As I’ve only made the one Freedom of Information Act request, I certainly don’t hold myself out to be any sort of expert.
I didn’t “win” – and it was always going to be a mountain to climb getting the Information Commissioner (decision here) and the First Tier Tribunal (decision here) to require Hackney Council to disclose the legal advice behind their injunction threat to the Hackney Citizen re its posting of tape recordings of a Hackney Council Call Centre officer – wrongly informing Conservative Mayoral candidate Andrew Boff that there was no Conservative party candidate standing in the Hackney Mayoral election.
Nevertheless, as Hackney Council felt the need to instruct a top QC and, as the three person Tribunal noted, “two members of the Tribunal did not believe LBH misrepresented or disregarded the legal advice received” – I’ll call it a draw.
We don’t hand out awards here at Stoke Newington Chambers – but if we did, it would go to those who embody the spirit of the Stoke Newington dissidents and activists. But for David Allen Green’s fearless and through investigation into this matter, it’s unlikely that anybody outside of Hackney would have known what happened – and I doubt this FOI request would have gotten off the ground. Kudos also to the Hackney Citizen – and its editor, Keith Magnum – a modern day, full-time, pamphleteer.
FOI requests help citizens hold Government to account. The system is set up for non-lawyers to make their case for disclosure. The only experience I have to pass on is to make your FOI request as clear and precise as possible – with the correct legal test for disclosure in mind, be prepared to press the body to respond to the questions you’ve asked – and be prepared for the long haul.