MoJ refuses to answer FOI requests, citing costs
MoJ's response to interpreter Bart Orlik's freedom of information request to the MoJ.:
Strategic Business and Information Team
Strategy and Programme Development Unit
Ministry of Justice
10th Floor, 102 Petty France
020 3334 2632
Our ref: FoI 76151
11 May 2012
Dear Mr Orlik
Thank you for your emails and letters of 1 and 3 of May, in which you asked for the following information regarding interpreters supplied by Applied Language Solutions (ALS) to Eastbourne, Hastings and Lewes magistrates' courts:
"1. How many cases have been adjourned by the court where no interpreter, since the ALS contract went live on 30th Jan? What is the percentage of these cases to the overall number of cases listed?
2. How many cases have been cancelled by ALS where no interpreter was provided since the ALS contract went live on 30th Jan? What is the percentage of these cases to the overall number of cases listed?
3. How many cases have been cancelled by the court where no interpreter, since the ALS contract went live on 30th Jan? What is the percentage of these cases to the overall number of cases listed?
4. How many interpreters have been sent for the wrong language, since the ALS contract went live on 30th Jan?
5. How many interpreters have been booked direct using the NRPSI or another language provider, since the ALS contract went live on 30th Jan? What is the percentage of these cases to the overall number of cases listed?"
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
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.
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.
There is no central record of the outcome of cases heard at either of these courts and establishing the reason for adjournments would require a manual search of the record of each case. There have been several hundred cases heard in each court since January and it is therefore my view that providing the details you have asked for would take more than 3½ days.
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 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 the scope of the FoIA and on a discretionary basis I can tell you that the MoJ will be publishing statistics on the use of interpreters on 24 May. This will include the number of requests for translators, the number and proportion of requests completed, and the number of complaints received.
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.
Additional Information about Section 12(1)
We have provided below additional information about section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act. We have included some extracts from the legislation, as well as some of the guidance we use when applying it. We hope you find this information useful.
Section 1: Right of Access to information held by public authorities
(1) Any person making a request for information to a public authority is entitled—
(a) to be informed in writing by the public authority whether it holds information of the description specified in the request, and
(b) if that is the case, to have that information communicated to him.
Section 12: Cost of compliance exceeds appropriate limit
(1) Section 1(1) does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit.
(2) Subsection (1) does not exempt the public authority from its obligation to comply with paragraph (a) of section 1(1) unless the estimated cost of complying with that paragraph alone would exceed the appropriate limit.
(3) In subsections (1) and (2) "the appropriate limit" means such amount as may be prescribed, and different amounts may be prescribed in relation to different cases.
(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide that, in such circumstances as may be prescribed, where two or more requests for information are made to a public authority—
(a) by one person, or
(b) by different persons who appear to the public authority to be acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign,
the estimated cost of complying with any of the requests is to be taken to be the estimated total cost of complying with all of them.
(5) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for the purposes of this section as to the costs to be estimated and as to the manner in which they are to be estimated.
The appropriate limit
The 'appropriate limit', for the purposes of section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act has been set at:
• £600 for central government and Parliament.
• The hourly rate is set at £25 per person per hour.
The following activities may be taken into account when public authorities are estimating whether the appropriate limit has been exceeded.
• determining whether it holds the information requested
• locating the information or documents containing the information
• retrieving such information or documents
• extracting the information from the document containing it.
How to Appeal
If you are not satisfied with this response, you have the right to an internal review. The handling of your request will be looked at by someone who was not responsible for the original case, and they will make a decision as to whether we answered your request correctly.
If you would like to request a review, please write or send an email to the Data Access and Compliance Unit within two months of the data of this letter, at the
Data Access and Compliance Unit (10.34)
Information & Communications Directorate
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
Information Commissioner's Office
If you remain dissatisfied after an internal review decision, you have the right to apply to the Information Commissioner's Office. The Commissioner is an independent regulator who has the power to direct us to respond to your request differently, if he considers that we have handled it incorrectly.
You can contact the Information Commissioner's Office at the following address:
Information Commissioner's Office,
Internet address: https://www.ico.gov.uk/Global/contact_us.aspx