More FOI requests denied

More open records requests were
denied or exempted from release in the first six months of 2010 than in the
first half of 2009, according to information contained in a report from the
Cayman Islands Information Commissioner’s Office.

The Caymanian Compass compared the
data, contained in the report submitted to the Legislative Assembly, to a separate
report compiled for the first half of 2009 by the Freedom of Information Unit.

Cayman’s first Freedom of
Information Law took effect on 5 January, 2009. The FOI Unit kept track of all
open records requests between that date and 30 June, 2009.

According to that 2009 review,
about 52 per cent of all records requests made to government agencies were
either granted in full or the records already existed in the public domain.

In the first six months of 2010,
the Information Commissioner’s Office noted that about 42 per cent of all the
FOI requests were fully granted or were already public.

Information Commissioner’s Office
records also indicated that nearly 29 per cent of the open records requests
made in the first half of 2010 were either refused, exempted or deferred from

In 2009, from January through June,
12 per cent of the records requests were denied outright, deferred or exempted.

Overall, there were more FOI
requests made in the first six months of 2009 – when the FOI Law first took
effect – than in the first six months of 2010. But the drop is not that great.

According to the Information Commissioner’s
Office, some 264 open records applications were received between January and
June 2010. In 2009 for the same period, 314 open records requests were made,
with about one-third of those coming in the first month of the law’s existence.

One improvement over 2009 was the
number of cases where no records were found to exist for FOI requests. In 2010,
that occurred with just 11 per cent of the open records requests. In 2009, some
23 per cent of the requests couldn’t be answered because records either didn’t
exist or the case was withdrawn by the applicant.

Information Commissioner Jennifer
Dilbert said she remains positive about the continued existence and success of
Cayman’s FOI Law.

“In only a short time we have
started to see the term FOI being used by the public in relation to issues
where access to information about the decision making processes of government
is sought,” Mrs. Dilbert said. “This is the first step toward enshrining FOI in
our lives.”


Reasons for denial

The Information Commissioner’s
Office also looked at reasons given for the refusal to release or withholding
of a government record.

The vast majority of those refusals
occurred either because the request was determined to be “vexatious”, or that
it sought an “unreasonable disclosure” of personal information.

According to the FOI Law,
unreasonable disclosures of personal information on any person – living or dead
– is one reason to deny an open records request. However, that must be balanced
against a public interest test also prescribed in the law.

Other reasons for non-disclosure
included exemption from release because the item contained information
concerning the commercial interest of a person or organisation, or that the
record contained information of commercial value. Legal privilege exemptions
and potential prejudicial effects on court matters were also cited in several
cases as reasons for non-disclosure. 


  1. The over-use of the vexatious exemption is something I predicted would be happening in an early posting.

    In fact the trends outlined in the story show, although on a comparatively much larger scale, the same reaction to FOI that we experienced in the UK.

    Public authorities simply do not like releasing the information they hold.

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