records have now been released to the applicant. Following receipt of the Council's submissions, Ms Lydia Buckley of this Office wrote to the applicant and attempted to contact him by telephone to enquire as to whether he was satisfied that he had received all relevant records and to provide him with an opportunity to make a submission on the matter. However, this Office has received no further communication from the applicant.

On the basis of the information provided to this Office by the Council, I satisfied that all the records relating to the applicant's housing applications, including records relating to his financial contribution, have been released and are available to the applicant. I find, therefore, that the decision of the Council to refuse the applicant's request under section 15(1)(i)(i) of the FOI Act was justified.

Decision

Having carried out a review under section 22(2) of the FOI Act, I hereby affirm the decision of the Council.

Right of Appeal

A party to a review, or any other person affected by a decision of the Information Commissioner following a review, may appeal to the High Court on a point of law arising from the decision. Such an appeal must be initiated not later than four weeks from the date on which notice of the decision was given to the person bringing the appeal.

 


Stephen Rafferty