Q&A What is a Freedom of Information Information Request?

  • Date: 18 February 2016
  • Author/Solicitor: Andy Grimsey
  • Source: Reproduced from the Publican's Morning Advertiser

Q:  What is a Freedom of Information Request?

A:  An FOI request is a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.  This Act gives you a right to access recorded information held by Public Sector organisations.  In licensing terms, the most common requests are of the Police (for crime and disorder figures relating to a specific premises) or of the Environmental Health Officer (for noise complaints).  You can make a request by letter, email or fax and you should get the information within 20 working days (subject to certain exceptions).  Most requests are free but you might be asked to pay a small amount for photocopies or postage.

A word of advice, however – ensure you phrase your FOI request precisely.  For example, if you ask the Police for all incidents relating to the Dog and Duck Pub for the last two years that is exactly what you are likely to get, and may include not only incidents of alcohol-related violence or anti-social behaviour, but reports of slates slipping from the roof, 'A' boards being blown over or even positive reports such as door staff refusing entry to someone who is drunk.  FOIs can be very useful but must be handled with caution.