Providing a detailed explanation of searches and reasons for nonexistent documents

B and Queensland Police Service

An employee of the Queensland Police Service requested all documents relating to multiple job applications made over the past year. The Queensland Police Service released a majority of the documents responding to the applicant’s access application, with the exception of documents comprising the personal information of individuals other than the applicant.

The applicant sought external review on sufficiency of search grounds and also required the Office to review the Queensland Police Service’s determination that the information to which she was refused access was the personal information of other individuals. The Office examined the documents to which the applicant was refused access and provided an oral preliminary view that those documents comprised the personal information of individuals other than the applicant.

In relation to the sufficiency of search issue, the Office requested the Queensland Police Service to conduct further searches for documents responding to the applicant’s access application and provide submissions on these searches. In response the Queensland Police Service provided detailed search certifications and submissions explaining why further documents did not exist and demonstrating that extensive searches had been conducted. The applicant accepted that the Queensland Police Service had taken all reasonable steps to locate documents in response to her access application.


This matter demonstrates that where agencies provide the Office with clear submissions explaining the searches undertaken, applicants are more likely to be satisfied about their concerns. Where clear explanations are given for why documents do not exist or cannot be located, applicants are often willing to resolve an external review.