Evans v Information Commissioner & 7 Government Departments

Reference: [2012] UKUT 313

Court: Upper Tribunal

Judge: Walker J, Angel, Cosgrove

Date of judgment: 18 Sep 2012

Summary: Appeal under FOIA 2000/EIR 2004 against decisions of the Information Commissioner refusing access to HRH the Prince of Wales’ correspondence with ministers.

Appearances: Aidan Eardley (Appellant) 

Instructing Solicitors: Jan Clements, Guardian News & Media Ltd

Facts

Mr Evans, a Guardian journalist, made requests under FOIA 2000 to 7 government departments for correspondence between HRH the Prince of Wales and ministers in 2004-5.

Issue

Whether the exemptions in FOIA s37 (communications with the royal family), s40 (personal information), or s41 (information provided in confidence) or EIR Reg 12(5)(f) (adverse effect on provider’s interests) or Reg 13 (personal data) applied and justified the withholding of the requested information.

Held

Appeal allowed. The core question was whether disclosure  – including any breach of confidence or privacy that disclosure would involve – would be in the public interest. The appeal succeeded In respect of the Prince’s “advocacy correspondence” (as opposed to purely social or personal correspondence, or correspondence within the established constitutional convention of instructing the heir to the throne in the business of government). It will generally be in the overall public interest for there to be transparency as to how and when Prince Charles seeks to influence government.

Comment

For related cases see [2014] EWCA Civ 253 and R(Evans) v HM Attorney General [2014] EWCA Civ 254 &  [2015] UKSC 21