AEGIS Protective Services recently sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to NHS Trusts, posing four security related questions.

Two NHS Trusts have (so far) claimed legal exemption against disclosing some or all of the requested information.

They are claiming to have engaged Section 31(1)(a) Law Enforcement: the prevention or detection of crime, on grounds that, on balance, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

Note: Section 31(1)(a) is a ‘qualified exemption’ that requires the authority to carry out a public interest test.

Both these NHS Trusts assert they have carried out a public interest test and have considered:

Arguments in favour of disclosure:

  • Promoting accountability and transparency on how public funds are utilised and spent

Arguments in favour of non-disclosure:

  • The Trust has a duty to ensure that its staff and visitors, buildings and information assets are kept secure
  • Disclosure of the requested information could facilitate criminal activity, and especially when combined with other information already in the public domain or which could be gleaned from other sources, including any information that the Trust has previously provided or may be forced to disclose in the future.
  • Disclosure of the requested information could, therefore, increase vulnerability to malicious attack, reduce individuals’ safety, or affect the Trust’s ability to provide essential services

They say they have concluded, on balance, that the public interest in non-disclosure outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

Now, the thing is, a decision like that is always going to be subjective.

However, given that (so far) 150 NHS Trusts that each received an identical FOI request have NOT claimed exemption, it’ would appear that, on the balance of probabilities, a decision not to disclose the requested information would be unjustified.

Alternatively, of course, 150 NHS Trusts have ‘negligently’ disclosed sensitive information that could prejudice security at their Trust?

AEGIS Protective Services has contacted both NHS Trusts to request a review of the decision not to disclose the requested information.

We will post an update in due course.