Mr X and Leitrim County Council

JudgeStephen Rafferty Senior Investigator
Judgment Date01 September 2015
Case OutcomeThe Senior Investigator found that the Council was justified in deciding to refuse access to the record in accordance with section 42(m)(i) of the FOI Act. He affirmed the decision of the Council.
CourtInformation Commission
Record Number150110
RespondentLeitrim County Council
Whether the Council was justified in refusing the applicant access to a copy of a complaint purportedly furnished by him to Leitrim County Council in relation to alleged unauthorised development
Conducted in accordance with section 22(2) of the FOI Act by Stephen Rafferty, Senior Investigator, who is authorised by the Information Commissioner to conduct this review

This review has its origins in a letter dated 9 December 2014 from the Council to the applicant, acknowledging a written complaint, purportedly made by the applicant, alleging unauthorised development at a certain address. The applicant contends he made no such complaint. On 27 February 2015, the applicant, through his solicitors, sought a copy of a letter of complaint. In its decision of 6 March 2015, the Council refused access to the request under section 35(1)(a) of the FOI Act on the ground that the information contained in the record was given in confidence to the Council.

On 9 March 2015, the applicant sought an internal review of the decision of the Council. On 31 March 2015 the decision to refuse the request was upheld by the Council on internal review. On 16 April 2015 the applicant sought a review by this Office of the Council's decision.

I note that during the course of this review Mr Benjamin O'Gorman of this Office informed the applicant of his view that the Council was justified in its decision to refuse access to the record at issue. The applicant indicated he wished to proceed to a decision.

Consequently, I have decided to conclude this review by way of a formal binding decision. In conducting this review, I have had regard to the contents of the relevant record, to the correspondence between the applicant and the Council, to the correspondence between the applicant and this Office, and to the provisions of the FOI Act.

Scope of the Review

The scope of this review is concerned solely with whether the Council was justified in refusing access to the record at issue.

Analysis and Findings

I should state at the outset that the applicant is adamant that he did not submit the complaint of unauthorised development to the Council. Indeed, he has clarified to the Council that he is seeking access to the record in an effort to establish who made the complaint in his name. Furthermore, the Council's internal reviewer explained in his internal review decision that he was satisfied that the signature contained in the record was not the same as the signature appended to the signed authority submitted in respect of the FOI request. Accordingly, I have considered the Council's argument for refusing the request on the basis that the record was not submitted by the applicant, as both parties appear to accept this to be the case. I should also add that, in accordance with section 13(4), I cannot take account of any reasons that the applicant has given for making the FOI request.

While the Council relied on section 35(1)(a) of the FOI Act to withhold the record in question, it also cited section 42(m)(i) in its submission to this Office. Having examined the record at issue, it is my view that section 42(m)(i) is the more relevant section...

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