Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
17 January 2020
Dear Sam Smith
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Outcome of Internal Review –
Thank you for your Internal Review request dated 19th December 2019 regarding FOI
request 191025003 in which you asked for the following information from the Ministry of
1) A copy of the project brief and project initiation document for the “Data First” / ‘AI
First’ project(s), as agreed for funding by ADR / ESRC / UKRI;
2) A copy of the document, or a public citation to where it is published, that defines
the “department’s key strategic objective”, specifically, if relevant, as relating to
using AI in the family court as expected by the ‘First’ project;
3) Any documents or internal correspondence (including emails, WhatsApp
messages, memos, or (relevant portions of) minutes of meetings) resulting from
medConfidential’s letter to Sir Richard Heaton of the 10th October 2019 (in order to
comply with cost limits, you may restrict searches to the recipients of that letter,
relevant members of the HMCTS Senior Management Team, and staff working on
the project covered in part 1 of this request);
4) In responding to this request, please explicitly confirm whether the response
includes the WhatsApp part of (3) in relation to the “Data First” project If parts of
this request will take longer than the statutory time period to provide, please
provide as much information as you can within the deadline, and follow up with
additional information later
The purpose of an Internal Review is to assess how your FOI request was handled in the
first instance and to determine whether the original decision given to you was correct. This is
an independent review: I was not involved in the original decision.
The response to your original request confirmed some of the information requested was
held. A brief summary of the outcome of the original response is as follows;
In response for parts (1) and (2) the Strategic Case which was submitted by MoJ as part of
the June 2019 application to the ADR UK Research Commissioning Board was provided.
Further to part (2) of the request, MoJ’s Single Departmental Plan outlines the strategic
objectives for the department. The Data First Programme is in line with these objectives.
In response to parts (3) and (4) of your request it was confirmed the MoJ holds the
information that you have requested, however the information was exempt from disclosure
under section 35(1)(a) of the FOIA, because it relates to the formulation and development of
After careful consideration I have concluded that this response was partly compliant
the requirements of the FOIA.
The following request for an internal review has been requested regarding FOI request
191025003: Thank you for your reply to parts 2-4 of my request; while your statements relating to
part (2) may be accurate, they are not a response to the substance of part (1). For
completeness, part 1 of my request said: (1) [Please provide] A copy of the project
brief and project initiation document for the “Data First” / ‘AI First’ project(s), as
agreed for funding by ADR / ESRC / UKRI; If the omission of the document(s) in part
(1) was an oversight in the response you have provided, can I request you respond to
my original request as required by the FoI Act. If MoJ has no information to add to
what it has already sent, noting that it has provided neither the document(s)
requested in part (1), nor the required justification for withholding them, and if you do
not wish to provide the justification for withholding the documents, can I please
request an internal review of your (non-) response to part 1 of my request and repeat
my request for the document(s) request
In response to the request for an internal review regarding FOI request 191025003 the
following can be confirmed:
Part (1) of FOI 191025003 requested ‘A copy of the project brief and project initiation
document for the “Data First” / ‘AI First’ project(s), as agreed for funding by ADR / ESRC /
MoJ holds no documents entitled ‘project brief’ or ‘project initiation document’ that were used as
the basis to agree funding by ADR UK/ESRC/UKRI.
In response to your original request, the Strategic Case was provided. This document most
closely satisfied your request for a ‘project brief’ because it was the document accepted by the
ADR UK Research Commissioning Board to agree funding for the Data First project. I apologise
if this was not communicated clearer in the original response.
The FOIA does not oblige a public authority to create information to answer a request if the
requested information is not held. The duty is to only provide the recorded information held.
The documents which best met your request were provided.
However, the link (MoJ’s Single Departmental Plan) provided further to part (2) (of your request)
in the original response, should have been exempt from disclosure under Section 21 of the FOIA,
because it is reasonably accessible to you.
Section 21 is an absolute exemption, it is therefore not subject to the public interest test.
The statutory deadline for your request was 20th December 2019 and the response was
provided on 18th December 2019. The response was therefore compliant with the
requirements of the FOIA. Outcome
In your internal review request, you challenge the response to part 1 of the request.
I have investigated to establish whether the documents that were initially requested are held
by MoJ were carried out within MoJ by liaising with the appropriate business unit. I have not
identified any further relevant information and I have been assured that the document
disclosed to you includes all information the MoJ holds. The internal review has confirmed
that MoJ holds no documents entitled ‘project brief’ or ‘project initiation document’ that were
used as the basis to agree funding by ADR UK/ESRC/UKRI and a link to the Strategic Case
was provided, (document most closely satisfied your request for a ‘project brief’).
The original response was correct that the disclosure of the information (for parts 3-4 of your
request) was refused under section 35(1)(a) of the FOIA, because it relates to the
formulation and development of government policy. However, Section 21 should also have
been applied to part 2 to of your request.
In conclusion, while the original response (you received on 18 December 2020) did not apply
exemption Section 21, I am satisfied that the response you received did contain all the
information MoJ holds in relation to your request. Please accept my apologies for any
confusion caused. Appeal Rights
If you are not satisfied with this response you have the right to apply to the Information
Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The Commissioner is an independent regulator who has the
power to direct us to respond to your request differently, if she considers that we have
handled it incorrectly.
You can contact the ICO at the following address:
Information Commissioner’s Office
SK9 5AF https://ico.org.uk/Global/contact-us
Yours sincerely Data & Analytical Services