Information Commissioner (Decision Notice): ICO 29 Oct 2013

The complainant requested copies of the legal advice referred to by the Information Commissioner, Chris Graham, in his written evidence to the Leveson Inquiry concerning the ICO’s decision not to pursue prosecutions against journalists for unlawfully obtaining personal data. The ICO originally identified two pieces of legal advice held as part of ‘Operation Motorman’ as falling within the scope of the request. It refused the request under section 14(2) on the grounds that the request was a repeat of an earlier request. Later the ICO dropped section 14(2) and relied on section 21 to withhold the information on the basis that the two pieces of legal advice had already been provided to the complainant in response to the earlier request. Ultimately, the ICO argued that the information falling within the scope of the request was not limited to just the two documents originally identified. Instead it argued that the external legal advice referred to consisted of the entire body of external legal advice that had been obtained during Operation Motorman. It went on to withhold this information under section 21 on the basis that the information was on the Leveson Inquiry website. The Commissioner’s decision is that the request could not be refused under section 14(2). The information provided in response to the earlier request is exempt under section 21. Information redacted from one of those documents is exempt under section 40(2). The remaining external legal advice falling within the scope of the request is not exempt under section 21 as the ICO has failed to identify to the complainant what advice that is or clearly direct him to it. The ICO did not breach its duties to provide advice and assistance under section 16. The ICO should provide the additional external legal advice which falls within the scope of the request or apply appropriate exemptions. This includes the information redacted from December 2003 advice.
Section of Act/EIR and Finding: FOI 14 – Complaint Upheld, FOI 16 – Complaint Not upheld, FOI 21 – Complaint Partly Upheld, FOI 40 – Complaint Not upheld

[2013] UKICO FS50483981
England and Wales


Updated: 06 December 2021; Ref: scu.528773