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Information Rights

Law and Practice



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Information Rights: Law and Practice by Philip Coppel
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"Seeking official information?"
5 stars"


An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

If you're professionally involved in requesting information from officialdom, or handling such requests, this is your must-have reference book to the Freedom of Information Act and other freedom of information legislation.

Since the previous edition was published in 2007, there have been numerous important decisions from the courts and also from the Information Tribunal on freedom of information law. These developments are reflected in the text, which means that if you specialize in this area, this book will keep you up to date.

The author, Philip Coppel QC, has expressed the hope that his book will assist in resolving the complexities of the Freedom of Information Act while revealing its subtleties. Certainly, the word ‘complexities’ is more than appropriate when contemplating this mind-bendingly complicated area of law.

Within its almost 1,500 pages, this erudite and logically organized work of reference deals with the full range of issues pertaining to information rights. In particular, the practical aspects of making requests for information are dealt with: which body to approach…how much time may be involved in dealing with the request …the duty to advise and assist…the transferring of requests…the matter of fees (yes, you have to pay to ask)…the matter of vexatious requests…and of course, much more.

If you are a practitioner, then you'll infer that this is a practitioner's book and the leading work in this field. That being so, you may well probably take the ‘complexities’ of this area of law for granted! Your lay clients and colleagues, however, may be amazed that over half the book, thirteen chapters of it, are devoted to ‘exemptions’, including the notions of “prejudice” and “the public interest”.

Against the principles stated in the text, each exemption is analyzed, all court judgments and tribunal decisions dealing with the exemption are considered and all available references are cited in the footnotes. Whether you're preparing a case, or tasked with responding to a request, you will find ample research here to help you make sure that no exemption can ever get past you.

Research resources are copious, with appendices that include comparative tables and a table of the FOIA's parlia­mentary history, as well as an annotated copy of the FOI Act itself, together with related legislation. You'll also appreciate the discussion of similar legislation in five comparative jurisdictions, from the USA to New Zealand. Finally, the wealth of web references to all cases offers ready access to primary material.

Yes, in a free society we have information rights; we have the right to ask awkward questions. Or do we? As this very large volume reveals, it's jolly hard to wrench adequate answers from the grasping tentacles of reluctant officialdom.

Good thing this book tells you exactly how to do it.


This is the third edition of the leading practitioner's work on freedom of information. Designed to provide in-depth legal analysis and practical guidance, this book has become the first port of call for anyone either seeking or handling requests for official information. The latest edition maintains its authorship of expert lawyers. The two years since the previous edition have seen numerous important decisions from the courts and from the Information Tribunal on freedom of information law. The learning from all these has been incorporated into the text, enabling a practitioner to see immediately all relevant cases and the principles that emerge from them. The book is logically organised so that the practitioner can quickly find the topic of choice. The work commences with an historical analysis that sets out the object of the legislation and its relationship with other aspects of public law. Full references to Hansard and other Parliamentary materials is provided. This is followed by a summary of the regime in five comparative jurisdictions, providing a useful testbed for anticipated effects of disclosure and a normative yardstick. The impact of the Human Rights Act 1998 is given separate consideration. Next follows a series of chapters dealing with rights of access under provisions apart from the FOI Act: access to information held by EU bodies; access to information under the Data Protection Act; access to information under the Environmental Information Regulations; public records; and access under numerous other provisions in legislation. Together, these provide the practitioner with sources of access that might otherwise be overlooked. All are arranged thematically. The book then considers practical aspects of information requests: the persons who may make them; the bodies to whom they may be made; the time allowed for responding; the modes of response; fees and vexatious requests; the duty to advise and assist; the codes of practice; government guidance and its status; transferring of requests; third party consultation. The next 13 chapters, comprising over half the book, are devoted to exemptions. These start with two important chapters dealing with general principles, including the notions of "prejudice" and the "public interest." The arrangement of these chapters reflects the arrangement of the FOI Act, but the text is careful to include analogous references to the Environmental Information Regulations and the Data Protection Act 1998. With each chapter, the exemption is carefully analysed, starting with its Parliamentary history (giving full references to Hansard and other Parliamentary material) and the treatment given in the comparative jurisdictions. The analysis then turns to consider all court judgments and tribunal decisions dealing with the exemption. The principles are stated in the text, with footnotes giving all available references. Whether to prepare a case or to prepare a response to a request, these chapters allow the practitioner to get on top of the exemption rapidly and authoritatively. The book concludes with three chapters setting out the role of the Information Commissioner and the Tribunal, appeals and enforcement. The chapter on appeals allows the practitioner to be familiar with the processes followed in the tribunal, picking up on the jurisprudence as it has emerged over the last five or so years. Appendices include: precedent requests for information; a step-by-step guide to responding to a request; comparative tables; and a table of the FOI Act's Parliamentary history. Finally, the book includes an annotated copy of the FOIA Act, the Data Protection Act 1998, the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, all subordinate legislation made under them, EU legislation, Tribunal rules and practice directions, and the Codes of Practice. Throughout the book, full web references are given (including to all cases), facilitating ready access to primary material. From the reviews of previous editions: "The depth of analysis and thought that Philip Coppel brings to the topic is evident throughout...Careful analysis is a hallmark of the book which reflects, not merely an academic interest in the legal regime but a real and active interest in the wider societal issues involved in the development of the law in this area...The text delivers excellent value for anyone working seriously in this area." - Rosemary Jay in Freedom of Information Journal "Encyclopaedic and authoritative...a very useful guide to practitioners as well as those seeking official information" - New Law Journal "This is not just a book for the library it is also a book to be held close at hand on any practitioner's desk, or in any public authority boardroom - the hope expressed by Coppel that his book will assist in resolving [FOI Act] complexities and in revealing its subtleties is realised in a well composed and intelligently written volume. " - Solicitors Journal "...The best single resource in this area of the law...Any practitioner who needs to consider information rights owes a considerable debt of thanks to Philip Coppel and his fellow authors." - Jonathan Crow QC in Public Law "This is an outstanding piece of legal scholarship, which will provide invaluable assistance to practitioners interested in information rights whether they be based in the United Kingdom or in comparable overseas jurisdictions." - John Griffiths SC in Australian Journal of Administrative Law

