MOJ refuses to answer an FoI request with one question about one court as it costs over £600!
Interpreters Project Team
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
12th June 2012
Our ref: FOI/76334
Dear Mr McCafferty
Thank you for your letter of 10 May, in which you ask for the following information in relation to the provision of interpreters by Applied Language Solutions (ALS) at Birmingham crown court:
“How many cases have been adjourned by the court where no interpreter was provided since the ALS contract went live on 30 January 2012?”
Your request has been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FoIA).
I can confirm that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) holds the information you have requested but in this case, I will not be providing you with these details as it would exceed the cost limit set out in section 12(1) of the FoIA to do so.
The law allows a public authority to decline to answer requests under FoIA when it is estimated that it would cost more than £600 to identify, locate, extract, and then provide the information that has been asked for. There are only certain activities that can be taken into account when making this calculation, but you may be interested to know that the limit is equivalent to 3½ working days’ worth of work, calculated at £25 an hour.
The difficulty with providing the information you have requested is that the central record of cases involving interpreters at courts does not go into the level of detail you ask for. Providing these details would require a manual search of the files relating to each case heard to establish whether an interpreter was used and the grounds for adjournment/cancellation where this has happened. It is therefore my view that providing the details you have asked for would take more than 3½ days.
You can find out more about section 12(1) by reading the extract from the FoIA and some guidance points considered when applying this exemption attached to this letter. You can also find more information by reading the full text of the FoIA, available at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/36/section/12 and further guidance at http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/foi-exemptions-guidance.htm.
Although we cannot answer your request at the moment, if you refine it so that we can deal with it under the cost limit, then we will take it forward. For example, you may wish to narrower your request to ask for these details for a shorter period. However, you should be aware that, due to the manner in which the information you ask for is recorded, replying to a request in these terms may still exceed the cost limit.
Outside of the FoIA and on a discretionary basis I can tell you that the MoJ published a statistical report on the use of interpreters on 24 May. This publication included the number of requests for interpreters, the number and proportion of requests completed, and the number of complaints received. The report can be found at:
I am sorry that on this occasion I have not been able to be of more assistance. You have the right to appeal our decision if you think it is incorrect. Details can be found in the ‘How to Appeal’ section attached to this letter.