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Town clerk fined for blocking records with intent to prevent disclosure after FOI request

A town clerk has been fined £400 and ordered to pay costs of £1,493 after being prosecuted by the Information Commissioner’s Office for intentionally blocking records with the intent to prevent disclosure.

An individual had made a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Whitchurch Town Council for an audio recording of a council meeting. The requester was advised that the recording had been deleted in line with council policy.

Town clerk Nicola Young of Whitchurch, Shropshire had been aware of the FOI request and had deleted the recording some days later.

She appeared before Crewe Magistrates’ Court and admitted to the offence of blocking records with the intention of preventing disclosure, in breach of s77 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

In addition to the fine and costs, she was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £40.

Mike Shaw, Group Manager in Enforcement at the ICO, said: “This case is about the public’s right to know, and we will not hesitate to take action to protect people’s right to access the information they are entitled to.

“This case emphasises the critical importance of transparency for public authorities in the way they carry out their business."

Section 77 of the FOIA states a person “is guilty of an offence if he alters, defaces, blocks, erases, destroys or conceals any record held by the public authority, with the intention of preventing the disclosure by that authority of all, or any part, of the information to the communication of which the applicant would have been entitled.”

Ths was the first ever successful conviction under the FOIA.