Freedom of information—internal reviews and complaints
Freedom of information—internal reviews and complaints

The following Public Law guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Freedom of information—internal reviews and complaints
  • Requesting a review
  • Who conducts the review
  • Time scales
  • Deciding the outcome of the review
  • Complaints to the Information Commissioner
  • Appeal to the Tribunal

Applicants under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FIA 2000) should have a right to complain to a public authority if their request for information is refused in whole or in part, or if they are otherwise unhappy with the authority’s handling of their request.

Although it is not a legal requirement that public authorities have an internal review procedure in place, the Freedom of Information Code of Practice (the Code) recommends that every authority should have such a procedure as a matter of best practice.

The Code is not legally binding, but it provides guidance for public authorities on best practice in fulfilling their duties under the FIA 2000. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) helps to promote the Code and may take action against, or make recommendations to, an authority for poor practice, even if this does not amount to a breach of the FIA 2000.

The Code stipulates that the complaints procedure should provide a fair, thorough and prompt review of actions and decisions taken under the FIA 2000. It should also allow for the reconsideration of the decision.

When refusing a request under FIA 2000, a public authority must provide the applicant with details of its internal review procedure (or otherwise state that the authority does not provide one) and the applicant’s right of appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO),