Deely v Information Commissioner

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
JudgeMr. Justice McKechnie
Judgment Date11 May 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] IEHC 91
Date11 May 2001
Docket Number[2000 No. 95 M.C.A.]

[2001] IEHC 91

THE HIGH COURT

No.95MCA/2000
DEELY v. INFORMATION COMMISSIONER
IN THE MATTER OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT, 1997.

BETWEEN

JOHN DEELY
APPELLANT

AND

THE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER
RESPONDENT

AND

THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
NOTICE PARTY

Citations:

ROAD TRAFFIC ACT 1961 S52(1)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 PART II

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT1997 S18

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 PART III

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 PART IV

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 PART V

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S42

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S34

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S46

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 SCHEDULE 1

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 SCHEDULE 2

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S32

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S2(1)(a)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S4

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S6(1)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S6(7)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S7(1)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S8(1)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S8(1)(a)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S8(1)(c)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S8(2)(d)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S8(4)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S14

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S7

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S7(4)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S7(6)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S18(1)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S18(2)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S18(4)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S18(6)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S14(2)(b)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S46

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S46(1)(a)(i)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S46(1)(b)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 (S18) REGS 1998 SI 519/1998 PARA 6

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S18(2)(a)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S2

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S18(2)(d)

COWZER V DISTRICT JUSTICE KIRBY 1992 ICLJ 114 1991/2/325

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S34(2)

HOWARD V COMMISSION OF PUBLIC WORKS 1994 1 IR 101

DPP V QUILLIGAN 1986 IR 495

MIN FOR AGRICULTURE V INFORMATION COMMISSIONER 2000 1 IR 309

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S34(12)(b)

MARA (INSPECTOR OF TAXES) V HUMMINGBIRD LTD 1982 ILRM 421

HENRY DENNY (IRL) LTD V MIN FOR SOCIAL WELFARE 1998 1 IR 34

PREMIER PERICLASE V VALUATION TRIBUNAL UNREP HIGH 24.6.1999 2000/15/5860

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S37(6)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S36

DPPS GUIDE TO THE FUNCTIONS OF & RECORDS HELD BY HIS OFFICE 9 PARA 6

DPPS GUIDE TO THE FUNCTIONS OF & RECORDS HELD BY HIS OFFICE 3

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S15

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S16

MCCORMACK, STATE V CURRAN 1987 ILRM 225

H V DPP 1994 2 IR 589

DPP V DOYLE 1994 2 IR 286

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S6

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S8

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S12

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S14

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S2(1)

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1997 S8(2)(d)(ii)

Synopsis

Freedom of Information

Freedom of information; statutory interpretation; reasons for decisions; notice party had decided that appellant should be charged with road traffic offence; appellant seeks to invoke statutory provisions to obtain from notice party reasons for decision; whether interpretation of statutory provisions and documentation support view that reasons for decision should be given; whether common law right to reasons; whether a right to reasons because District Judge had directed that appellant should receive copies of statements made by intended witness at forthcoming trial; whether right to information extends to a requirement to give information which is contained in an exempt order; whether notice of refusal of request must mention public interest consideration; ss.18(2), 42(1), Freedom of Information Act, 1997

Held: Appeal dismissed.

Deely v. The Information Commissioner - High Court: McKechnie J. - 11/05/2001 - [2001] 3 IR 439

The appellant had sought information surrounding the decision to prosecute him of a road traffic offence. The request was refused by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and on appeal the request was also refused by the Information Commissioner. The appellant then appealed to the High Court. McKechnie J held that the information in question was exempt and was not required to be disclosed under the Freedom Of Information Act, 1997.

1

JUDGEMENT of Mr. Justice McKechnie delivered the 11th day of May. 2001.

