Ms X and TUSLA: Child and Family Agency

CourtInformation Commission
JudgeSenior Investigator
Judgment Date18 May 2021
Case OutcomeThe Senior Investigator affirmed TUSLA's decision. She found that section 37(1) applies to the records and that the public interest does not weigh in favour of their release. She also found that no right of access arose further to Regulations made under section 37(8) of the FOI Act.
RespondentTUSLA: Child and Family Agency
Record NumberOIC-102643-J5H5J8
Whether TUSLA was justified in refusing access to records relating to the applicant and third parties

18 May 2021

Background

The applicant was born in the 1940s and was adopted as a small child. She contacted TUSLA’s adoption information and tracing service in order to find her birth family. TUSLA carried out various searches and provided her with some information. On 7 August 2019, the applicant made an FOI request to TUSLA for access to her file. TUSLA’s decision of 3 February 2020 released some records in full and in part and withheld the remainder under section 37(1) of the FOI Act (personal information). The applicant sought an internal review on 17 February 2020. TUSLA’s internal review decision of 8 December 2020 affirmed its decision on the request. On 13 January 2021, the applicant applied to this Office for a review of TUSLA’s decision. During the review, TUSLA agreed to release a further record.

I have now completed my review in accordance with section 22(2) of the FOI Act and I have decided to conclude it by way of a formal, binding decision. In carrying out my review, I have had regard to the above exchanges and correspondence between this Office, TUSLA and the applicant as well as the contents of the records at issue. I have also taken account of the provisions of the FOI Act. I should also say that, at the time of concluding this review, I have not received any reply to this Office’s letter to the applicant of 25 March 2021.

Scope of the Review

The review is confined to the sole issue of whether TUSLA was justified under the FOI Act in refusing to fully grant the applicant’s request.

The review does not include correspondence between the applicant and TUSLA, which I understand she told TUSLA it need not consider. However, I note that TUSLA says it will provide copies of these records if the applicant wants them. In addition, the review will not consider those details that the applicant has been told were withheld in error from records 1, 10 and 11, which were released from other records.

Preliminary Matters

I acknowledge how very important it is to the applicant to trace her birth family. While I have great sympathy for her, I cannot direct TUSLA to grant her request on this basis. This is because section 13(4) of the FOI Act requires me not to take into account the applicant’s reasons for making her FOI request.

It is also relevant to set out the Commissioner’s position on the provision of records with exempt information redacted. Section 18(1) provides, that "if it is practicable to do so", access to an otherwise exempt record shall be granted by preparing a copy, in such form as the head of the public body concerned considers appropriate, of the record with the exempt information removed. Section 18(1) does not apply, however, if the copy provided for thereby would be misleading (section 18(2) refers).

TUSLA has granted partial access to some of the records. I acknowledge that this was intended to ensure that the applicant would get as much access to information concerning her family history as possible. I appreciate...

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