Introduction. The Freedom of Information Act 1997 commenced on 21 April 1998 for Government Departments and Offices and certain other Government bodies and on 21 October 1998 for local authorities and health boards.
Under the Act, public bodies are required to publish certain information about themselves and also to make available details of their internal rules, procedures, interpretations, etc. used in decision making. These requirements are contained in sections 15 and 16 of the Act.
How to process an FOI request
Part III of the Act sets out a series of related measures to protect information relating to key areas of Government activity, parliamentary and court matters as well as third party information of a personal, commercial or confidential nature. Such exemptions feature one or more of the following aspects:
Section 46 excludes certain records from the scope of the FOI Act.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, a person generally has a right to appeal a decision taken by a public body. The appeal is to a higher authority within the body and/or to the Information Commissioner. The rights to internal review and procedures for review by the Information Commissioner are set out in sections 14 and 34 respectively.
Section 47 sets out the charging regime for information requested and released under the FOI Act. There are two types of charges that apply:- (i) "up-front" fees that must accompany a request for a non-personal record under section 7 (or a subsequent application for review) and (ii) fees/deposits in relation to search and retrieval and reproduction costs of records released to a requester.
It is essential that public bodies give priority to ensuring that those charged with operating the FOI Act in their organisations are properly equipped to do so.