Mr X and Defence Forces

CourtInformation Commission
JudgeStephen Rafferty Senior Investigator
Judgment Date18 May 2021
Case OutcomeThe Senior Investigator annulled the decision. He found that the Defence Forces was not justified in redacting the names of staff under section 37 of the Act and directed the release of that information. He also found that the Defence Forces had not conducted all reasonable searches in an effort to locate all relevant records. He directed it to undertake a fresh decision-making process in respect of the applicant's request.
RespondentDefence Forces
Record NumberOIC-104799-C6L2N4
Whether the Defence Forces was justified in refusing access to records between the applicant, Air Corp Headquarters (ACHQ), a named unit within the Air Corp (AC), a named Commandant and a named third party GP under sections 15(1)(a) and 37 of the FOI Act

18 May 2021

Background

The applicant is a member of the Air Corps who has made a large number of FOI requests to the Defence Forces regarding different matters. In a request dated 3 November 2020, he made a request for all correspondence between himself and a specific unit where he worked, ACHQ, a named Comdt. and a named third party GP. The named Comdt. is a medical officer in the Air Corps.

In a decision dated 1 February 2021, the Defence Forces granted partial access to five records, comprising an email thread between the medical officer and other staff members of the Defence Forces. The records appear to have been located by the named Comdt. and not the other recipients. The Defence Forces redacted some information under section 37 on the ground that it is personal information relating to third parties. In the schedule of records, the Defence Forces described the five records as falling within the category of “all correspondence in relation to [the applicant] between” his unit and the named Comdt.

Furthermore, it said that it was refusing access to records of “all correspondence in relation to [the applicant] between ACHQ”, the named Comdt. and the third party GP under section 15(1)(a) on the ground that no relevant records exist or can be found. The Defence Forces further outlined that searches had been carried out at ACHQ, the named unit, Air Corps MAP and the Central Medical Unit records department.

On 3 February 2021, the applicant sought an internal review of that decision. On 1 March 2021, the Defence Forces affirmed its decision under sections 15(1)(a) and 37 of the FOI Act. On 9 March 2021, the applicant sought a review by this Office of that decision.

At the time, this Office was already reviewing a decision taken by the Defence Forces on a separate request made by the applicant (case OIC-101063 refers) which overlaps in part with this application under review. In that case, the applicant primarily sought a statement of reasons, under section 10, relating to a decision taken by the named Comdt. concerning the applicant’s sick leave. However, he also sought “[a]ny information/emails or handwritten notes relating to [him] on this”. During the processing of both reviews, it became clear that...

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