December 2012

Request:

For each of the 15 files and 41 extracts closed to public access, I am seeking (a) a brief description of that file or extract and (b) the exact date, or year, whichever is available, on which it was created.

Outcome:

Partially successful - some information withheld under sections 38 and 40 of the Freedom of Information Act

Response:

Catalogue descriptions and closure periods for 13 of the 15 closed files identified in your enquiry can be viewed online via Discovery, our document search and cataloguing system. Please follow the link below and enter the relevant document reference in the 'search' function.

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI/

You can download a list of catalogue descriptions for 13 of the 15 closed files and all 41 closed extracts identified in your enquiry, along with covering dates for each of these files and extracts:

List of catalogue descriptions for 13 of the 15 closed files and all 41 closed extracts  (DOC, 0.07Mb)

Please note that these covering dates indicate both the period during which the information within the files was collated and the period that the file was considered to be active. For the purposes of your enquiry, therefore, the covering dates can be taken to represent the date on which the files were created.

We are unable to release any further information about file PREM 15/1639 or its content because all of the information is exempt under section 40 (2) (by virtue of section 40 (3) (a) (i)) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The Freedom of Information Act gives you the right to know whether we hold the information you want and to have it communicated to you, subject to any exemptions which may apply.

Section 40 exempts personal information about a 'third party' (someone other than the requester), if revealing it would breach the terms of the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998. The Data Protection Act prevents personal information from release if it would be unfair or at odds with the reason why it was collected, or where the subject had officially served notice that releasing it would cause them damage or distress.

In this case the exemption applies because the file contains information relating to named individuals involved in an IRA terrorist siege. This information is considered to be the sensitive personal information of the individuals identified, who can be considered to be still living. This information is classed as sensitive personal data under section 2(e) of the Data Protection Act, 1998. The release of this information would be unfair as it would be highly likely to cause the individuals concerned damage and distress and they would also have no expectation that it would be open to public scrutiny during their lifetime. Thus release of this information would be a breach of the first principle of the Data Protection Act, 1998.

We are unable to release any further information about file PREM 15/1019 or its content because all of the information is exempt under sections 38 and 40 (2) (by virtue of section 40 (3) (a) (i)) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Section 38 of the Act exempts information which, if released, could prejudice the physical and/or mental health of any individual.  As this is a qualified exemption a public interest balancing test has been conducted.  The outcome is that the factors in favour of release, the presumption of openness under Freedom of Information and the value in having a complete historical record, were outweighed by the fact that releasing this information into the public domain at this time would be detrimental to the health and safety of named individuals within these files.


Please find below the arguments made in favour of, and against the disclosure of the information and the outcome of the public interest test:

Arguments in favour of the release of the information requested

There is a general public interest in disclosure of information and the Cabinet Office recognises that openness in government may increase public trust in and engagement with the government.

Arguments against the release of the information requested

To release a description of this file and its content would be to release information about an individual, or individuals into the public domain that would significantly prejudice their physical or mental well being. There is an overriding public interest in protecting the health and safety of individuals. Were this information to be released, the identity of this individual, or these individuals, would become known and potentially compromise the safety of these individuals and their families.

Outcome of the public interest test

Unfortunately it is not possible to disclose any further aspects of the public interest test arguments without revealing the very information which the exemption at section 38 of the Act has been engaged to protect. The overriding public interest is in withholding this information in order to protect the wellbeing of the named individual and their family.

All of the information is also covered by the exemption at section 40(2) of the Act. Section 40 exempts personal information about a 'third party' (someone other than the requester), if revealing it would breach the terms of the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998. The Data Protection Act prevents personal information from release if it would be unfair or at odds with the reason why it was collected, or where the subject had officially served notice that releasing it would cause them damage or distress.

In this case, the exemption applies because the information relates to the personal and private lives of an identified individual, or individuals, who would have no expectation that this information would be released into the public domain during their lifetime - to do so would be likely to cause them extreme distress. Section 40, as an absolute exemption, is not subject to the public interest test.

 

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