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  • Freedom of Information? That’ll be a tenner please

    Posted on July 11th, 2009 admin 3 comments

    I thought that some of you would like to see a copy of a letter I received from Dorset Probation Service recently. I accept that they may not be used to dealing with that many Freedom of Information requests, but one would have thought the name of the Act might have given them a clue.

    As you can see they have decided that I should be paying a £10 ‘administrative charge’. There is no explanation of how the Chief Officer has arrived at this figure, in fact I haven’t yet been told they actually hold the information I had asked for.

    What would the Information Commissioner’s Office make of this letter? How should I respond? Your comments please.

    UPDATE: Thank you all for your comments. I’m glad to see you were as outraged as I was. I sent them a letter over the weekend and I had a voicemail message yesterday apologising for the mistake - so I think we should forgive and forget.



    3 responses to “Freedom of Information? That’ll be a tenner please”

    1. What is it with NOMS? They are by the far the worst government dept I deal with on FOI requests.
      I was thinking you could slap another FOI in asking how they arrived at the £10 charge, how many people have paid this, when was it introduced, what consultation they went through before introducing it etc etc.
      But I guess they’ll just ask for another £10.
      Perhaps the ICO is the right body to send it to and ask them investigate this.
      And CC that (and let Dorset Probation Board know it has gone) to relevant local MP, leader of the county council and whoever is chair of the county justice board.
      Also: a letter to the local press saying the organisation is denying people fair access to information.
      If you could supply an email address, perhaps readers of this blog could send a letter to the chief officer querying the fee?

    2. Heather Brooke

      I’m sure you know already but requests are processed free of charge as long as they are under £600 for those to central govt bodies or £450 for other public bodies. The only charges that can be levied are those for postage or photocopying. I’ve never seen anything like this before and I’d be willing to wager what NOMs are doing is illegal. I think they have mixed up the FOIA with the Data Protection Act.

      Our illustrious criminal justice system at work.

    3. Well, I would first send them an Internal Review request. With a bit of luck, that will go to NOMS headquarters, who will while uphelding your complaint, inform the Dorset branch that they can’t do this kind of thing. If the Internal Review request is unsuccessful, you can still complain to the ICO, but the ICO might refuse a complaint at this stage because you haven’t gone through the IR procedure.

      Alternatively, you could file for IR and at the same time write to the ICO’s Good Practice/Enforcement team, by means of a simple enquiry, not a complaint, and draw to their attention that this authority is blatantly violating the Code of Practice by sending out letters such as this one (no mention of how the fee was calculated, no mention of consideration if they are even allowed to assess a fee, no mention of right to internal review etc.)

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