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Freedom of Information (FOI) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Freedom of Information (FOI) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act?

The Freedom of Information Act, 2014 gives the public greater access to information about the workings of Government and public bodies, including An Garda Síochána.  Effectively it changed the presumption of secrecy which had existed, to a presumption of openness in relation to official information. 

The Act requires FOI bodies to respond to requests from the public for information they hold.  In most cases, public bodies must give their decision on a request within 4 weeks of receiving it.  Also, FOI bodies are required to publish certain information and are also encouraged to publish as much information as possible outside of what is required under the Act.

What rights does the Freedom of Information Act grant?

The Act provides that from the effective date, every person has the following legal rights:

• The right to access official records held by Government Departments or other public
   bodies as defined by the Act

• The right to have personal information held on them corrected or updated where such
   information is incomplete, incorrect or misleading

• The right to be given reasons for decisions taken by public bodies that affect them.

Regulations provide that parents, guardians and next-of-kin may apply to exercise these rights in certain circumstances.

These rights mean that people can seek access to records created after the effective date (21 April 2008).

Do I need to make an FOI request to get information from An Garda Síochána?

No, An Garda Síochána routinely makes information available to the public through the FOI Publication Scheme section of the Garda website, www.garda.ie, information leaflets, publications and response’s to enquiries. This will continue.  FOI provides an additional source of information by facilitating access to records not routinely published.

How can I get information under the Freedom of Information Act from An Garda Síochána?

Under the FOI Act 2014, An Garda Síochána makes information available through two key tools;

• An Garda Síochána Publication Scheme – includes general information which An Garda
  Síochána will proactively publish on a regular basis

• A General Right of Access – if the information you seek is not contained in An Garda
  Síochána’s Publication Scheme you can exercise your right under the FOI Act 2014, to
  make a formal application for information. To find out more about making an application
  under the FOI Act 2014, click
here.

What is An Garda Síochána Publication Scheme?

An Garda Síochána Publication Scheme publishes regularly updated information that may be of interest to the public.  It is accessible via the Freedom of Information section on www.garda.ie.  This information includes records of all requests and responses for Human Resources, Finance and Procurement.

Do I have to pay for information on the Publication Scheme?

There is no charge for viewing information on our website or for inspecting documents in electronic form via the Freedom of Information section.

What if I want information that is not available on the Publication Scheme?

If the information you seek is not available in the Publication Scheme you may make a request under the Freedom of Information Act through the Garda Freedom of Information Office.   

What information can be requested under the Freedom of Information Act?

Individuals have the right to request any recorded information held by An Garda Síochána under the following administrative areas:

• Human Resource Management

• Finance

• Procurement

A number of exemptions have been granted to An Garda Síochána under the Act to ensure we can continue to perform our core functions and to ensure that State security is not compromised. 

These exemptions include records held or created by An Garda Síochána in a number of areas including; the Emergency Response Unit, the Special Detective Unit, the Security and Intelligence Section and the Criminal Assets Bureau. 

Exemptions as set out in the Act can be found
here.

Does the Freedom of Information Act apply to personal data?

The Freedom of Information Act gives you the right to request information held by public authorities and the right to have personal information held on you corrected or updated where such information is incomplete, incorrect or misleading.

Data Protection Access Requests made to An Garda Síochána by individuals seeking access to their personal data are processed at the Data Protection Processing Unit, which is located at the Garda Central Vetting Unit in Thurles.  Click here for information relating to Data Protection Access Requests.


Can Staff Access their Personal records?

Garda Personnel both sworn and civilian can access their personnel files through the Human Resources & People Development section without having to invoke the provisions of the FOI Act. To avail of this service Garda personnel can contact HR&PD via email to
hrm_records@garda.ie


Who can request information?

Under the Freedom of Information Act, any individual, anywhere in the world, may make a request to a public authority for information. An applicant is entitled to be informed in writing as to whether the information is held and to have the information communicated to them. 

If any of the information is to be refused, An Garda Síochána must provide the applicant with a refusal notice which clearly states the reasons we are withholding the information requested and making clear the appeals process.

How do I make a Freedom of Information request?

A request must:

• Be made in writing (this can be made by post or electronically by email)

• State the name of the applicant and an address for correspondence

• Describe the information requested and be clear enough so that we can understand
  what records are being requested.  In cases where it is not clear what records are
  being requested, we will inform the person making the request that clarification is
  required on what information is being sought

When you are seeking information which is personal, you will be required to supply the appropriate identification.  In cases where you are seeking to access records under section 37(8) (i.e. parent/guardian, deceased person) you will be required to provide additional details in order to exercise these rights - see foi.gov.ie for further information.

Alternatively, you may download the Application Form here.

Does the General Right of Access only apply to records created after the Act came into force?

No, the Act is retrospective to 21 April 2008.

Can I get help in making a request?

Yes. If you require any help the staff in the FOI section will be happy to assist you in the formulation of your request.  Click here for contact information.

Can An Garda Síochána refuse a request for information?

Yes. We may refuse a request for information where:

• The record concerned does not exist or cannot be found after all reasonable steps to
  ascertain its whereabouts have been taken

• The request is so large that retrieving the information would cause an unreasonable
  disruption to the work of the FOI section, the request is vexatious, repeated or due to
  be published by law within 12 weeks of the date of receipt of the request or the
  intention would be to publish the information no later than 6 weeks from date of
  receipt of request

• The appropriate fee has not been paid or the cost of complying with the request
  exceeds the ‘appropriate limit’ (currently €700)

• The information requested falls outside the scope, or under one of the exemptions as
  defined by the Freedom of Information Act 2014

How quickly will you respond to a request for information?

The central Freedom of Information Office will inform you in writing whether An Garda Síochána holds the information requested.  If so, we will communicate that information to you, normally within 20 working days after receipt of your request. 

In some circumstances a request may be refused.  If this is the case, a Refusal Notice informing you of our reasons will be issued to you. This notice will normally be communicated to you within 20 working days.

What is a Refusal Notice?

If any of the information is to be refused, An Garda Síochána must provide the applicant with a refusal notice which clearly states the reasons we are withholding the information requested and making clear the appeals process.

Will an applicant be able to get all information requested?

Not always. The Freedom of Information Act recognises that there will be valid reasons why some kinds of information may be withheld.  An Garda Síochána have been granted a number of exemptions under the Act to ensure we can continue to perform our core functions and that State security is not compromised. 

These exemptions include records held or created by An Garda Síochána in a number of areas including; the Emergency Response Unit, the Special Detective Unit, Security and Intelligence Section and the Criminal Assets Bureau. 

A list of some of the exemptions are set out in the Act
here.

Are there any fees?

The Freedom of Information Act 2014 provides for a completely new FOI fees regime.  The Ministerial Order establishing the new fees regime is set out in S.I. 531 of 2014. The following is a summary of the new fee structure in respect of non-personal requests:

• If the cost of search, retrieval and copying is €100 or less, no charge is applied

• If the charge exceeds €100, full fees apply up to a maximum charge of €500

• If the estimated cost of search, retrieval and copying is more than €700, An Garda
  Síochána can refuse to process your request, unless you refine your request to bring
  the search, retrieval and copying fees below this limit.  If this is not possible for you to
  refine the search and you still wish to proceed with your request then full fees will be
  charged

• Where the upper limit (€700) is not exceeded, the only charges that may be passed to
  you are those associated with providing the information, for example photocopying and
  postage, up to a maximum of €500.  You will be informed if any costs are to be
  incurred prior to release of the information

List of fees:  

Type of Charge

Standard Charge

Search and retrieval of records

€20 per hour

Photocopying

4 cent per sheet

CD-ROM containing copy of documents

€10


Is there a limit on the cost of a Freedom of Information request?

In general, there is a limit of €500 on the amount of search, retrieval and copying fees that can be charged.  However, if the estimated cost of search, retrieval and copying is more than €700, An Garda Síochána can refuse to process your request, unless you refine your request to bring the search, retrieval and copying fees below this limit.

This means when An Garda Síochána receives a request, we need to estimate how much it will cost to deal with it and if it will be within the limits.

When estimating the cost of compliance, we can take into consideration the cost of:

• Determining whether we hold the information requested

• Locating the information

• Receiving such information or documents

• The cost of staff time associated with these activities


What happens when the limit is exceeded?

Where we estimate that the upper limit (€700) will be exceeded we are not obliged to comply with the request and will inform you by way of a refusal notice.

As part of our duty to provide advice and assistance to applicants, we will explain what, if any, information could be provided within the cost limit and advise the applicant that they may wish to consider narrowing down their request.

What can I do if I am not satisfied with a decision on my request?

You may seek a review of any decision issued by writing to the Freedom of Information Officer, Athlumney House, IDA Business Park, Johnstown, Navan, Co Meath seeking an Internal Review of the matter.  A fee of €30 (€10 for medical card holders) may apply for such an appeal.  There is no fee for internal review of applications concerning only personal information relating to oneself or in relation to a decision to impose a fee or deposit.

If you decide to seek a review of a decision, you must make the application within 4 weeks from the date of response (although late reviews may be permitted in certain circumstances). The review will involve a complete reconsideration of the matter by a more senior member of staff and a decision will be communicated to you within 3 weeks.

What if I am not satisfied with the decision on Internal Review?

