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  • Police ordered to pay £1,000 to FoI applicant

    Posted on July 15th, 2009 admin No comments
    The Sweeney. The rules of the game have changed a bit since their day.

    The Sweeney. The rules of the game have changed a bit since their day.

    Northumbria Police Force has been ordered to pay £1,000 in costs to a man whose Freedom of Information request ended up at the Information Tribunal.

    The Tribunal ruled that Northumbria Police could have prepared for the case better which would have assisted the smooth running of the Tribunal.

    The applicant, Dr Peter Kelway, was partially successful in his appeal to the Tribunal on the Freedom of Information matter and then lodged an order for costs claiming £26,000. He made the claim against both the Information Commissioner and Northumbria Police.

    Under Rule 29(1) of the Information Tribunal Rules 2005 costs can be awarded if against the appellant or Commissioner if it is felt the appeal or disputed decision was manifestly unreasonable, or where the Tribunal considers a party has been responsible for frivolous, vexatious, improper action, or a failure to comply with a direction or any delay which with diligence could have been avoided.

    In its summary the Tribunal said it was loath to award costs in normal circumstances stating: The Tribunal’s power to award costs under rule 29 is discretionary. The Information Tribunal rarely awards costs. This is not only because of the limited powers under rule 29 but because of the overriding objective of tribunals to provide low cost, prompt and informal justice and that costs should not be seen as a deterrent to parties using tribunals.”

    But in this case it decided that some costs should be awarded saying: “The Tribunal has considered all the evidence and submissions by the parties and finds the delays in compliance with some directions could have been avoided by the Police with due diligence, but that ultimately this did not prejudice the proceedings. However it did cause Dr Kelway to expend additional time on the preparation of his case. We also find that to some extent Dr Kelway contributed to the delays because of the way he dealt with matters but we take into account that he is a litigant in person. What we find surprising is that the Police who are used to court proceedings and are represented by senior counsel in this case did not cope better with Dr Kelway and there was no real excuse in this case for not promptly complying with directions and co-operating more fully with all the parties.”

    The Information Commissioner did not have to pay any costs.

    It would appear (and I’m happy to be corrected) that the only other case in which costs were awarded following an Information Tribunal were in the case of Bowbrick v Information Commissioner and Nottingham City Council [link] in which the Tribunal were critical of the way the council dealt with the request and ordered it to pay all the costs incurred by the applicant. The total figure hasn’t been disclosed as far as I can see so I am asking Nottingham City Council [link] on WhatDoTheyKnow.  

    Details of this costs hearings can be found [here] and the original Information Tribunal is [here] .

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