The Right to Information Act 2009 gives a person the right to information in the possession of a public authority or Minister, subject to certain limitations. The right does not extend to information which is exempt under the Act.
Formal application for information under the Act is made by means of an application for assessed disclosure.
Where an application for assessed disclosure is refused, and the applicant wishes to have this decision reviewed, two types of process are possible, depending on the circumstances. One is internal review. The other is review by the Ombudsman.
Each type of review is explained below:
This type of review only applies where the application for assessed disclosure was made to a public authority. It does not apply where the application was made to a Minister.
It also only applies where the decision to be reviewed was made by a person in the public authority other than the principal officer. If the decision was made by the principal officer, the only form of review possible is by the Ombudsman.
There are two types of party who may apply for internal review. One is the original applicant for the information. The other is an "external party". An external party is a person who is objecting to the release of information to the applicant - on grounds that it relates to their personal affairs, or might expose them to competitive disadvantage.
Where internal review is being sought by the applicant for the information, it must be made within 20 working days of receipt of notice of the decision.
Where the review is being sought by an external party, it must be made within 10 working days of receipt of notice of the decision.
In some circumstances, the applicant for review must apply for internal review by the public authority before seeking review by the Ombudsman - see the previous heading.
The applicant for review can come straight to the Ombudsman where -
The applicant can also apply to the Ombudsman where they have applied for internal review and they have received a decision within 15 working days of the application. If so, the application for review must be lodged with the Ombudsman within 20 working days of the end of that period. Normally, it must be lodged within 20 working days of the receipt of the internal review decision, or of receipt of any other decision being reviewed.
The Ombudsman can review various types of decision, for instance -
The Ombudsman looks at the matter afresh, and can make any decision on the application for assessed disclosure that the public authority or Minister could have made.
Where the case involves a public authority, the Ombudsman can direct the authority to implement the Ombudsman's decision.
The Ombudsman has wide powers on a review application, which include attempting to settle the application, by conciliation or otherwise.
The Act requires the Ombudsman to finalise the review as soon as practicable.
You should apply in writing on the Application for Review form