Key published decisions applying Section 50(a) FOI Act
The applicant sought a ‘reverse FOI’ review of the Department of Education’s (Department) decision to disclose documents relating to his employment with the Department. The applicant contended that the public disclosure of the relevant matter would amount to contempt of court under section 50(a) of the FOI Act.
The Information Commissioner considered that disclosing matter will be ‘in contempt of court’ if its publication is intended to interfere or tends to interfere with the fair trial of a pending civil or criminal proceeding. The applicant submitted that disclosing the relevant matter would influence potential witnesses in a concurrent Supreme Court case. The Information Commissioner was satisfied that there was no evidence to suggest that disclosure would tend to influence potential witnesses so as to interfere with the Supreme Court trial, particularly because the relevant matter was so ‘innocuous’ that, even if potential witnesses were to come across the matter, the witnesses would not be influenced so as to interfere with the fair trial. 
The Information Commissioner considered that a contempt of court will not arise merely because the matter is relevant to a concurrent civil or criminal proceeding. 
Accordingly, public disclosure would not constitute a contempt of court and the relevant matter was not exempt under section 50(a) of the FOI Act.
Last updated: March 5, 2012