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Mr X and An Garda Síochána (FOI Act 2014)

Case Number: 170219

Whether AGS was justified in its decision to refuse access to interviews conducted by AGS with the applicant's son in relation to two investigations, and details of progress made on those investigations, on the ground that the records sought are excluded from the scope of the FOI Act, pursuant to Schedule 1, Part 1(n) of the FOI Act

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

The applicant submitted a request to AGS on 20 January 2017 for access to interviews conducted by AGS with his son in relation to two investigations, and details of progress made on those investigations. On 3 March 2017 AGS refused the applicant's request on the ground that it is a public body only in respect of administrative records relating to human resources, finance or procurement matters and that the records sought are concerned with operational policing matters which do not come within the ambit of the FOI Act.

On 31 March 2017, the applicant sought an internal review of that decision, following which AGS affirmed its original decision. The applicant sought a review by this Office of that decision on 8 May 2017.

In conducting this review, I have had regard to correspondence between AGS and the applicant as outlined above, to the applicant's correspondence with this Office, and to communications between this Office and AGS on the matter.

Scope of Review

This review is concerned solely with whether AGS was justified in refusing access to the records sought by the applicant on the ground that the FOI Act does not apply in respect of the records, in accordance with Schedule 1, Part 1(n) of the Act.

Preliminary Matters

The FOI Act does not confer a general right of access to information; rather it confers a right of access to records. Therefore, the applicant's request for details of investigation progress has been treated as a request for access to records containing the information he seeks.

Analysis and Findings

Section 6(2)(a) 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.

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 its submission to this Office, AGS stated that the records sought pertain to criminal investigations by AGS, and an update on the progress of those same investigations are operational policing matters. It argued, therefore, that such records do not meet the criteria of administrative records as defined in the Act.

Having regard to the nature of the request and the description of the records sought, I accept that they are captured by the exclusion of Part 1(n). The records at issue concern the core functions 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.

Decision

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

Right of Appeal

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.

 


Stephen Rafferty
Senior Investigator