1.1 This method statement describes the mechanism and process by which the University will consider and weigh the public interest in relation to requests under Freedom of Information legislation. It forms part of the University Freedom of Information Policy.
1.2 Some of the exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA), and all of the exceptions under the Environmental Information Regulations, are qualified. Qualified FoIA exemptions include, but are not limited to, those covering commercial interests, future publication, health and safety, law enforcement, legal privilege and the conduct of public affairs.
1.3 Notwithstanding its engagement, a qualified exemption is subject to a secondary test: to determine whether the public interest (i.e. public good) in applying the exemption (and thus withholding the information) is greater than that in disclosing the information. Applying the public interest test requires balancing competing interests.
1.4 This method statement should be used alongside policy and guidelines issued by the Information Governance Office and Office of the Information Commissioner which set out requirements and good practice.
2.1 The public interest means the public good - as distinct from what is of interest to the public or the private interests of the requester.
2.2 Public interest tests will, wherever possible, occur within the normal time for compliance (20 working days).
2.3 The University will operate on the presumption that information should be disclosed.
2.4 It is for the University to consider the public interest arguments for and against disclosure and their relative weight, irrespective of the information’s creator or owner. The University will decide whether any harm or unfairness arising from disclosure is outweighed by the public interest in making the information available. This can be affected by the likelihood and severity of any prejudice; the age of the information; how far the requested information will help public understanding; and whether similar information is already in the public domain.
2.5 The 'public interest' is not a fixed concept and the balance of public interest may change over time. It may shift as information becomes older or in the light of issues of the day. The circumstances at the time of the request will be considered.
2.6 Where the University considers that the public interest in withholding the requested information outweighs the public interest in releasing it, it will inform the applicant of its reasons.
3.1 The public interest test will be undertaken by the University’s Information Governance Officer (IGO) with input from relevant information owners.
3.2 When considering the public interest, the IGO will review:
3.3 The IGO will consider and deliver:
Where it is determined that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs that in disclosure:
4.1 The right of applicants to challenge and appeal public interest and disclosure decision and seek a review of the handling of their request will be given in any refusal notice.
4.2 The applicant’s first recourse should be to the University, in line with its Complaints and Review Procedure. If an applicant remains dissatisfied with the outcome of the review and the University’s handling of their request they may seek a review from the Information Commissioner’s Office.
5.1 The Information Security Board, chaired by the Director of Information, will monitor the effectiveness of this method statement and carry out regular reviews.
|05 December 2012||Approved by Information Policy Executive|
|13 December 2012||Approved by Information Security Board|
|29 January 2016||Reviewed and approved by Information Security Board|
|26 January 2017||Reviewed and approved by Information Security Board|
Review cycle: Three yearly
Date of next review: January 2020