The Data Brief

A monthly data protection bulletin from the barristers at 5 Essex Chambers

Who regulates the regulator?

26 June 2024

In Gerry Woodhouse v Information Commissioner [2024] UKFTT 00502, the Tribunal considered an appeal against a Decision Notice issued by the Information Commissioner which considered a request under s1 FOIA for information from the regulator.

The summary of the facts set out in the judgment only addresses very briefly the procedural background. A request for information was made; a refusal was issued; a review was requested; the review determined that the refusal should be upheld; and “the ICO later issued a formal decision notice – the subject of this appeal”. There is nothing in the judgment to state that the appellant made a complaint to the regulator to trigger the decision notice. We note this just as an interesting procedural quirk.

Mr Woodhouse sought figures as to the total number of decision notices issued to various parish councils by the ICO. The ICO said that this information was on its website (although not in a single place, but rather it was available by counting each of the published decision notices in its database); that the ICO had no clever way of counting these quickly; and that Mr Woodhouse could follow a link, which it provided, to search its database and get the information itself.

The ICO relied on s21(1) FOIA – that where the information is reasonably accessible to the applicant by a means outside of FOIA, it is exempt under FOIA. In making a decision on the papers, the Tribunal recognised that the information was not accessible in the format which Mr Woodhouse desired – an Excel spreadsheet – but it was available by counting manually. The Tribunal believed this would take more than an hour to do, but it was an achievable (if laborious) task. The fact that Mr Woodhouse had asked the ICO do to the counting for him did not oblige them to do so. The appeal was dismissed.

Further reading: Gerry Woodhouse v Information Commissioner [2024] UKFTT 00502

The Data Brief

A monthly data protection bulletin from the barristers at 5 Essex Chambers

The Data Brief is edited by Francesca Whitelaw KC, Aaron Moss and John Goss, barristers at 5 Essex Chambers, with contributions from the whole information law, data protection and AI Team.

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