Information provided in confidence to a public body
Notice No 08
1. Departments have sought guidance as to the appropriate wording which they might generally use so as to reassure members of the public regarding the protection of information provided in confidence.
Information relating to the enforcement or administration of law
2.1 It is understood that, for the purposes of FOI, most of the legislation relating to the work of departments can be regarded as civil law. Accordingly, where it is envisaged that information liable to be provided in confidence relates to the administration or enforcement of such law, a statement on the lines of the following may be appropriate:
"This department will refuse under section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act to release any such confidential information provided by you as would disclose your identity".
2.2 Where confidential information clearly relates to criminal law a department may wish to refer instead to section 46.
Other information provided in confidence, which does not relate to the administration or enforcement of law
3.1 The following statement is suggested in such cases:
"This department will protect information received by us on an agreed understanding of confidentiality, consistent with the FOI Act. Such information will enjoy protection in the normal course under section 26 of that Act. No such information provided by you will be released by us under that Act against your wishes.
On occasion, the independent Information Commissioner, or the courts may secure release of such information under that Act, but only on public interest grounds and following consultations with the provider of the information."
Information provided anonymously
4.1 In general it is unlikely that such material can secure protection under the FOI Act. Occasionally however, the disclosure of such information might warrant protection. An example would be where disclosure could impair a criminal investigation and protection under section 23 would be appropriate.
4.2 On balance therefore each case involving information provided anonymously should be considered on its merits