Council's duty as to keeping private confidential information both private and confidential

East Devon District Council did not have the information requested.

Dear East Devon District Council,

I would like to make a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I am also making this Request under the Environmental Impact Regulations 2004.

In October 2015 I made a complaint to East Devon District Council concerning two instances of the council disclosing to the public, various financial details of a private individual (whom I will not name in public).

The Monitoring Officer who dealt with my complaint, Henry Gordon Lennox, kindly explained that the financial information concerned had earlier been the subject of proceedings laid before the courts, and reasoned, by virtue of the fact that papers been filed in a court, “(that) therefore this information was already publicly available”. Thus he was satisfied there was no breach of confidentiality by a named officer or the council itself.

I have my doubts as to such a view of what constitutes the public domain / public availability and also whether the fact that any personal and/or financial information existing in any part of the public domain is a valid reason for a council to disregard its overriding duty as to confidentiality.

1. To help clarify these matters will you kindly provide me with all the information the council holds, amongst all its guidance and procedures dealing with the duty of client/customer confidentiality, that state that their overriding duty as to confidentiality may be disregarded if such information is ‘already in the public domain’ .

2. Will you also provide full details of any guidance as to what factors should be considered before taking the presumably serious step of disregarding the overriding duty of confidentiality. Does any such guidance include advice about, for example, whether the confidential information disclosure is, in the council’s interest or in the interest of the general public, whether the information is prominent in the public domain or tucked away in far flung depths never likely to be visited by the general public?

Note: This is not a request for information about confidentiality obligations insofar as they relate to The Data Protection Act, but that of good council practice and Common Law.

Yours faithfully,

tim todd

East Devon District Council

Thank you for submitting a request for information. We will respond to your request as quickly as possible, within the 20 working day statutory deadline under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

For updates on this case, please quote your unique reference number 101000441605 .

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Customer Service Centre
East Devon District Council
Web: www.eastdevon.gov.uk

Dear East Devon District Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of East Devon District Council's handling of my FOI request 'Council's duty as to keeping private confidential information both private and confidential'.

As is all too often the case, your undertaking to comply with the statutory requirements with regard to responding to an FOI request, has proved meaningless. This request, and others, are overdue.

Kindly comply with the Act and provide a promt response that addresses my questions.

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

Yours faithfully,

tim todd

East Devon District Council

Dear Mr Todd,

Thank you for your request for information. Please find the response to your query below.

You asked for the following information:
1. To help clarify these matters will you kindly provide me with
all the information the council holds, amongst all its guidance and
procedures dealing with the duty of client/customer
confidentiality, that state that their overriding duty as to
confidentiality may be disregarded if such information is 'already
in the public domain' .

2. Will you also provide full details of any guidance as to what
factors should be considered before taking the presumably serious
step of disregarding the overriding duty of confidentiality. Does
any such guidance include advice about, for example, whether the
confidential information disclosure is, in the council's interest
or in the interest of the general public, whether the information
is prominent in the public domain or tucked away in far flung
depths never likely to be visited by the general public?

You also included this note in your request:
Note: This is not a request for information about confidentiality
obligations insofar as they relate to The Data Protection Act, but
that of good council practice and Common Law.

In the light of your note above, i am responding to say that no information is held in respect of the two questions raised. There is no specific policy documentation covering confidentiality other than our Data Protection Policy which you have stated is not relevant to your request.

I am sorry for the delay in responding to your request.

I hope this is helpful but if you feel dissatisfied with our response to your request, please contact our Monitoring Officer to request an internal review at [email address]

You may also approach the Information Commissioner for advice at www.ico.gov.uk

Regards

Kate Symington
Information and Complaints Officer
East Devon District Council

01395 517417
www.eastdevon.gov.uk

tim todd left an annotation ()

Readers should note that this request arose out of a response to a complaint about a named EDDC officer, and about unnamed EDDC officers.
The complaint was that the officer and EDDC had publicly revealed private financial information about an individual.
EDDC claimed that because they, and another body had started court proceedings against the individual, the information was therefore in the public domain!
Information laid before a court is an unproven allegation until such time as the court makes a decision or a case is heard. The courts do not recognise that such information becomes' in the public domain.
EDDC have shown themselves very quick to refuse to discuss matters claiming (wrongly) that various matters are sub judice (e.g Graham Brown and Exmouth Fun park).
A fine example of EDDC's dual standards. (The matter is not closed)

P Freeman left an annotation ()

Readers should also note that this request was made on 27 November 2015 - and BY LAW they should have replied in full within 20 working days i.e. by 29 December. In the event, and even then only after requesting an Internal Review, it took them 38 working days to say that they do not have any confidentiality policy.

There is a certain irony here given that the root cause of this question related to repossession of property well in advance of the deadline - it seems that EDDC can be ultra prompt when it is in their interests, but disregard the law relating to FoI whenever they desire too.

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