Scottish Information Commissioner wins first Court of Session appeal

The Scottish Information Commissioner has welcomed the decision of the Court of Session to uphold his decision in the first appeal under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

The Common Services Agency (CSA) of the NHS appealed against the Commissioner’s ruling that it should disclose information on the incidence of childhood leukaemia in Dumfries and Galloway, but three appeal judges in the Court of Session led by the country's senior judge, the Lord President, decided that the information should be released.

In its decision, the Court of Session upheld the Commissioner’s view that the information could be provided in a form which would not risk patient identification, and that it was reasonable to require the CSA to do so. Lord Marnoch said: "I am of opinion that the statute, whose whole purpose is to secure the release of information, should be construed in as liberal a manner as possible and, so long as individual and other private rights are respected, and the cost limits are not exceeded, I do not myself see any reason why the Commissioner should not be accorded the widest discretion in deciding the form and type of information which should be released in furtherance of its objectives, including that of giving advice and assistance under section 15 of the Act."

The CSA said it was considering appealing to the House of Lords on the grounds that it believed the CSA was being ordered to disclose information that could lead to the identification of children diagnosed with leukemia.

Another five appeals against the Scottish Information Commissioner's decisions are still waiting to be heard in the Court of Session.

Information victory over cancer cases (The Scotsman, 2 December 2006)

NHS told to reveal data on cancer in children (The Herald, 2 December 2006)

Court of Session decision upholds Commissioner's decision in first Freedom of Information case (Scottish Information Commissioner's website, 1 December 2006)

Court of Session opinion (Court of Session website, 1 December 2006)