Third parties consultation and decision-making
Notify applicants and third parties of decision at the same time
Consulted third parties must be given a decision letter if you decide to release a document contrary to the objections of a third party. The decision letter should be given to the third party and the applicant at the same time, or as soon as possible after, the decision letter is given to the applicant. This is because only one decision can be made in relation to an access application.
If you delay giving the applicant their decision letter until after you hear back from the third party it is more than likely that, in the meantime, you will be deemed to have made a decision. Given that a deemed decision is a decision to refuse access to all documents (including the third party documents), this makes the decision letter you gave to the third party – the one which said you were releasing documents over their objections – no longer accurate.
This can result in a very messy situation (and a confused applicant and third party) which is best avoided by delivering the decisions at the same time.
Remember! Even if you decide to give access over a third party’s objections you don’t actually give the applicant access to those documents. You must defer giving access until the third party has either exhausted their rights of review or withdrawn their objection.
Changing the decision at internal review
If you decide to release documents contrary to a third party’s objections there’s a good chance they’ll seek an internal review of your decision. If the internal review decision maker changes the initial decision then both the third party and the applicant must be given a decision letter notifying them of the internal review decision.