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Judges refuse police appeal against FOI informant statistics ruling

26 June 2017

Police Scotland has lost an appeal over a freedom of information ruling that it claimed would prejudice the prevention or detection of crime.

Three Court of Session judges have upheld the decision of Rosemary Agnew, the then Information Commissioner, that the force should disclose how many covert human intelligence sources it had established since the national force was created in 2013, to a journalist who had requested the information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The force had refused the request, relying on exemptions in the Act where disclosure would substantially prejudice the prevention or detection of crime, or where it would be likely to endanger the health or safety of a person. It claimed that disclosure would have a "chilling effect" on the recruitment of informants in the fight against organised crime. 

Ms Agnew held that the exemptions had been wrongly applied, and the police appealed, arguing that the commissioner had acted unreasonably in discounting the views of the people "at the coal face". But the commissioner countered that the request was for a single figure covering the whole of Scotland over a three year period, without further breakdown, and the court said it was satisfied that the commissioner had been entitled to reach her decision and had given clear reasons.

No judgments have yet been issued.

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