Freedom of Information (FOI) and how it can help youLibèrté d’Înformâtion et comme tchi qu’ou peut vos aîdgi
The Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011 gives you the right, from 1 September 2015, to obtain information held by a Parish. All you have to do is ask for the information you want.
Access to information can:
- help you participate even more in decision-making and activities that affect you and your family
- demonstrate how parish services are efficient, delivered with integrity and increasingly designed around you.
How to make an FOI request
Is the information already available?
We already publish much information so you may find the answer to your question is already available, either online or at the Parish offices. We are fully committed to complying with the letter and spirit of the FOI law and we’ll point you in the direction of where the information you need can be found.
Information included in the disclosure log of responses to FOI requests may be treated as exempt under Article 23 of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011.
Making an FOI request
You must make your FOI request in writing and provide:
- Your full name
- A contact address (such as an email address or a postal address)
- A clear description of the information you want to receive.
You don’t have to tell us why you want the information.
Tips when making an FOI request:
- Be specific – this will help us identify the information you want and reduce the chance of your request being misinterpreted
- State the precise time period for the information your require – if your request covers a broad time period it may be refused as it could take us too much time to respond
- Keep your request clear and objective – try to ask only one question rather than several
- If you need help to write your FOI request then please ask. Visit the Parish Hall for assistance, or ask a friend, relative, someone from your community or the Citizens Advice Bureau. Or contact us and tell us your request – we will write down your request and return this to you for confirmation before we answer it.
How your FOI request will be handled?
It may not be obvious to a member of the public which parish(es) or bodies will hold the information which is sought. The parishes are therefore taking a pragmatic approach to the implementation of the FOI law and have set up the Parish FOI unit (PFOI). All FOI requests to the parishes will be handled by PFOI.
What you can ask for?
FOI is about providing access to information. Your FOI request can be about any aspect of the parishes in Jersey and our work.
If the information you request refers to another person, the FOI law will only release the information if it complies with the principles of data protection. Data Protection legislation protects personal data and we are committed to making sure personal data is protected. If releasing the information means we would be breaking the data protection law, we must refuse your request.
If you want to access information we hold about you, you must make a ‘Subject Access Request’ under the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2005 (personal information about yourself is exempt under FOI). If you do try to request information about yourself in an FOI request, this will need to be dealt with under the Data Protection Law and the parish you believe holds information about you will respond to you directly.
The Data Protection Law gives you the legal right to access information held about you (by making a Subject Access Request) and, in some cases, to prevent your personal information being seen, used or processed by other people. Any information we hold about you as an individual is protected under Data Protection legislation.
For further information and guidance about data protection, visit the Jersey Office of the Information Commissioner website.
Will I have to pay to make an FOI request?
You don’t need to pay to make an FOI request.
However, the FOI law recognises that there has to be a limit on the amount of time and staff resources we can spend answering an FOI request – this is called the cost limit and it is 5 hours. If we think it will take fewer than 5 hours, your request will be answered free of charge.
If we estimate that your request will take longer than 5 hours, we can refuse your request under the FOI law. However, we may contact you to help you refine your information request so that it will take us less than 5 hours to answer.
Our response to your FOI request
When will the Parishes provide the information?
If the information you request is ‘held’ by us and its release is not exempt under the law, we will give you the information.
You will receive a response within 20 working days. If you have not received a response within 20 working days, contact us and let us know.
If, in exceptional circumstances, we need to extend the 20 working day response time we will contact you and let you know the reason.
What information is ‘held’
Information considered ‘held’ by us for the purposes of FOI includes:
- information kept in local archives, record offices or contracted storage
- where we are responsible for the information or the environment (physical or digital) in which it is stored or accessed
- business-related information held on a personal device not owned by us e.g. a personal iPad or smartphone.
Information is not held for the purposes of FOI law if it is solely held by a parish on behalf of another person. Information may not be considered ‘held’ if:
- we have no access to, use for or interest in the information
- access to the information is controlled by someone else outside of the parish
- we only provide storage facilities (physical or electronic)
- we had no role in creating, recording, filing or removing the information.
Our record keeping
Information is not kept forever because it would be too costly to store and maintain.
The Parishes maintain a list of the information they need to keep for business purposes and how long it must be kept for. This list is maintained in line with legislation and standards that relate to information, for example keeping financial records for audit purposes.
Some public information is passed to the Jersey Archive for safe-keeping or preservation.
What format will the information be in?
We aim to give you the information in a format that will allow you to access it easily. We cannot create bespoke documents or provide the information in less common file types.
Exemptions to providing information
Your Freedom of Information (FOI) request may be refused if the information you asked for falls under an FOI exemption.
Any request for information that falls under an absolute exemption will not be released (except in situations where, for example, a link to online information already in the public domain may be provided).
Absolute exemptions are:
- court information
- information that may endanger national security or it is, or relates to, information received from intelligence organisations
- personal information
- States Assembly Privileges
- information already available and accessible to you somewhere else (we will try to tell you where)
- confidential information
- where legal prohibitions or restrictions would prevent the disclosure of information.
Information that falls under a qualified exemption may also be withheld if we consider that the public interest in withholding is greater than the public interest in releasing it – this is called the public interest test.
The public interest test favours releasing information where a qualified exemption applies, even if releasing the information may cause embarrassment or might cause a loss of public trust. Qualified exemptions are:
- anything that may endanger the health and safety of individuals
- legal professional privilege (as this protects confidential information between lawyers and their clients)
- commercial interests
- the economy
- policy formulation and development
- audit functions
- law enforcement
- international relations
- information intended for future publication (as long as the decision to publish is made before the FOI request is received)
- advice from the Bailiff, Deputy Bailiff or a Law Officer
- royal family communications and honours-related information
These are requests meant to purposely cause annoyance, disruption or the wasting of parish resources. We can refuse to handle vexatious requests.
What you can do if you are not satisfied with the response?
If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you may ask for an internal review. The process is set out in the FOI parishes internal review 2019 April.pdf
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Jersey Office of the Information Commissioner for a decision.
Public information resources
Information already available to you
Before making an information request under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation, you should check what information is already available to you.
If the information you request under FOI is already published, your request may be refused.
Find Parish information already online
Find what you’re looking for on the Parish website.
FOI for the States of Jersey
If you want information about Jersey’s government you will need to make an FOI request to a States department; find out more on the States website.
Email: [email protected]
Mail to: Parish FOI, East Wing, RJA&HS, Trinity, Jersey JE3 5JP