Marshall and Department of Police
25 February 2011
Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) – section 67(1)
Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) – public interest factors – section 47(3)(b) and section 49 –schedule 4, part 2, items 3, 11 and 17 – part 3, item 13 – part 4, item 6(1)
The applicant sought access to documents relating to a Department of Police (QPS) investigation of an alleged incident involving the applicant and his neighbours in a strata title unit complex. The applicant submitted that he was not satisfied with the QPS response, had been the subject of false allegations, and was contemplating legal action.
QPS granted the applicant access to some information but refused access under section 67(1) of the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) (IP Act) and section 47(3)(b) of the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act) to identifying information and a statement given by an individual.
The Right to Information Commissioner (RTI Commissioner) did not accept that all public interest factors raised by the applicant in favour of disclosure arose for consideration in this case. Specifically, the RTI Commissioner did not consider disclosure of the information – particularly the witness statement – would of itself reveal that the information it contained was misleading false etc, noting the inherent subjectivity of a witness statement does not mean the information it contains is necessarily incorrect or misleading. Further, the applicant had not demonstrated any legitimate basis on which he might pursue legal action against his neighbours.
The RTI Commissioner recognised that several public interest factors did operate to favour disclosure of the information in issue, including the public interest in disclosing information so as to enhance government transparency and accountability, in disclosing background or contextual information which may assist persons to understand the basis for a government decision, and in providing individuals with access to their own personal information. The RTI Commissioner noted, however, that these interests had been adequately served by disclosure to the applicant of the bulk of a memorandum explaining the investigation process and outcome.
Balanced against the public interest factors favouring disclosure, the RTI Commissioner found that disclosure of the disclosure of the information in issue would disclose the personal information of the individual who provided the witness statement, prejudice the protection of that individual’s right to privacy, and prejudice the flow of information to police by discouraging persons from providing information to police or cooperating with future inquiries. The RTI Commissioner accepted that some of the information in issue comprised the applicant’s own personal information, but that as it was not possible to separate this information from the personal information of others, disclosing it would therefore require disclosure of the personal information of a person other than the applicant.
The RTI Commissioner decided that, on balance, disclosure of the information in issue would be contrary to the public interest that QPS was entitled to refuse the applicant access to this information under section 67 of the IP Act.