Mr Y and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (the Department)

CourtInformation Commission
Judgment Date06 Jan 2020
Case OutcomeThe Senior Investigator annulled the Department's decision on the ground that it had not taken all reasonable steps to locate records sought in the request. He directed the Department to conduct a fresh decision-making process on the request
Record NumberOIC-55912-X1P0F2
RespondentDepartment of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
Whether the Department was justified in refusing access to records of personal information belonging to the applicant under section 15(1)(a) on the grounds that the records sought do not exist or cannot be found after all reasonable steps have been taken to locate them

6 January 2020

Background
On 14 January 2019, the applicant sought access to all records held by the Department relating to him, excluding any records that were previously sent by, or to, him. In a decision dated 13 February 2019, the Department released 99 records to the applicant. On 22 August 2019, the applicant sought a review by this Office of the Department’s decision. He argued that the Department had not released certain files relating to his request. On 12 March 2019, the Department refused to release any further records on the ground that no further relevant records could be found.
On 22 August 2019, the applicant sought a review by this Office of the Department’s decision. He suggested that the HR Division was withholding other records. I have now completed my review in accordance with section 22(2) of the FOI Act. In carrying out my review, I have had regard to the submissions made by the Department and to communication between this Office and both the applicant and the Council on the matter. I have also had regard to the contents of the records previously released to the applicant. I have decided to conclude this review by way of a formal, binding decision.
Scope of Review
This review is concerned with whether the Department was justified in refusing access to additional records relating to the applicant on the grounds that no further relevant records exist or can be found after all reasonable steps have been taken to locate them.
Analysis and Findings
Section 15(1)(a) of the FOI Act provides that a request for access to records may be refused if the records sought either do not exist or cannot be found after all reasonable steps to ascertain their whereabouts have been taken. The Commissioner's role in such cases is to review the decision of the FOI body and to decide whether the decision was justified. This Office must have regard to the evidence available to the decision maker in arriving at his/her decision. The evidence in "search" cases generally consists of the steps actually taken to search for records along with miscellaneous other information about the record management practices of the FOI body, insofar as those practices relate to the records in...

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