This document sets out the procedures that will be followed by SOAS when dealing with appeals over the handling of Freedom of Information, Environmental Information and Data Protection requests, and complaints relating to the School’s Freedom of Information Publication Scheme.
SOAS is subject to three areas of information rights legislation which provide rights of access to information held by the School:
- The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs) allow for access to information relating to the environment.
- The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) gives individuals a right of access to information relating to themselves (“personal data”).
- The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) has created a general right of access to recorded information that falls outside the scope of “personal data” or environmental information.
These rights are subject to various limitations and exceptions.
If an information request is received, the School has to respond to the request within statutory deadlines. Information requests are normally processed by the Information Compliance Manager (ICM). For further information, see the School’s web pages on Submitting a Freedom of Information or Environmental Information request and Requesting Access to Personal Data.
Public authorities are required by the Environmental Information Regulations to have appeal procedures for hearing complaints about the handling of EIR requests. Appeals under the Regulations must be completed and a response sent to the applicant within 40 working days of receipt of the appeal. There is no requirement of this nature in the FOIA, but a requirement that appeal procedures should be in place forms part of the code of practice issued by the government under section 45 of the FOIA (the Access Code). It is considered to be good practice for organisations to have internal appeal procedures for DPA requests, although there is no legal requirement to do so.
Applicants who are dissatisfied with the handling of their Freedom of Information or Environmental Information Request can appeal to the Information Commissioner, the agency which regulates Freedom of Information, Environmental Information and Data Protection. The Commissioner will not hear the appeal unless the applicant has first gone through the authority's internal appeal process. Data Protection applicants can ask the Commissioner at any time for an assessment as to whether their request was dealt with in accordance with the Data Protection Act.
(1) When a complaint is received, the Information Compliance Manager (ICM) will write to acknowledge receipt.
(2) The ICM will write to a Senior Office (Dea, Director or above) and ask them to consider the complaint.
(3) Once a Senior Officer has agreed to consider the complaint, they will receive the following from the ICM:
- Copies of the ICM's correspondence relating to the request, including the response to the applicant.
- Copies of any information released to the applicant, any information which was withheld, and any information which was located but deemed to be irrelevant to the request.
- Any relevant guidance notes and decision notices issued by the Information Commissioner.
- The school's Freedom of Information and Data Protection policies and guidance, as appropriate.
- Copies of any relevant sections of the School's Freedom of Information Publication Scheme.
- Any other information which the ICM believes the reviewer may need to have to understand the request and the School's response.
(4) The complaint may be considered in writing or at a meeting. The Senior Officer may ask the ICM and/or others for clarification/additional information as necessary. Once the Senior Officer has reached a conclusion, they will communicate their decision to the ICM.
(5) The ICM will write to the complainant no later than 40 working days after the complaint was received. The response will include:
* Whether the School's handling of the original request, or the School's Freedom of Information Publication Scheme, met the requirements of the legislation and the School's own policies and procedures.
* The reasons for the Senior Officer’s findings.
* Any actions which the Senior Officer requires the School to take as a result of their findings (e.g. release of information).
* Any factors considered by the Senior Officer when weighing the public interest, where the request includes exemptions that involve a public interest test.
* Information about how the applicant can appeal to the Information Commissioner if they are dissatisfied with the outcome of the complaint.
(6) The ICM will retain records of the complaint in line with the School's Retention Schedule.
Last updated December 2010