Freedom of Information
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities, sets out exemptions from that right and places a number of obligations on public authorities. Any person who makes a request to a public authority for information must be informed whether the public authority holds that information and, subject to exemptions, supplied with that information.
Individuals already have the right of access to information about themselves under the Data Protection Act 1998. As far as public authorities are concerned, the Freedom of Information Act will extend this right to allow public access to all types of information held. This individual right of access to information came into effect on 1st January 2005.
Public authorities will be required to adopt and maintain a publication scheme setting out the classes of information it holds, the manner in which it intends to publish the information, and whether a charge will be made for the information. The purpose of a scheme is to ensure a significant amount of information is available, without the need for a specific request. Schemes are intended to encourage organisations to publish more information pro-actively and to develop a greater culture of openness. There has been a requirement for Police Services to have an approved Publication Scheme in place since 30th June 2003.
The Act will be enforced by the Information Commissioner (the "Commissioner"), a post that combines regulation of both the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts