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January 8, 2008

Republishing expired ASBOs under FOI is ‘unfair’, Tribunal rules

By Martin Stabe wirepost

Journalists may no longer be able to use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain lists of people subject to Anti-social behaviour orders after the London borough of Camden won an appeal in the Information Tribunal against a request by Guardian investigations editor David Leigh.

As Out-Law reports, the Tribunal’s ruling (PDF) found that the council could refuse a request for a a list of ASBO recipients because disclosure of a person’s name long after the award of an ASBO is not the same as disclosure at the time.

Negative publicity about expired ASBOs were unfair (under the Data Protection Act’s first principle) to people whose behaviour might have improved and outweighed any public interest in disclosure, the Tribunal ruled in a case that touches on the complex interaction between the privacy provisions of the DPA and the Freedom of Information Act.

“Publicity long after the making of the order and without regard to the effect of the order and its management on the subject’s subsequent behaviour is quite different from identification and denunciation when or shortly after the order is made,” said Information Tribunal deputy chairman David Farrer

The decision reverses a ruling by the Information Commissioner, who had ruled in favour of disclosure to Leigh.

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