The Council may withold some or all of the information requested if it fits the terms of one or more exemptions. Exemptions fall into two catergories: Absolute and Qualified.
We do not have to disclose information that falls within the description of an absolute exemption and will let you know if this applies as soon as possible. Absolute exemptions include:
- information that is already available in our publication scheme or is reasonably accessible by other means
- information relating to security matters
- court records, ie information relating to proceedings in any court, tribunal, arbitration or statutory inquiry that is subject to rules of court
- parliamentary privilege – information which, if disclosed, would infringe parliamentary protocol
- personal information – where the information concerns a third party and disclosure would breach one of the Data Protection Principles (information relating to you personally should be obtained under the Data Protection Act 1998)
- information provided in confidence
- prohibitions on disclosure – where disclosure is prohibited by legislation, is incompatible with any community obligation, or would give rise to contempt of court.
Some exemptions will only apply if it can be successfully argued that the public interest in withholding the information is greater than the public interest in releasing it. If this isn’t the case, the information will have to be disclosed. These are known as ‘qualified’ exemptions.
Qualified exemptions include:
- information intended for future publication – if this applies, we will let you know approximately when the information will be available
- national security
- international relations – where disclosure would be likely to prejudice relations between the UK and any other state
- relations within the UK
- the economy
- investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities – information held for the purposes of investigating or prosecuting criminal offences, including information received from confidential sources in criminal and certain other investigations in connection with law enforcement
- audit functions
- formulation of government policy
- prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs
- communications with Her Majesty the Queen and members of the Royal Family, or the granting of honours
- health and safety – where disclosure is likely to endanger the physical or mental health or safety of an individual
- environmental information, as this should be obtained through the Environmental Information Regulations
- legal professional privilege – this applies where a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings and covers most confidential communications between lawyers and their clients for the purpose of giving or receiving legal advice, and communications whose dominant purpose was the prosecution or defence of legal proceedings
- commercial interests, ie trade secrets and information which, if disclosed, could prejudice the commercial interests of any person, including the County Council.
More information about qualified and absolute exemptions are available from the Ministry of Justice website.