The Town Clerk of Whitchurch Town Council recently pleaded guilty at South Cheshire Magistrates’ Court to blocking records with the intention of preventing disclosure.
Tim Thompson of Kangs Solicitors briefly outlines the circumstances.
The Circumstances | Kangs ICO Investigations Defence Team
- The Town Clerk of Whitchurch Town Council was also the ‘Proper Officer’ responsible for handling Freedom of Information Requests [‘FOI’] received by the Council.
- A FOI was received seeking the release of an audio recording of a specific Council meeting from an individual who believed that the written Minutes had been fabricated.
- Having been informed that the audio recording had been deleted the individual made a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (‘ICO’) which investigated the complaint.
- It was discovered that the Town Clerk deliberately deleted the audio recording days after the FOI request in order to avoid disclosure.
- The Town Clerk was charged with an offence of blocking records with the intention of preventing disclosure, in breach of s77 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘the Act’), and, after admitting the offence, she was fined £400, ordered to pay costs of £1,493 and a victim surcharge of £40.
The Law | Kangs Criminal Defence Solicitors
Section 77 of the Act states that a person is:
“Guilty of an offence if he alters, defaces, blocks, erases, destroys or conceals any record held by the public authority, with the intention of preventing the disclosure by that authority of all, or any part, of the information to the communication of which the applicant would have been entitled.”
Official Comment | Kangs Defence Solicitors For ICO Investigations
Mike Shaw, Group Manager in Enforcement at the ICO, said:
“This case is about the public’s right to know, and we will not hesitate to take action to protect people’s right to access the information they are entitled to.”
“This case emphasises the critical importance of transparency for public authorities in the way they carry out their business.”
“People should have trust and confidence that they can access public information without the danger of it being doctored, fabricated or corrupted in any way.”
How Can We Help You? | Kangs Data Protection Offences Defence Solicitors
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