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.
Applicants who are dissatisfied with the handling of their Freedom of Information or Environmental Information Request can appeal to the Information Commissioner, the independent office that regulates Freedom of Information, Environmental Information and Data Protection. The Commissioner will not hear the appeal, however, 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 initially try to resolve any concerns informally within 5 working days. You should state as fully as possible why you think your request was not dealt with in accordance with the legislation, and the remedy which you are seeking from the School.
(3) If you remain dissatisfied after the ICM's response, you can ask for an internal review of the way the School has handled your request. Requests for internal review should be submitted promptly and within 20 working days of the School's response to your request.
(4) The internal review will be conducted by the SOAS Secretary unless he has previously been involved with dealing with your request (in which case another senior member of Professional Services staff will be asked to conduct the review). The Secretary will be provided with:
- 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 Secretary may need to have to understand the request and the School's response.
(5) The ICM will write to the complainant no later than 40 working days after the complaint was received with the outcome of the internal review. If the review found that information should be released, the information will be provided as soon as practically possible.
(6) If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome of the internal review, you can ask the Information Commissioner for an assessment as to whether SOAS has processed your request in accordance with the relevant information access legislation. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at the following address:
Information Commissioner's Office
Cheshire SK9 5AF