Home > Civil Rights & Law > The Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 27 May 2015 | comments*Discuss
Freedom Of Information Act Data

The freedom of information act was brought into force to give the public the right to access information that is held by the government. This information also includes the right to see your own personal information under the rules of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Freedom of Information Act 2000

The Freedom of Information Act came into force on 1st January 2005. It gives anyone living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland the right to request information held by the government and public authorities. Scotland has its own separate Freedom of Information Act. This right to information is guaranteed for anyone regardless of their age, location and nationality.

Requested Information

Basically, the Information Act allows the people of Britain to ask for any kind of information held by public authorities. This information can be anything that the government or public authorities hold although there are some exceptions. The Freedom of Information Act was implemented to bring about a more cultural openness. It is also intended to promote easier accountability within public authorities. The basic principal is that if there is nothing to hide from the public then why should information be kept a secret?

Public Authorities

Information can be requested from all public and government authorities. This will include government departments, the police, the armed forces and Parliament. Other bodies will include the NHS, local authorities and advisory committees. Information from these organisations should be available on request although there may be some exemptions for full disclosure of information.

Personal Information

Personal information is protected under the Data Protection Act 1998. The Data Protection Act is a set of rules designed to protect personal information and privacy. It also allows individuals to gain access to information about themselves held by any public authority, or indeed any company that holds personal information. This information can include financial details and medical records. Personal information requests will be dealt with under the Data Protection Act and more general information will come under the Freedom of Information Act.

Making a Request

Any requests for access to official information must be submitted directly to the public authority concerned. The basic access of information request steps will include:

  • A formal written request by letter or by email
  • Letters must include applicant’s name and address
  • Detailed description of the information required
  • Description of how you would like to receive the required information such as email or paper form
  • Public authorities must respond within 20 days
  • This time limit may be extended if public interest has to be considered
  • If information is refused then it must come with a detailed explanation
  • Any complaints regarding the refusal of information can be sent to the Information Commissioner’s Office

Fees for Information

In most cases the information provided will be free to all. However, authorities can refuse requests if it feels the cost of retrieving the information will exceed a certain amount. This amount is usually £450 for most public authorities and £600 for Parliament and central government bodies. Authorities may still provide the information if the requester is willing to pay the full cost.

Exemptions to Information

There are of course exemptions to some requested information. These would include valid reasons that would harm national security or prejudice certain commercial interests. Information that could lead to the disclosure of a police informant would also be an exemption. Other exempted information could include client privileges held between lawyers and clients.

The Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act allows for a more open society with regards to information held. Not all information is accessible to the public for security reasons. However, the right to request and access information in the UK is now a right that a great many countries do not have. Hopefully in the future these rights will be afforded to all countries throughout the world.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
My son who was 16 at the time was wrongly arrested following a football match and was then assulted by police officers. He faces a charge of public order however he claims he lost his hat and was trying to retrieve it. I've been told that we can request the CCTV footage from the day and the location from the local council, which would help prove what he is saying, is this true? We already have video footage of the assult.
Jody - 27-May-15 @ 7:44 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Ellie
    Re: The Facts on Racial Profiling
    We are being white profiled....buying things in shops...we have our debt/credit cards put into the card machines 10 times before…
    16 December 2018
  • Taz
    Re: Staging a Legal Peaceful Protest
    Hi can I do peaceful protest outside a primary school regarding bulling from staff towards the children and some parents who…
    13 December 2018
  • The realist
    Re: Rights If Your Child is Arrested
    SAMMY- and I still believe your son is fine with a solicitor in interviews. Even though he asks for his mummy once he’s in…
    13 December 2018
  • The realist
    Re: Rights If Your Child is Arrested
    SAMMY- I see my previous reply to you has been deleted by moderators. So il say it in a nicer way. Your son is off the rails.…
    13 December 2018
  • The realist
    Re: Rights If Your Child is Arrested
    HUNTER- record them doing it and also log times/dates so you can show how often it happens and then go to your local police…
    12 December 2018
  • Sam
    Re: Rights If Your Child is Arrested
    When I was 14 I was arrested for shoplifting (I got in with a bad crowd). Nevertheless I was taken and put into a police cell…
    6 December 2018
  • Joycie
    Re: Challenging the Police
    I have reported to police about my sister who took tens of thousands of pounds out of my mams accounts even though my mother lacked…
    4 December 2018
  • incredible
    Re: Challenging the Police
    View ‘Michael Huke’ on YouTube, attack a 71 year old who had inadvertently parked on the road outside his house. The incident was reported…
    23 November 2018
  • Hunter
    Re: Rights If Your Child is Arrested
    We have a group of 11to13yr olds knocking on the door and running away is there no Any thing we get do to try and stop them…
    4 November 2018
  • Peace
    Re: Challenging the Police
    The psni , police force of northern Ireland, constantly throw there weight about they harrass decent people, tell lies and abuse power.
    22 October 2018