2

1. On the 1st day of April, 1999 at approximately 2 p.m., there was a road traffic accident at Caherulla, Ballyheigue in the County of Kerry. On the occasion in question the Appellant was driving his motor vehicle, in the direction of Ballyheigue when a collision occurred between an oncoming vehicle and one immediately behind him. Though not involved either by reason of personal injury or by way of impact damage, the Appellant on the instructions of the Director of Public Prosecutions was subsequently charged, by way of Summons, with an offence under Section 52 (1) of the Road Traffic Act, 1961as amended. Being aggrieved at being so prosecuted and being further aggrieved at being the only driver to face any criminal charge, Mr. Deely sought to invoke the provisions of the aforesaid Act of 1997, in order to get from the Notice Party the reason or reasons why this prosecution was proffered against him. It is arising out of this request that the within Judgment is given.

3

2. The 1997 Act, apart from minor exceptions not here relevant, came into force on the 21st day of April, 1998. It's passing, it is no exaggeration to say, affected in a most profound way, access by members of the public to records held by public bodies and to information regarding certain acts of such bodies which touch or concern such persons. The purpose of it's enactment was to create accountability and transparency and this to an extent not heretofore contemplated let alone available to the general public. Many would say that it creates an openness which inspires a belief and trust which can only further public confidence in the Constitutional organs of the State.

4

3. In it's long title, the intention of the Act is said to enable members of the public (a) to obtain access, to the greatest extent possible, consistent with the public interest and the right of privacy, to information in the possession of public bodies, (b) to have personal information in the possession of such bodies corrected if the need arises and accordingly (c) to have a right of access to records held by such bodies subject to necessary exceptions to that right.

5

To ensure that such rights can be availed of, in an informal, impartial and expeditious manner the title goes on to refer to the availability of assistance for persons who may wish to exercise these rights, to provide for the independent review both of the decision of such bodies and the operation of the Act and most importantly, of course, for the establishment of the office of the Information Commissioner. Other related matters are also recited.

6

4. As can thus be seen the clear intention is that, subject to certain specific and defined exceptions, the rights so conferred on members of the public and their exercise should be as extensive as possible, this viewed, in the context of and in a way to positively further the aims, principles and policies underpinning this statute, subject and subject only to necessary restrictions.....

7

It is on any view, a piece of legislation independent in existence, forceful in its aim and liberal in outlook and philosophy.

8

5. The structure of the Act is evident from the manner in which it is set out. Part II, which deals with Access to Records, inter alia, establishes the right of access, specifies the mechanism by which that right may be availed of, provides for notification of the resulting decision and gives an entitlement to have such decision internally reviewed. In addition Section 18 deals with the right to information regarding acts of public bodies which affect the person concerned.

9

Part III, headed "Exempt Records", sets out amongst other things, how, to what extent and in what way, the bodies therein referred to, should deal with a request for records and in particular it specifies the grounds upon which a refusal to grant may be justified.

10

Part IV, establishes the Office of the Information Commissioner, and provides for a review by that Commissioner of a decision given by a public body in a variety of circumstances. It obliged the Commissioner to keep the operation of the Act under review as well as directing the Commissioner, not later than three years after the commencement of the Act, to carry out an investigation into public bodies generally, this, in order to assess their compliance with the provisions of the Act. He or she in addition, must publish an Annual Report and cause copies thereof to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

11

Part V, though headed miscellaneous, contains important provisions such as Section 42 which permits an appeal to the High Court on a point of law from the Commissioner's review under Section 34, and Section 46 which declares that the Act shall not apply to certain records, a section of some importance in this case.

12

There then follows three Schedules. Schedule No. 1 sets out what bodies shall be public bodies for the purposes of the Act and also empowers the appropriate Minister to prescribe, other bodies, organisations and groups to stand for the time being as being included within that Schedule. The Second Schedule deals with the Information Commissioner and the Third with what enactments are excluded from the application of Section 32.

13

6. For the purposes of the issues presently at hand the following would appear to be the relevant provisions of the Act:-

14

a (a) Section 2 (I) defines "exempt record" as meaning -

15

a "(a) a record in relation to which the grant of a request under...

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