FOI CORRESPONDENCE (extract) - satpalramisguilty website

A public interest test was conducted in consultation with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). Please find below the arguments made in favour of and against the release of the information requested and the outcome of the public interest test.

Arguments made in favour of the release of the information requested:
There is a presumption running through the Freedom of Information Act that openness is, in itself, to be regarded as something that is in the public interest...

Arguments made against the release of the information requested:
MoJs duty to openness and transparency under the Freedom of Information Act must not be fulfilled in such a way as to undermine public confidence that victims families right to privacy will be upheld, and must be balanced against its parallel duties to protect them from further harm, shock and distress.

Families of victims need the reassurance of knowing that FOI Act access rights will not be allowed to be exercised to their detriment and will not have the effect of placing in the public domain detailed accounts of traumatic events, forcing them to confront those events in inappropriate circumstances and causing them further distress in the knowledge that this information can be accessed freely by the general public.

Outcome of the public interest test:
Release of the photographs of the crime scene and autopsy report would be likely to endanger the mental health of surviving relatives, as release of such information after a considerable period can be considered to have a similar effect to placing it in the public domain for the first time. It is for these reasons that MoJ finds that section 38 is applicable to some of the information in this file.

Some of the information within the document is also covered by the exemption at section 40 of the Act. This exempts personal information about a third party (someone other than the requester), if revealing it would break the terms of the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998. The DPA prevents personal information from release if it would be unfair or at odds with the reason why it was collected, or where the subject had officially served notice that releasing it would cause them damage or distress.

In this case the exemption applies because the document contains the personal and the sensitive personal information of a number of identified individuals assumed to be still living, including medical and social reports. These individuals would have no expectation that this information would be made available in the public domain during their lifetimes; to do so would be unfair and would risk causing damage and distress, which would contravene the first data protection principle.