Q&As

Where a public body settles a legal dispute, on terms that the fact of the dispute and the identity of the parties are to be kept confidential, could this information be disclosable under the Freedom of Information Act 2000? Would any exemptions apply (both for the duty to disclose and the duty to confirm or deny)?

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Published on LexisPSL on 02/01/2020

The following Public Law Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Where a public body settles a legal dispute, on terms that the fact of the dispute and the identity of the parties are to be kept confidential, could this information be disclosable under the Freedom of Information Act 2000? Would any exemptions apply (both for the duty to disclose and the duty to confirm or deny)?

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FIA 2000) is triggered where a valid request is made for information held by a public authority. The extent to which information may be disclosed in response to a request will vary depending on the nature and circumstances of the request and the information involved. Public authorities have a duty under FIA 2000, s 1(1) to respond to a freedom of information request, to confirm or deny whether they hold the information being requested and, if they do hold it, to communicate that information to the requester. However, there are certain exemptions under FIA 2000, which may excuse the public authority from the duty to confirm or deny whether the information is held and/or the duty to communicate the information requested.

A freedom of information request may be refused if:

  1. it would exceed the applicable costs limit

  2. the request is vexatious or repeats a previous request from the same person

  3. an exemption is engaged—and if that exemption is not absolute, the public interest favours withholding the information

Where an absolute exemption is engaged, the authority will not be obliged to comply with the duty to supply the information requested, but it may be required to confirm or deny whether it holds the information. In most cases, this duty will also be excluded. Absolute exemptions include, for instance, exemptions against the

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