Willsford and Brisbane City Council
(1996 L0008, 27 August 1996)
In the context of s.44(1) (the personal affairs exemption), the Information Commissioner discussed the public interest in a person who has suffered, or may have suffered, an actionable wrong, being able to obtain access to information which would assist the person to pursue any remedy which the law affords. The Information Commissioner indicated that a public interest consideration favouring disclosure would arise if it could be established that:
(a) loss or damage or some kind of wrong had been suffered, in respect of which a remedy is, or may be, available under the law;
(b) the applicant has a reasonable basis for seeking to pursue the remedy; and
(c) disclosure of the information held by the agency would assist the applicant to pursue the remedy, or to evaluate whether a remedy is available, or worth pursuing.
The Information Commissioner noted that the existence of a public interest consideration of this kind would not necessarily be determinative. The Information Commissioner also indicated that it would ordinarily be true to say that the greater the magnitude of the loss, damage or wrong, and/or the stronger the prospects of successfully pursuing an available remedy in respect of it, then the stronger would be the weight of the public interest consideration favouring disclosure.
In this case, the owner of a car which collided with a dog was seeking matter which would identify the owner of the dog, in order to take steps to assess whether she was in a position to recover damages. The Information Commissioner weighed the public interest consideration discussed above against the privacy interests of the dog owner, and determined that, on balance, it was in the public interest that the car owner have access to the matter in issue.