Journalist has Freedom of Information request refused by Information Commissioner


Re: Browning v The Information Commissioner & Anor [2014] EWCA Civ 1050

The appellant was a journalist who submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Dept for Business, Innovation and Skills in 2008 in relation to which companies applied for export licences to Iran in that year. The Dept replied stating that the information was not permitted to be disclosed. The appellant filed a complaint with the IC, who eventually held that the Dept was required to release the information. The Dept appealed to the Information Tribunal and prior to the hearing the IC changed his position, having seen some material not disclosed to the appellant. Following an open session, a closed session was held which the party and his legal representative were not permitted to attend. During this time, the FTT heard from two companies affected by the licences. There were no issues of national security at play. An application to allow at least the appellant’s legal representative access to the closed hearing was denied.

The FTT could lawfully adopt a closed material procedure and exclude a party and his legal representatives, unless to do so would mean the tribunal could not properly consider and test the closed material, or give appropriate reasons for its decision on a sufficiently informed basis.

Anthony Hudson was involved in this case.