FoI Decision Notice Summary

The following is Doug's summary of the Information Commissioner's final Decision Notice.

  1. the Information Commissioner decided that the Open University aren't required to give information about their animal material suppliers due to concerns about potential animal rights extremists targeting their staff
  2. they didn't consider the University's contention that releasing this info would also commercially affect them as they had upheld the above exemption
  3. despite expressing some surprise that the O U genuinely don't have a record of how many animals they have at any one time, they think in the balance of probabilities the O U actually don't have that info so they are taking no action there
  4. they formally criticised the O U for massively breaking the legal time limits set for responses under various stages of my request.

Interesting points:

  • the decision notice notes animal rights activists threatening individuals and properties linked with the Staffordshire guinea pig farm, including arson attempts and the exhuming of a relative and stealing of their body; also the actions of Huntingdon Life Sciences activists
  • "The Commissioner is aware that animal research is strictly regulated by the Home Office which goes some way to providing assurance to the public relating to the way animal research is conducted"
  • on the matter of whether the O U genuinely don't know how many animals they have held in their offices, the Information Commissioner made reference to the Freedom of Information Request made about the Iraq war dossier, and inferred, "the Commissioner is mindful that even where the public might reasonably expect that information should be held this does not necessarily mean that the information is held"
  • "As the University did not provide information it held relevant to request 10 until it had conducted the internal review in relation to this request, it breached section 10(1). This is because the information was not provided within the statutory time for compliance."
  • "The authority subsequently undertook to complete an internal review in relation to this request. On the 1 March 2010, over 100 working days later, the result of the internal review was communicated to the complainant. The Commissioner wishes to take this opportunity to remind the University that he expects reviews to be completed within 20 working days. In exceptional cases it may be appropriate to take longer, but in no case should the review take more than 40 working days."