The right under the Freedom of Information Act to request official information held by the University (known as the right to know) came into force on 1 January 2005. This right to know is set out in Section 1 of the Act, and comprises two related rights:
- The right to be informed whether or not the information requested is held by the University (the duty of the University to confirm or deny), and if so:
- The right to have that information communicated.
This places certain obligations upon the University which every member of staff should be aware of.
As a rule of thumb, you should treat a request for information as a request under the Freedom of Information Act if any of the following conditions are met:
- The information requested is not something that you or your office would routinely disclose, or is outside of your ordinary work;
- You have concerns over the appropriateness of disclosing the information requested;
- The requester specifically invokes the Freedom of Information Act in their request.
A request is considered valid if:
- It is written;
- It contains a name and a correspondence address;
- It describes the information that the requester requires.
Please note that requests made over telephone are not considered valid Freedom of Information requests. Requests made under the Freedom of Information Act are valid regardless of the language or tone used by the requester.
For more information, please read the Information Commissioner's Office guidance on receiving a request.
If the request concerns the personal data of an individual, it should be treated as a subject access request under the Data Protection Act.
If the request concerns environmental matters, it should be handled under the Environmental Information Regulations.
If you are unsure if the request you have received falls under the above legislation, please contact the Legal and Compliance Services via infocompliance at warwick dot ac dot uk.
If you suspect you have received a Freedom of Information Request, you should immediately alert the Legal and Compliance Services Team at infocompliance at warwick dot ac dot uk, providing full details of the request made. Requests made under the Freedom of Information Act can be responded to in various ways under the law depending upon the nature of the request. However, they must be responded to within 20 working days.
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ignore the request because it is difficult or you aren't sure how to deal with it. Failure to handle a request appropriately within 20 working days can result in action being taken against the University, resulting in possible financial penalties and loss of reputation.
It is the responsibility of every department at the University to process and store records in such a way that data can be easily located and extracted in response to requests for information made under the Freedom of Information Act, whether such data is held in electronic or manual form, or both. Please be aware however that the Freedom of Information Act places no obligation upon the University to provide access to records that are no longer in existence or that we have never held. However, DO NOT ever alter, deface, block, erase or destroy data following receipt of a Freedom of Information request so that the data does not have to be supplied. To do so is a criminal offence and you will be held personally liable.
NB: The 20 working day 'clock' begins ticking the day a letter or fax arrives at the University or the email arrives in the inbox of any member of staff. Therefore departments should take all appropriate steps to ensure that if members of staff are away, their mail can be forwarded quickly to an active member of staff. Please contact IT Services for further information.