The FoI process is long and arduous – but the end result can be fruitful

The Freedom of Information Act gives journalists – and in fact any member of the public – the right to request access to recorded data held by any public body in the UK

May Bulman
Sunday 24 March 2019 02:01
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Our stories come from all manner of sources. But the best ones arise when we get hold of information that is truly new, and which exposes something no one knew about before. One way of doing this is through a nifty thing called the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.

This act gives journalistsand in fact any member of the publicthe right to request access to recorded information held by any public body in the UK. From unpublished police statistics to unseen government documents, you can send the organisation an email or letter requesting it, and they are obliged to respond within 20 days.

I have submitted a number of FoI requests, and the process can be long and arduous. Often, the response won’t be straightforward. The public body will reply asking for clarification on what you want, or they might tell you what you want will “exceed their cost limit”. You might then reword the questions and send it off again. Each time, they have up to 20 days to respond, so it can drag on for quite some time – and become incredibly frustrating.

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