Ms X c/o Ms Z, ABC Solicitors and Department of Foreign Affairs

CourtInformation Commission
JudgeSenior Investigator
Judgment Date17 May 2021
Case OutcomeThe Senior Investigator affirmed the decision of the Department.
RespondentDepartment of Foreign Affairs
Record NumberOIC-103919-R5M9N8
Whether the Department was justified in refusing access, under section 37(1) of the FOI Act, to certain records relating to the applicant’s request for a copy of all records pertaining to her child, in particular all forms, applications and documents requested by the Department in order to secure a national passport for her child

17 May 2021

Background

At all stages of the FOI process, the applicant in this case had legal representation. As such, for the sake of convenience, all references to communications with the applicant in this decision should be taken to include communications with her legal representatives.

On 30 November 2020, the Department of Justice wrote to the applicant’s legal representatives and informed them that certain documentation remained outstanding in respect of their client’s application for leave to remain in the State under parent of an Irish citizen child conditions. It requested a copy of all forms, applications and documents requested by the Department of Foreign Affairs in order to secure a national passport for the applicant’s child, and suggested that the Department of Foreign Affairs might be in a position to assist.

Subsequently, on 1 December 2020, the applicant sought from the Department copies of all records pertaining to her child, in particular all forms, applications and documents requested by the Department in order to secure a national passport for her child. In a decision dated 10 February 2021, the Department part-granted the request, releasing eight records to the applicant and refusing access to seven records under section 37 of the FOI Act, which is concerned with the protection of personal information relating to third parties. It noted that consent for the release of the third party’s personal information had not been received. The applicant sought an internal review of that decision, following which the Department affirmed its original decision. On 17 February 2021, the applicant sought a review by this Office of the Department’s decision.

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 applicant’s comments in her application for review and to the submissions made by the FOI body in support of its decision. I have also examined the records at issue. I have decided to conclude this review by way of a formal, binding decision.

Scope of Review

This review is concerned solely with whether the Department was justified in refusing access, under section 37(1) of the FOI Act, to certain records relating to the processing of a national passport for the applicant’s child, on the ground that they contain third party personal information.

Preliminary Matters

Before I address the substantive issues arising, I would like to make a number of preliminary comments. First, section 18(1) of the Act 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 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). I take the view that neither the definition of a record under section 2 of the Act nor the provisions of section 18 envisage or require the extracting of particular sentences or occasional paragraphs from records for the purpose of granting access to those particular sentences or paragraphs...

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