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ICO calls for release of redacted police documents

Three decisions: Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez (File photograph)

The Information Commissioner called for the Bermuda Police Service and the Ministry of Health to release redacted documents in response to public access to information requests.

A statement from the Information Commissioner’s Office revealed three decisions handed down late last month.

In one case, an applicant made a Pati request to the Bermuda Police Service for e-mails between the Commissioner of Police and the Governor of Bermuda in October 2021.

The Bermuda Police Service had said after an internal review that the record was exempt because its disclosure would “undermine the deliberative process of public authorities”.

During the review the BPS abandoned its reliance on that exemption and said it only wanted to withhold personal information in the records.

The Information Commissioner, Gitanjali Gutierrez, found that the BPS was correct to withhold part of the record because of the personal information contained and that it was not in the public interest to disclose personal information of persons in non-senior posts.

However, she said some personal information about those in senior public posts such as their names, the fact that there were communications and the timing of those communications could be disclosed.

In a separate case, an applicant sought records from the BPS related to a December 2020 search warrant issued for a home including search records and body camera footage.

The applicant later withdrew the request for the footage but continued to request a search report containing contemporaneous notes from those who carried out the search.

The ICO explained: “The BPS denied access to the record because disclosure of it would prejudice the effectiveness of a disciplinary investigation being conducted by the BPS and the fair trial or impartial adjudication of a matter.

“The Information Commissioner found that the BPS had not justified its reliance on the exemptions because it had not explained how disclosure of the record could prejudice the effectiveness of the disciplinary investigation or to the pending judicial review related to the search warrant.

“The Information Commissioner, however, invoked the personal information exemption to withhold parts of the record containing personal information, which was not in the public interest to disclose.”

The Information Commissioner also reviewed a refusal to provide some records related to the Government’s Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory and payments made to resPartner.

While some records were provided, others were withheld on the grounds that they contained personal information, commercial information and information received in confidence.

“The ministry headquarters also believed that some of the records could not be disclosed because they were Cabinet documents, or their disclosure was prohibited by the Bermuda Health Council Act,” the ICO said.

“The Information Commissioner found that the Pati Act did not apply to a few records, because they were created or obtained by the Attorney General’s Chambers while performing its functions as the Government’s legal adviser.

“She also upheld the ministry headquarters’ decision to withhold the records under various exemptions, but only in part and required some parts of the records to be disclosed.”

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Published April 07, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated April 07, 2024 at 6:47 pm)

ICO calls for release of redacted police documents

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