Legal status of Haringey's prohibitions & restrictions on replies to FOI Requests

Alan Stanton made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to Haringey Borough Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Roedd y cais yn rhannol lwyddiannus.

Dear Haringey Borough Council,

Haringey's replies to Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests routinely appear to include:
● a statement of the supposedly confidential status of the answer;
● a statement that the answer is subject to legal privilege;
● restriction on its circulation;
● a prohibition on its retention, copying, or disclosure;
● instruction to delete the reply if shared;
● an instruction to notify the system administrator.

These sentences would appear to be standard form (sometimes called "boilerplate") text perhaps routinely inserted in Haringey's other public correspondence.

It appears to me that this additional text and restrictions are entirely inappropriate in respect of replies to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. However the inclusion of this text may have the effect of preventing or deterring the sharing of public information legitimately and legally obtained; and thereby inhibiting, censoring or "chilling" proper public and democratic inquiry, research, debate, discussion, and accountability.

Such restrictions would, for example, prevent the What Do They Know website from making information public.

█ Please tell me whether Haringey's legal officers have given written or other legal advice on the wording, endorsing the appropriateness of these restrictions.
Can you please supply me a link to the published guidance of the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) on which you rely to validate the appropriateness of these restrictions.

If there is no such advice or guidance can I please have your assurance that the text will be omitted from Haringey's future replies to Freedom of Information requests.
__________________________________________

Your full text referred to above.

"This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential, may be subject to legal privilege and are intended only for the person(s) or organisation(s) to whom this email is addressed.
Any unauthorised use, retention, distribution, copying or disclosure is strictly prohibited.
If you have received this email in error, please notify the system administrator at Haringey Council immediately and delete this e-mail from your system."

Yours faithfully,

Alan Stanton

FOI, Haringey Borough Council

Dear Mr Stanton,

 

Thank you for your email of 11 November 2018.

 

The text you have referred to is automatically included in all outgoing
Haringey Council emails. Such messages are standard practice for local
government and other organisations. We do not agree that the message would
prohibit the sharing of public information or that it would prevent FOI
responses being made public on the What Do They Know website. All Haringey
responses to that site are in fact made public through that site; as are
all our other responses as those are published on our website. The
automated message in the email responses refers to unauthorised use etc.
As FOI responses are releases of information to the world of large without
any restriction placed on further use, disclosure etc. any use is
authorised.

 

I trust this information is helpful.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Claire Gunn

Feedback Review Officer

Shared Service Centre | Central Team

 

Haringey Council

5th Floor, Alexandra House, 10 Station Road, Wood Green, London N22 7TR

 

[1]www.haringey.gov.uk

[2]twitter@haringeycouncil

[3]facebook.com/haringeycouncil

 

 

P Please consider the environment before printing this email.

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Haringey Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Haringey Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Legal status of Haringey's prohibitions & restrictions on replies to FOI Requests'.

I am grateful for the promptness of your initial reply. Also for the clarity with which it sets out the thinking of the writer authorised to respond on Haringey's behalf.
Unfortunately the reply is plainly and - in its own terms - fallacious.
In addition can I please point out that Haringey has not responded to my questions which - trying to be helpful - I marked with a rectangle.

Please therefore reread my FoI request and send me an answer. Or if you wish, to save time, I am happy to write directly to Mr Bernie Ryan, Haringey's senior lawyer and Ms Zena Etheridge, the Chief Executive.

Alternatively, you may consider it more helpful to reply to me that Haringey will now alter the paragraphs to the more accurate format which you set out in your initial reply. To very slightly tweak your own words:
____________
All Haringey responses to Freedom of Information requests are releases of information to the world at large without any restriction placed on further use, disclosure etc. Any use is authorised.
All Freedom of Information responses are published on the Council's website.
____________

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/l...

Yours sincerely,

Alan Stanton

FOI, Haringey Borough Council

Dear Mr Stanton,
Re: Freedom of Information Act Request ref: LBH/8107418
 
Thank you for your request for information originally received on 11
November and to which we responded informally, offering advice and
guidance.  You asked us to conduct an Internal Review of the response, in
an email we received on 19 November 2018.  However we cannot conduct an
Internal Review when we haven’t yet responded formally to a request made
under the Act.  This response is therefore the response to  your request.
 
