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Cumbria lawyers address national conference

Two Cumbrian lawyers are this week addressing a national legal conference in Southampton.

Vaughan Jones and Joanne Stronach are partners in the Carlisle law firm, Burnetts. They will be speaking to the Association of University Legal Practitioners (AULP) at their annual conference on 25th and 26th March 2010 on the subject of the Freedom of Information Act. 

Vaughan and Joanne are amongst a handful of solicitors nationally who have experience of appeals to the Information Tribunal for clients in the education sector.  The Information Tribunal hears appeals on decisions issued by the Information Commissioner over issues such as Data Protection and Freedom of Information.  Vaughan’s strength in the education sector was recently highlighted in the Legal 500.

Speaking about their recent experience, Vaughan said, “We were able to convince that Tribunal that any university or college facing requests for course materials under the Freedom of Information Act may refuse to make disclosure if it can demonstrate that it is likely that its commercial interests may be prejudiced by its release. This is the first time it has been accepted that educational institutions can have commercial interests in their teaching materials, despite their public funding and charitable status.” 

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into force on 1st January 2005. It aims to promote greater transparency, accountability and understanding of the way public authorities work and how they make decisions. Since 2005, the Act has allowed unprecedented access to information held by public authorities. According to the latest report from the Ministry of Justice, there are around 35,000 Freedom of Information Act requests received by government bodies each year.

Joanne said, “Although the Act has certainly improved transparency and accountability, it has also added considerably to the administrative burden of public bodies: the volume of requests for information means that most now employ a dedicated Freedom of Information Act officer. Both Vaughan and I now spend a significant amount of our time advising those in the public sector on the requirements of The Freedom of Information Act.”

For advice on the Freedom of Information Act or data protection issues, contact Vaughan or Joanne on 01228 552222.

Note to editors:

FOIA statistics available from http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/docs/freedom-of-information-annual-report-2008.pdf

Published: Thursday 25th March 2010
Categorised: Practice News

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