Fox and Queensland Police Service
(2000 S0215, 9 February 2001)
The applicant had been convicted of murder and several attempted murders. He had appealed unsuccessfully to the Supreme Court and had been refused special leave to appeal to the High Court. He wished to make a petition for pardon. He sought access to documents concerning complaints made to the respondent, which he contended might assist him in challenging his conviction for murder, by raising the possibility of an alternative assailant or assailants. In respect of each complaint, the applicant was neither the complainant nor the subject of complaint.
The Information Commissioner found that the matter in issue concerned the personal affairs of the complainant and the subject of the complaint and was therefore prima facie exempt from disclosure under s.44(1) of the FOI Act, subject to the application of the public interest balancing test. The Information Commissioner acknowledged that there may be a public interest in a person obtaining access to information that would assist the bona fide use of avenues for correcting a miscarriage of justice (as distinct from, say, accessing information merely to pester or harass a victim or witness). However, the Information Commissioner stated that that public interest must be weighed against the public interest in protecting the privacy of information concerning the personal affairs of the individuals identified in the matter in issue. The Information Commissioner considered it appropriate (in assessing the weight to be accorded to the public interest considerations favouring disclosure) to take into account the strength of the Crown case against the applicant, and the likelihood that disclosure of the matter in issue would assist the applicant to mount a persuasive case in support of the remedy the applicant proposed to seek.
In the circumstances of the case, the Information Commissioner was satisfied that the matter in issue was not sufficiently relevant to, or supportive of, a case for the applicant to obtain a pardon, to outweigh the public interest in protecting the privacy of information concerning the personal affairs of the individuals identified in the matter in issue. The Information Commissioner therefore decided that the matter in issue was exempt under s.44(1) of the FOI Act.