Sunday, 10 April 2011

Northern Ireland Assembly - Freedom of Information - Ring Us

Some of the blogs that I've published during the course of the past few years have been based on responses to Freedom of Information requests that I and/or others have submitted. The quality of the responses with regard to personal information has been varied.

Some data that I would have expected to have been redacted has been left in place so I've used my own judgement and removed what should not have been released. Some electronic redaction is ineffective ie switching to text mode has removed the electronic black band.

Sometimes large chunks of information have been blacked out on the grounds that they contain personal information or information that could identify an individual or individuals. However, the blacking out may have been done to protect a Minister or a public servant who has expressed a prejudicial view about this individual or these individuals.

Holding Ministers and public servants to account can be a slippery business. The absence of detailed notes and minutes, deliberate or otherwise, is not in the public interest as an audit trail will have gaps in it. Such gaps can then lead to a miscarriage of justice if the gaps permit wrong interpretations to be made and conclusions to be reached.

One FoI response involved the following novel approach:

Click image to enlarge

Such an exchange leaves a gap in the audit trail.