You requested:  

 1. Please tell me whether Haringey's legal officers have given written or
other legal advice on the wording, endorsing the appropriateness of
these restrictions.
 2. Can you please supply me a link to the published guidance of the
Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)  on which you rely to validate
the appropriateness of these restrictions.

 
Our response is as follows:
 

 1. We have asked both our IT service and Legal officers whether we hold
any information which would answer your request.  Neither service have
been able to locate any such correspondence or guidance, so our
response is that we do not hold this information.  

 

 2. We do not consider this to be a valid FOI as you are asking us to
provide you with a link to the ICO’s guidance.  I can advise that we
are not aware of any such guidance.

 
You are also asking us to revise the wording of our email disclaimer. That
is not an FOI request nor an internal review request. We will consider
this as a suggestion, and refer it to our Information Governance Manager
to consider. You will receive an acknowledgement of the suggestion
shortly, under a separate reference number.
 
If you are unhappy with how we have responded to your request you can ask
us to conduct an Internal Review. If so, please contact the [1]Feedback
and Information Team. (Please note you should do so within two months of
this response.)
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Sue Dyos
Feedback Team Leader 
Shared Service Centre | Central Team
Haringey Council
 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Haringey Borough Council

Dear Mr A Stanton,

 

Your suggestion

 

Thank you for your email received on 19 November 2018.

 

We have asked an appropriate officer, to look at your suggestion and let
you know by 12 December 2018 whether we are able to use your ideas.

 

Thank you again for taking the time to let us know your views on how we
can improve our services.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Business Change Team

Haringey Council 

River Park House, 225 High Road, London N22 8HQ

 

[email address]

 

www.haringey.gov.uk

twitter@haringeycouncil

facebook.com/haringeycouncil

 

 

This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential, may be
subject to legal privilege and are intended only for the person(s) or
organisation(s) to whom this email is addressed. Any unauthorised use,
retention, distribution, copying or disclosure is strictly prohibited. If
you have received this email in error, please notify the system
administrator at Haringey Council immediately and delete this e-mail from
your system. Although this e-mail and any attachments are believed to be
free of any virus or other defect which might affect any computer or
system into which they are received and opened, it is the responsibility
of the recipient to ensure they are virus free and no responsibility is
accepted for any loss or damage from receipt or use thereof. All
communications sent to or from external third party organisations may be
subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant
legislation.

Hunt Anita, Haringey Borough Council

Dear Mr Stanton,
 
Your correspondence regarding Haringey Council’s email disclaimer has been
referred to me. You are concerned that our disclaimer may have the effect
of preventing or deterring the sharing of public information.
 
I have reviewed the disclaimer and think that it could be clearer and more
succinct. While I think the intention was to state that people other than
the intended recipient should not retain, distribute disclose etc., I
think that is not sufficiently clear. We will review the wording with the
aim of making that point more clearly and making the statement less wordy.
 
Thank you for your suggestion,
 
Anita Hunt
Data Protection Officer
River Park House 4^th Floor
225 High Road
London N22 8HQ
020 8489 1844
 
[email address]
 
[1]www.haringey.gov.uk
twitter@haringeycouncil
facebook.com/haringeycouncil
 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Ms Hunt,

Thank you for your reply - and for sending it to me sooner than previously indicated.

I will of course read your new suggested wording with care and consider what you propose to use.

However, may I please point out that your reply does not refer accurately to the reasons for my FOI request. I was not principally concerned with having a clearer, shorter and more succinct wording. Though of course having clear plain English is always an advantage to us all as citizens.

Similarly your explanation / interpretation of the current disclaimer wording does not, in my view lead to the conclusion that it only needs to be clearer.

It needs to be changed to state the accurate legal position. Which as I understand it, is nothing to do with "the intention ... to state that people other than the intended recipient should not retain, distribute disclose etc."

My understanding is that the "intended recipient" of a reply to a Freedom of Information request is under no restriction when retaining, distributing or disclosing that reply. (Copyright issues might occasionally moderate this general rule.) Replies are published openly and can be shared with anyone who wishes to read them. That is the key point.

It would follow that any amended wording which makes a statement setting out a contradictory position would be inaccurate and fallacious. Possibly confusing and also "chilling" discussion and action by a person who receives an FOI reply .

I look forward to seeing the suggested new wording.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Stanton