4. Freedom of Information Requests
What is a Freedom of Information Request?
We are committed to ensuring the public have access to information on our activities, unless there is a good reason for them not to and certain exemptions apply.
Keeping in line with the principles of openness and transparency under the GDPR, Freedom of Information (FOI) requests are intended to promote a culture of openness and accountability by conferring on people a general right of access to recorded information.
Both the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the GDPR place a duty on us to confirm to you whether we hold specified information and, if so, to provide you with the information you request, unless exemptions apply.
What are you entitled to access under an FOI request?
Recorded information includes printed documents, computer files, letters, emails, photographs, and sound or video recordings.
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not give you access to your own personal data (information about you), such as your health records or credit reference file. If you want to see information that we hold about you, you should make a subject access request to us (see above).
How do I make an FOI request?
The process of making an FOI request is similar to a subject access request. It must be a written request for information. However, the FOI Act does impose some procedural requirements on you. Requests must:
- be in writing (email is acceptable)
- state your name
- state an address for correspondence (this can be an email address)
- describe the information in sufficient detail to enable us to identify what information has been requested.
FFOI requests can be sent to our Head of Professional Conduct, Ms Gemma Crossley, or by post to:
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
62-64 Horseferry Road
London SW1P 2AF
What happens when we receive an FOI request
Upon receiving an FOI request, we will identify which of two categories the request is likely to fall into. They are:
- Request for general information about our conduct (such as a request for a procedure).
- Request for specific information about our work and conduct.
Our DPO will work with the designated lead in the team holding the information to:
- establish whether we have the information
- if we do, collate the information
- liaise with any third parties, as appropriate
- identify information which may be subject to exemption, and
- liaise with our legal advisor where necessary
Once we have decided whether to disclose the information to you, we will tell you.
We will, as far as is reasonably practicable, disclose the information to you according to your stated preference. You must specify your preferred format; it is not sufficient to ask for information in ‘all forms in which it is held’.
If we cannot provide the information in the form you have requested, we will explain why. If you have not stated a preference then we may provide the information by any means that are reasonable in the circumstances.
Time to respond
We will provide the information within the 20 working-day time limit set in the FOI Act 2000.
If there is a delay in providing the information, either because we need to consider the public interest in disclosing the information, or we need further information, we will explain to you the reason for the delay.
Fee for request
The FOI Act 2000 provides that public authorities do not have to comply with a request where the cost of providing information exceeds £450.
When estimating the costs we reasonably expect to incur we take into account the time taken to determine whether we hold the information, and then to locate, retrieve and extract it. The cost per hour is £25.
If we estimate the cost will exceed £450, we can:
- refuse to handle your request but offer advice and assistance on how to refocus the request to bring it within the acceptable limit, or
- handle your request and charge a fee.
We will advise you of the fee before we process your request.
When can we refuse an FOI request?
We can refuse a request made under the Freedom of Information Act if:
- it would cost too much or take too much staff time to deal with the request
- the request is vexatious. (The ICO have provide guidance on determining whether a request is vexatious. We will follow this guidance and may seek legal advice), and/or
- the request repeats a previous request from the same person.
If we refuse your request, we will tell you and explain why we have refused it.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, there are a number of exemptions to the right of access. Exemptions are either qualified or absolute (see Part 2 Sections 21-44 of FOI Act).
Some exemptions are qualified. This means that in such cases we must apply a two-stage test.
- We will decide whether the exemption applies to the information you have requested and, if it does, we must then apply the public interest test.
- In applying the public interest test, we consider whether the public interest lies in:
- confirming or denying the existence of the information, and
- providing the information or maintaining the exemption.
There are also a number of absolute exemptions. Once an absolute exemption applies there is no need to consider the public interest. In some cases, there is also an exemption from the duty to confirm or deny whether the information is held.
If an exemption applies, we will inform you of our decision and reasons for applying that particular exemption. This is a complex part of the Act and we may seek legal advice when considering applying the test
Refusing a request
Where we refuse a request for information, or where we can neither confirm nor deny whether we hold the information, we will send you a refusal notice explaining in detail the reasons for refusal.
If we rely on an exemption within the FOI Act to refuse disclosure, we will explain why the exemption applied or why it may be in the public interest not to disclose the information.
Our complaints procedure
If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your subject access request and/or Freedom of Information request you may contact our Data Protection Officer (DPO), Ms Eleanor Ferguson, or by post to:
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
62-64 Horseferry Road
Our DPO will review and assess the decision of the Head of Professional Conduct and will respond appropriately.
If you are not satisfied with our DPO’s decision, you may contact the Information Commissioner’s Office or by post to:
75-77 Great Portland Street
The information on this page was last updated on Wednesday, 20 May 2020.