FTT certifies Council for contempt of court in FOIA case


The First Tier Tribunal (General Regulatory Chamber)(Information Rights) has certified an offence of contempt of court by the Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames for breaching an order made by the Tribunal requiring it to provide the applicant with advice and assistance under s.16 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This is the first case in which the FTT has exercised its power under section 61 of FOIA to certify such an offence to the High Court.

The case related to a FOIA request made by Mr Derek Moss in 2016 concerning social housing regeneration proposals in Kingston. In March 2017, the FTT found that the Council’s refusal of that request on costs grounds involved a failure to assist the applicant to reformulate his request and ordered the Council to provide such advice and assistance within 30 days. The FTT found that the relevant team leader at the Council at the time intentionally failed to provide that advice and assistance and that the Council was legally responsible for those failures. The FTT held that there was a strong public interest in public authorities responding to FOI requests in a timely manner and that the four year delay before Kingston engaged with the order had been prejudicial to the applicant’s rights. The issue of contempt will now be considered by the High Court.

Guy Vassall-Adams QC acted pro bono for Mr Moss, instructed by Advocate.

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