You may request a review of the decision within six months by writing to the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you request a review, the Information Commissioner will fully investigate and consider the matter and issue a fresh decision. All requests for reviews should be addressed to:

The Information Commissioner,
18 Lower Leeson Street,
Dublin 2.

Tel: +353 (1) 639 5689
Locall: 1890 22 30 30
Fax: +353 (1) 639 5674
E-mail:
info@oic.gov.ie

A fee of €50 (€15 for medical card holders) may apply for such an application. Again, there is no fee for a request for review to the Office of the Information Commissioner concerning only personal information relating to oneself or in relation to a decision to impose a fee or deposit.

What if An Garda Síochána do not hold the information requested?

If we do not hold the information requested we must confirm this in writing within 20 working days.  This is not technically classified as a Refusal Notice, but simply follows our requirement to confirm or deny whether we hold it.  When appropriate, we will also give an explanation as to why we do not hold the information, particularly in cases where the information has been deleted in line with a disposal schedule. 

We also have a duty to provide advice and assistance, so far as it would be reasonable to expect us to do.  This could include advising an applicant if information is available elsewhere or assisting them in focusing their request, perhaps by advising of the types of information available within the requested category.

Who ensures that An Garda Síochána are complying with the Act?

The Information Commissioner's Office is responsible for ensuring that all public authorities, including An Garda Síochána, comply with the Act.  Applicants can appeal to the Information Commissioner regarding a refusal to release information.  The Information Commissioner’s Office can, if appropriate, serve notice on An Garda Síochána to provide information previously refused.

What is the Information Commissioner's Office?

The Information Commissioner’s Office is Ireland's independent public body set up to promote access to official information and protect personal information.  It is completely independent of the Government in the performance of its functions. This independence is underpinned by the Freedom of Information Acts.

The main functions of the Information Commissioner can be summarised as:

• Reviewing (on application) decisions of public bodies in relation to FOI requests and
  where necessary, making binding new decisions

• Reviewing the operation of the Freedom of Information Acts to ensure that public
  bodies comply with the provisions of the legislation

• Fostering an attitude of openness among public bodies by encouraging the voluntary
  publication of information above and beyond the minimum requirements of the Acts

• Preparing and publishing commentaries on the practical operation of the Acts

• Publication of an Annual Report.

The Information Commissioner’s contact details are as follows:

8 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (1) 639 5689
Locall: 1890 253 238
Fax: +353 (1) 639 5674
E-mail:
info@oic.gov.ie

Where can I get more information on FOI?

More comprehensive information on Freedom of Information, including the text of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 is available at www.foi.gov.ie.

Further information on FOI is also available from:

The Freedom of Information Unit,
Athlumney House
IDA Business Park,
Johnstown,
Navan,
Co Meath
Tel: 353 (46) 9036350
E-mail:
foi@garda.ie

The Information Commissioner,
18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (1) 639 5689
Locall: 1890 253 238
Fax: +353 (1) 639 5674
E-mail:
info@oic.gov.ie

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform,
Central Policy Unit,
Floor 3,
7-9 Merrion Row,
Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (1) 631 8258
Fax: +353 (1) 604 5750
E-mail:
cpu@per.gov.ie

Can I request Information on the Environment?

Yes, the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 to 2011 (S.I. No. 133 of 2007 and S.I. No. 662 of 2011) (hereafter referred to as the AIE Regulations), give legal rights to those seeking to access information on the environment from public authorities. Under these regulations, information relating to the environment held by, or for, a public authority must be made available on request, subject to certain exceptions.

How do I make a request for Information on the Environment?

When making a request for information under the AIE Regulations, you are required to:

state that the application is being made under the AIE Regulations and submit it in writing or electronic form; provide your contact details; state, in terms that are as specific as possible, the environmental information required, and if you require the information in a specific format or manner of access, you should specify this in your request.

(i) Send your request by email to:

foi@garda.ie.

Or;

(ii) Send your request in writing to;
The Freedom of Information Officer
Athlumney House
IDA Business Park
Johnstown
Navan
Co Meath.

Click 
here download the online application form.  A response will be given no later than 4 weeks upon receipt of request.

If you require any help the staff in the FOI Unit will be happy to assist you in the formulation of your request. You can contact the FOI Office at;

Tel: +353 (46) 9036350

What are the fees for making an AIE application?

There is no initial fee for making an application under the AIE Regulations. However, the Department may charge a reasonable fee for supplying the information requested. This may include the costs of compiling, copying, printing or posting of information. There is no charge for applying for an internal review

It costs €50 euro to take an appeal to the Commissioner for Environmental Information, or €15 euro if you are the holder, or dependent of a holder of a medical card, or a third party appealing the decision to release certain information.
 

Is there an Freedom of Information Code of Practice?

Yes, a Code of Practice is available here