Ferguson and Department of Police
(310355, 1 December 2011)
Section 47(3)(b) of the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) – whether disclosure of the information would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest – application for access to information about a murder investigation and a witness statement
The applicant made an application under the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act) to the Department of Police (QPS) for access to a range of information relating to a murder investigation including a chronology of events, investigation running sheet and a witness statement provided by another individual (Information in Issue).
Acting Assistant Commissioner Rickard considered the application of section 49 of the RTI Act to the Information in Issue and decided that its disclosure would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest for the following reasons:
· There is a strong public interest in QPS being accountable to the public for the conduct of a complex murder investigation and the decision to charge particular individuals. To the extent that disclosure of the Information in Issue could identify any procedural or substantive issues concerning the conduct of the investigation, or reveal the reasons for the decision to charge the particular individuals, these factors are relevant. However the relevant issues had previously been determined by a jury at the conclusion of a criminal trial and by the Supreme Court in a civil context. As a result, the weight of the factors favouring disclosure were reduced considerably and they were afforded limited to moderate weight.
· The majority of the Information in Issue comprised personal information of other individuals and its disclosure could reasonably be expected to prejudice the protection of the right to privacy of them and cause a public interest harm. These are factors which favour nondisclosure of the information and were afforded significant weight in the circumstances.
· Some of the information comprised the personal information of the applicant’s son. As he is deceased and the applicant is his father, the applicant was recognised as an “eligible family member” under schedule 6 of the RTI Act which gave rise to a public interest factor favouring disclosure of certain information. However, the Information in Issue was highly sensitive and its disclosure could reasonably be expected to impact on the privacy of the applicant’s son if he were alive. This factor was afforded moderate weight.
· Most of the Information in Issue was provided to QPS by witnesses or informants and disclosure of this information without the consent of those who provided it could reasonably be expected to prejudice the flow of information to QPS. This factor was afforded very significant weight.