Cardiff council ordered to release Doctor Who records
27 February 2012
Cardiff City Council has been told to release material it holds on the Doctor Who series after failing to contest a decision from the UK's information regulator.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham had ordered the local authority to release the information last year, after receiving a complaint from journalist Christopher Hastings that his request for the council to release written complaints and correspondence relating to the television series had been denied.
The council contested the ICO's decision, having withheld the information on the basis that dealing with the request would have taken longer than 18 hours of work.
But an Information Rights Tribunal has now backed the Information Commissioner's original decision, unanimously dismissing the council's appeal after finding that the authority had not produced sufficient evidence that the work would take this long.
It said the council had "failed to adduce 'cogent' evidence to support their assertion" and that it had "failed to demonstrate that they had undertaken a process involving 'an investigation followed by an exercise of assessment and calculation'".
"The tribunal therefore concluded that the appellant had failed to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that responding to Mr Hastings' enquiry would have involved in excess of 18 hours work," judges said.
The tribunal added that it was "bewildered" by the "nature and quality of evidence" provided by Cardiff City Council, with council officers contradicting each other. And it was said that evidence from council freedom of information officer Dave Parsons consisted of "little more than a bald assertion that the work required would 'obviously' take longer than 18 hours".
A spokesman for the council said they were "disappointed" at the decision and that they remained concerned it would take "significantly longer" than 18 hours to process the FoI request.
"In hindsight we accept we did not provide sufficient evidence to the tribunal in regard of the costs of processing the request for information, however, we note that the tribunal recognised the efforts made to clarify the request which were rejected by the requester of the information."
Although not forming a formal part the judgement, the tribunal said Hastings had adopted an "unhelpful manner" in declining to narrow the scope of his enquiry.
But judges were also concerned about a "lack of an appropriate case or record management system" at the local authority.
The council has now said a records management system and improved procedures are being implemented. But it accepted that there had been failings in their processes, and that a council leader had asked for a "full review" of procedures as he was not aware of the tribunal until it was underway.