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Eliciting Official Information 1. Overview of Official Information Access Legislation 2. Terminology 3. The Rationale for Official Information Access Legislation 4. Background to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 5. The Open Government Code of Practice 6. Enactment of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 7. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Chapter 2 - The Comparative Jurisdictions 1. Information Rights Legislation Elsewhere 2. United States of America 3. Commonwealth of Australia 4. New Zealand 5. Canada 6. Republic of Ireland Chapter 3 - The Influence of the European Convention on Human Rights etc Estelle Dehon 1. The Influence of the Human Rights Act 1998 on Information Rights . 2. Article 8 of the ECHR 3. Article 10 of the ECHR 4. Other Articles of the ECHR . 5. Impact of the Human Rights Act 1998 Chapter 4 - Rights of Access under European Union Law Anna Bicarregui 1. Background 2. The Code of Practice and Decisions 93/731 and 94/90 3. Regulation 1049/2001 Chapter 5 - Access to Personal Information under the Data Protection Act 1998 Estelle Dehon 1. General Principles 2. The Scope of the Rights: Personal Data 3. The Nature of the Rights 4. The Request 5. The Response 6. Disentitlement 7. Exemptions 8. Appeals 9. Enforcement Chapter 6 - Access under the Environmental Information Regulations 1. Provenance of the Environmental Information Regulations 2. Environmental Information . 3. The Right to Environmental Information 4. The Response 5. Exceptions - General Principles 6. Specific Exceptions 7. Appeals and Enforcement Chapter 7 - Public Records 1. Background 2. Public Record Bodies 3. The Preservation of Records 4. Access to Public Records: The New Regime 5. Decision-making Responsibility in Relation to Public Records Chapter 8 - Other Domestic Rights of Access Saima Hanif (sections 1-7), Hodge Malek QC (section 8), HHJ Shanks (section 9) 1. Local Government 2. Health, Medical and Care Records 3. Planning, Environmental, Public Health and Safety Information 4. Land Information 5. Personal Information 6. Economic and Business Information 7. Educational Records 8. Information Rights in connection with Civil Litigation 9. Information Rights in connection with Criminal Proceedings Chapter 9 - The Right to Information 1. The Nature of Information 2. The Holding Requirement 3. Persons Entitled to Exercise the Rights 4. Bodies against which the Rights may be Exercised . 5. Scottish Bodies against which the Right may be Exercised 6. The Obligation to Disclose and Constraints on Disclosure 7. Discretionary Disclosure of Information Chapter 10 - The Duty to Advise and Assist, Codes of Practice and Publication Schemes Anna Bicarregui 1. The Duty to Advise and Assist 2. The Codes of Practice 3. Publication Schemes 4. Departmental Guidance Chapter 11 - The Request Anna Bicarregui (sections 1-6) 1. The Request for Information 2. Particularising the Request 3. Fees 4. Time for Compliance 5. Transferring Requests for Information 6. Failure to Locate Information 7. Consultation with Third Parties Chapter 12 - Disentitlement Anna Bicarregui 1. Excessive Cost of Compliance 2. Vexatious Requests 3. Repeat Requests Chapter 13 - The Response Anna Bicarregui 1. The Duty to Search 2. Non-substantive Responses 3. Refusal to Communicate 4. Communication of Information Chapter 14 - Exemptions: General Principles Oliver Sanders (section 6) 1. The Unit of Exemption 2. The Duty to Confirm or Deny 3. The Discretion to Maintain an Exemption 4. Classification of Exemptions 5. Interpretation of Exemptions and Onus 6. Conclusive Certificates Chapter 15 - Prejudice and the Public Interest 1. The Public Interest 2. Weighing the Public Interest: Disclosure 3. Weighing the Public Interest: Confirmation and Denial 4. Ascertaining and Weighing Prejudice Chapter 16 - Information Otherwise Accessible 1. Information Otherwise Accessible 2. Information Intended for Future Publication 3. Environmental Information Chapter 17 - Security Bodies, National Security and Defence Oliver Sanders 1. Introduction 2. The Security