January 15th, 2010

Today, we should all pause and reflect on the passing of the much loved Information Tribunal. With effect from this coming Monday (18 January 2010), the Information Tribunal in its existing incarnation will cease to exist and all work which has hitherto been done by the Tribunal will be transferred to the new General Regulatory Chamber. The transfer is to be effected in accordance with the Transfer of Functions Order 2010 (SI 2010/22) (“the Transfer Order”). It is important to be aware of the following systemic changes which will result from the transfer:


1.                   from 18 January 2010, all appeals under FOIA will be heard either in the First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) (“the FTT”) or in the Upper Tribunal (“UT”);

2.                   the question whether particular appeals are to be heard in the FTT or the UT is, in principle, to be determined by the new tribunal rules governing the operation of the FTT and the UT (see paragraph 2(3) of the Transfer Order);

3.                   there are in fact two sets of rules which are relevant in this context:

 (a) the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal)(General Regulatory Chamber) Rules 2009, SI 2009/1976 (“the FTT Rules”) (as amended very recently by the Tribunal Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2010, SI 2010/43); and

(b) the Tribunal Procedure (Upper Tribunal) Rules 2008, SI 2968/2008 (“the UT Rules”) (as amended by SI 2009/274, SI 2009/1975 and SI 2010/43);

4.                   as matters currently stand, these Rules say very little as to how FOIA appeals are to be allocated as between the two different tribunals, save that all appeals under s. 60 FOIA (appeals against national security certificate) must be heard in the UT (see paragraph 24 of the Tribunal Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2010, SI 2010/43). It is understood that, apart from appeals brought under s. 60 FOIA, the issue of allocation of appeals as between the two tribunals is likely to be determined on the basis of (forthcoming) practice directions rather than by reference to the Rules per se;

5.                   the FTT Rules and the UT Rules will apply in respect of all new appeals brought under FOIA (i.e. appeals which are commenced on or after 18 Janaury 2010);

6.                   in respect of appeals commenced prior to 18 January 2010, the tribunal will have a discretion as to whether to apply: (a) the old rules (i.e. the Information Tribunal (Enforcement Appeals) Rules 2005); (b) the new rules; or (c) a combination of the two sets of rules (see further paragraph 3 of schedule 5 to the Transfer Order which contains the relevant transitional provisions);

7.                   the FTT Rules and UT Rules will in due course be supplemented by practice directions – see further the new practice direction on confidentiality and redaction of documents (dated 18 January 2010). 




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