Freedom of Information
Information is the lifeblood of any campaigning organisation. Without information to influence the public and politicians, change cannot be effected. This is particularly important with animal cruelty, most of which takes place behind closed doors. And, of course, animals cannot articulate what is done to them.
Freedom of information laws are the primary way of obtaining information held by public bodies. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 creates a right to information on request (there is similar legislation in Scotland). There are a number of exemptions, covering matters such as confidentiality, safety and the development of policy. A number of other laws also contain prohibitions on disclosure. Many of the exemptions are qualified, which means that, even if they apply, the public interest may require disclosure.
Public bodies may also seek to argue that a request would take too long to deal with or is otherwise ‘vexatious’, but there are limits to both of these.
There is now a mass of caselaw about FOIA. We have taken numerous cases on behalf of animal protection organisations, with a high degree of success. How requests are worded is extremely important and it is also essential to be able to assess whether a public body is justified in refusing to disclose information.
We are also very experienced in making requests for information of EU institutions and governments around the world.
The other main way of getting information is via undercover investigations