Bodies 3. Information Supplied by, or relating to, the Security Bodies 4. Information whose Exemption is required for National Security Purposes 5. National Security Certificates and the Operation of the Related Exemptions 6. Information Prejudicial to Defence or the Armed Forces Chapter 18 - International and Internal Relations Oliver Sanders (section 2) 1. International Relations 2. Internal Relations Chapter 19 - Economic and Financial Interests Economic and Financial Interests Chapter 20 - Investigation, Audit, Law Enforcement and the Courts HHJ Shanks 1. Introduction 2. Information held for purposes of Criminal Investigations or Proceedings 3. Information relating to the Obtaining of Information from Confidential Sources 4. Information whose Disclosure might Prejudice the Enforcement of Criminal Law 5. Other Law Enforcement 6. Other Investigatory and Regulatory Functions 7. Civil Proceedings 8. Audit Chapter 21 - Privilege Hodge Malek QC (section 2) 1. Parliamentary Privilege 2. Legal Professional Privilege Chapter 22 - Policy Formulation and Public Affairs Sarah Hannett 1. Introduction 2. Information Relating to the Formulation of Government Policy, etc 3. Information the Disclosure of which would be Prejudicial to Public Affairs Chapter 23 - Health and Safety Health and Safety Chapter 24 - Personal Information Estelle Dehon 1. Introduction 2. Personal Data of which the Applicant is the Data Subject 3. Personal Data of which the Applicant is not the Data Subject Chapter 25 - Confidential Information Richard Spearman QC 1. Breach of Confidence: Introduction 2. Conventional Breach of Confidence 3. Privacy and Breach of Confidence 4. Trade Secrets 5. Prejudice to Commercial Interests 6. International Confidences 7. Environmental Information and Confidentiality Chapter 26 - Miscellaneous Exemptions Oliver Sanders (sections 1-2), HHJ Shanks (sections 3-5), Estelle Dehon (section 6) 1. Communications with Her Majesty, etc 2. Honours and Dignities 3. Prohibitions on Disclosure 4. Prohibitions By or Under Enactment 5. Incompatibility with Community Obligations 6. Contempt of Court 7. Miscellaneous Exemptions under the Data Protection Act 1998 Chapter 27 - The Information Commissioners and the Information Tribunal HHJ Shanks 1. The Functions and Duties of the Information Commissioners 2. Monitoring Compliance with the Acts 3. The First-Tier and Upper Tribunals Chapter 28 - Appeals HHJ Shanks A. APPEALS UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACTS 1. First Stage: Internal Reconsideration 2. Second Stage: Application to the Information Commissioner 3. Third Stage: Appeal to the Tribunals 4. Fourth Stage: Appeal from First-Tier Tribunal to Upper Tribunal 5. Fifth Stage: Appeal from Upper Tribunal to Court of Appeal 6. Judicial Review 7. Third Parties: Institution of Appeals and Participation in Appeals B. APPEALS UNDER THE DATA PROTECTION ACT 1998 8. Ordinary Appeals 9. National Security Certificate Appeals 10. Judicial Review 884 11.Third Parties: Institution of Appeals and Participation in Appeals Chapter 29 - Enforcement HHJ Shanks 1. Freedom of Information Acts 2. Data Protection Act 1998 Materials Principal legislative sources 1. Freedom of Information Act 2000 2. Data Protection Act 1998 3. Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/3391) 4. Public Records Act 1958 FOIA Statutory Instruments 1. Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/3244) 2. Freedom of Information (Time for Compliance with Request) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/3364) 3. Freedom of Information (Excluded Welsh Authorities) Order 2002 (SI 2002/2832) DPA Statutory Instruments 1. Data Protection (Conditions under Paragraph 3 of Part II of Schedule 1) Order 2000 (SI 2000/185) 2. Data Protection (Functions of Designated Authority) Order 2000 (SI 2000/186) 3. Data Protection (Fees under section 19(7)) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000/187) 4. Data Protection (Subject Access) (Fees and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000/191) 5. Data Protection (Subject Access Modification) (Health) Order 2000 (SI 2000/413) 6. Data Protection (Subject Access Modification) (Education) Order 2000 (SI 2000/414) 7. Data Protection (Subject Access Modification) (Social Work) Order 2000 (SI 2000/415) 8. Data Protection (Crown Appointments) Order 2000 (SI 2000/416) 9. Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 (SI 2000/417) 10.Data Protection (Miscellaneous Subject Access Exemptions) Order 2000 (SI 2000/419) 11.Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) (Elected Representatives) Order 2002 (SI 2002/2905) 12.Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2006 (SI 2006/2068) 13.Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2009 (SI 2009/1811) Tribunal Rules, Orders and Practice Notes 1. Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (General Regulatory Chamber) Rules 2009 (SI 2009/1976) 2. Tribunal Procedure (Upper Tribunal) Rules 2008 (SI 2008/2698) 3. First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal (Composition of Tribunal) Order 2008 (SI 2008/2835) 4. First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal (Chambers) Order 2008 (SI 2008/2684) 5. Qualifications for Appointment of Members to the First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal Order 2008 (SI 2008/2692) 6. Transfer of Tribunal Functions Order 2010 (SI 2010/22) 7. Appeals from the Upper Tribunal to the Court of Appeal Order 2008 (SI 2008/2834) 8. Practice Note: Protection of Confidential Information in Information Rights Appeals Before the First-tier Tribunal (1 February 2010) 9. Guidance Note 2: Permission to Appeal on or after 18 January 2010 (9 February 2010) 10.Office Note 2: Discretionary Transfers of Information Rights Appeals on or after 18 January 2010 Statutory Codes of Practice 1. Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs' Code of Practice on the discharge of public authorities' functions under Part I of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 Issued under section 45 of the Act (laid before Parliament on 25 November 2004) 2. Lord Chancellor's Code of Practice on the management of records issued under section 46 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (laid before Parliament on 16 July 2009) 3. DEFRA Code of Practice on the discharge of the obligations of public authorities issued under regulation 16 of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (issued February 2005) European Union Directives and Regulations 1. Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Protection of Individuals with Regard to the Processing of Personal Data and on the Free Movement of Such Data (24 October 1995) 2. European Union Regulation 1049/2001 3. Directive 2003/4/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on Public Access to Environmental Information and Repealing Council Directive 90/313/EEC (28 January 2003) Conventions 1. Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision- Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (25 June 1998) - Aarhus Convention Precedents 1. Simple request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 2. Request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 where a qualified exemption is likely to be relied upon 3. Request under the Data Protection Act 1998 for personal information relating to the applicant 4. Request under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 5. Composite request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 6. Request for internal review (complaint) 7. Complaint to the Information Commissioner 8. Appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal 9. Joinder Notice Procedural Guides for Dealing with Requests for Information 1. Dealing with a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 2. Dealing with a request under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 Parliamentary History of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 FOIA and FOI(S)A Comparative Table

Author Biography

Philip Coppel QC is a barrister at 4-5 Gray's Inn Square, specialising in public law.
Release date Australia
July 9th, 2010
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
Hart Publishing
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