Mr T and Defence Forces

CourtInformation Commission
JudgeSenior Investigator
Judgment Date03 December 2021
Case OutcomeThe Senior Investigator annulled the Defence Forces' decision and directed it to consider the request afresh.
RespondentDefence Forces
Record NumberOIC-106795-Q5R6M6
Whether the Defence Forces was justified in refusing, under section 15(1)(c) of the Act, the applicant’s request for records relating to the applicant sent or received by named parties concerning a number of specified matters on the ground that processing the request would cause a substantial and unreasonable interference with, or disruption of, its work

OIC-106795-Q5R6M6

Background

This case arises from a previous decision by this Office in OIC-58250. In that case, I annulled the Defence Forces’ decision to refuse the applicant’s request under section 15(1)(a) of the FOI Act and I directed it to consider the request afresh. In that case, the applicant initially made a request (Request A) for the following:

  1. Any and all correspondence or emails pertaining to him sent or received by six named members of a named unit (unit A) from 26 September 2012 to 30 August 2014
  2. Any and all correspondence or emails pertaining to him sent or received by four named members of another named unit (unit B) during that same period
  3. Any and all correspondence or emails pertaining to him sent or received by a named member of a medical unit during that same period.

In response, the Defence Forces informed him that initial searches had returned 571 emails and that his request fell to be refused under section 15(1)(c) of the FOI Act. It asked the applicant to refine his request, which he declined to do at that stage and the request was refused under section 15(1)(c). Following this, the applicant submitted a fresh request (Request B) on 7 May 2019, wherein he reduced the number of individuals involved and the timeframe. He identified four members of unit A, three members of unit B, and the same member of the medical unit. He narrowed the timeframe to 1 January 2013 to 30 August 2014. He said the records sought pertain to a number of specified matters, namely;

  • His medical condition,
  • His regimental duties,
  • His redress,
  • His detachment to unit B,
  • His movement to a named barracks on a work detail,
  • His fitness test, and
  • His medical disposal.

On 28 August 2019, the Defence Forces part-granted the request and released 22 records it had identified as coming within the scope of the request. The Defence Forces affirmed its original decision at internal review stage, following which the applicant sought a review by this Office of that decision.

In my decision, I noted that the searches conducted by the Defence Forces in response to Request A that had returned 571 emails were based on the individuals named in that request and the time-frame specified. However, when processing Request B, the Defence Forces had used precise search terms in its email search in an effort to identify relevant records. I found that the Defence Forces could reasonably have been expected to conduct a similar search to the one undertaken in respect of Request A, based on the reduced number of individuals and the reduced time-frame, with a view to determining how many of those 571 emails were captured by the refined request. The Defence Forces acknowledged that it was possible that further relevant emails might exist that were not identified in its searches if they did not contain the precise search terms used. Accordingly, I annulled the decision of the Defence Forces and directed it to process the applicant’s request afresh. I issued that decision on 1 December 2020.

As the Defence Forces did...

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