Government consults on introducing £100 (papers) and £500 (hearing) fees for appeals to ICO decision notices
Four days ago the Ministry of Justice started consulting on increasing fees for various civil courts and tribunals. The consultation closes on the 15th September 2015.
This is what one of their consultation documents states:
124. The General Regulatory Chamber hears a wide range of appeals on regulatory matters, for example charities, consumer credit, transport and appeals from decisions of the Information Commissioner. We do not currently charge fees for proceedings in this chamber, with the exception of appeals in relation to gambling licences. In these cases, the fee charged is based on the value of the licences that are in dispute. We are not proposing to change the fees for these proceedings.
125. In 2013–14 the estimated cost of the General Regulatory Chamber (including Gambling) was £1.6m. The fee income generated from Gambling proceedings (the only fee charging tribunal within the General Regulatory Chamber) was £11,600.
126. In the remaining jurisdictions within the General Regulatory Chamber, we have proposed one fee for an appeal decision on the papers and one fee for an oral hearing. Our proposal is to charge a fee of £100 to issue proceedings, which would entitle the claimant to a decision based on a review of the papers. The claimant may alternatively elect for an oral hearing, in which case a further fee of £500 would be payable. Based on current volumes, we estimate that this proposal would generate a cost recovery percentage of around 17% after remissions.
127. The fees will also apply to “reference” cases where cases are started in the first-tier Tribunal but have to be referred directly to the Upper Tribunal for a first instance hearing.
Question 14: Do you agree with the proposed fees for all proceedings in the General Regulatory Chamber: specifically £100 to start proceedings with a determination on the papers; and a further fee of £500 for a hearing? Please give reasons.
Question 15: Are there any proceedings in the General Regulatory Chamber that should be exempt from fees? Please give reasons.
I’d better explain a bit better what the above is about by explaining the process to making a FOI request.
You make a Freedom of Information Act request to a public body and if is turned down (whether in part or in full) you can ask the same public body for an internal review.
If at the internal review there is still information withheld and you feel that they shouldn’t have withheld the information you can appeal the internal review decision to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The Information Commissioner’s Office then look into the matter (which can take months as ICO have a backlog of cases) and issue a decision notice (sometimes even if the public body changes their mind and releases the information requested during this time). You can see an example of a decision notice ICO issued for a request I made to Wirral Council on ICO’s website here.
If either the public body or the person making the FOI request disagree with the decision notice, they have 28 days to appeal the decision to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) which is part of the General Regulatory Chamber.
Appeals can then be made of decisions of the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) on a point of law only to the Upper Tribunal.
The consultation is proposing that if someone (whether the public body or the person making the request) wishes to challenge an ICO decision notice by appealing it to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) that there will be a charge of £100 if the decision is made on the papers and £500 if a hearing is required.
The Panopticon blog has also written about this consultation (far more eloquently and in a more entertaining way than I could manage) in a piece headlined Circle the Wagons: They are Coming for the Information Tribunal.
So what do readers think about this proposed change? Most of the appeals to ICO decision notices to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) are by litigants in person, who unless they fall into one of the categories of people who don’t have to pay fees a fee of £100 or £500 may make them think twice before appealing a decision.
If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.