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Portsmouth City Council - FOI request
cp8759
post Mon, 4 Nov 2019 - 12:51
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Portsmouth City Council refused to disclose its templated rejections under the Freedom of Information Act, using the somewhat fanciful proposition that the templates could be used for fraudulent purposes. The full decision notice is here https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/.../fs50833871.pdf but the salient points are:

46. The required contents of a penalty charge notice is set out in The Civil
Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) General Regulations
2007.5 The Council has informed the Commissioner that it is satisfied
that the contents of its letters are lawful and compliant with these
Regulations and that this has been routinely and recently confirmed by
the Independent Adjudication Service in respect of individual appeals
against a charge.

47. The Council says that it strongly disagrees with the complainant’s
assertion that providing only the wording of the letters, rather than a
copy of the entire template, would be of no use to a fraudster. The
Council advised the Commissioner that it is possible to obtain the
Council's crest and the name of relevant council officers - which are in
the public domain, to create a realistic scam letter.

48. The Council acknowledges the complainant’s assertion that it already
publishes information on its website about the Penalty Charge Notice
Procedure and that there is some potential for this to be used by
fraudsters. However, access to the specific wording of the template
letters would enable the fraudster to create a more plausible replica.
49. The Commissioner has examined the Council’s template wording used
on its letters which describes how to pay a fine, the consequences of not
paying a fine and how to make an appeal to the relevant tribunal. She
has compared that wording to the wording which the Council provides to
the public on its website.

50. The Commissioner has found that the two sets of wording are
substantially the same but are not identical.

51. The Commissioner has considered the arguments advanced by the
complainant and the Council in support of their respective positions. The
Commissioner is not persuaded that disclosure of the template wording
would increase the likelihood of a motivated fraudster creating plausible
PCNs and sending them to members of the public.

52. The Commissioner accepts the Council’s evidence that similar frauds
have been noted elsewhere. However she does not consider that the risk
of fraud would be particularly enhanced by the disclosure of the
requested information.

53. The Commissioner is mindful that placing hereto unavailable information
into the public domain could assist wrongdoers in committing a crime.
Here however the requested template wording is substantially already in
the public domain by virtue of the Council’s own website. It is also
available to the public via on-line forums where members post facsimiles
of the PCNs they have received.

54. The Commissioner has weighed the public interest considerations which
concern the disclosure of the requested PCN text. The Commissioner
finds that those considerations are finely balanced. However, given the
current availability of the requested text, its anodyne nature and the
need for PCNs to be properly worded, the Commissioner has decided
that the greater weight should be given to disclosure.

55. The Commissioner’s decision is that the exemption to disclosure
provided by section 31(1)(a) of the FOIA is engaged but the public
interest favours the disclosure of the requested template text.


--------------------
I am not on the "motorists's side", nor am I on the "police/CPS/council's" side, I am simply in favour of the rule of law.
No, I am not a lawyer.
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post Mon, 4 Nov 2019 - 12:51
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PASTMYBEST
post Mon, 4 Nov 2019 - 13:08
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So the commissioner made a decision not to make a decision, but throw it back to the council


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cp8759
post Mon, 4 Nov 2019 - 13:25
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QUOTE (PASTMYBEST @ Mon, 4 Nov 2019 - 13:08) *
So the commissioner made a decision not to make a decision, but throw it back to the council

No, quite the opposite:

3. The Commissioner requires the public authority to take the following
steps to ensure compliance with the legislation.

 The Council is required to disclose the templated parts of its PCN
letters which detail how an individual can pay the fine; what will
happen if payment is not made and, details of how an individual
can appeal to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.

4. The public authority must take these steps within 35 calendar days of
the date of this decision notice. Failure to comply may result in the
Commissioner making written certification of this fact to the High Court
pursuant to section 54 of the Act and may be dealt with as a contempt
of court.


--------------------
I am not on the "motorists's side", nor am I on the "police/CPS/council's" side, I am simply in favour of the rule of law.
No, I am not a lawyer.
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PASTMYBEST
post Mon, 4 Nov 2019 - 13:28
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I only read the parts you posted as you said they were the salient points and 55 to me reads that the exemption is applied but that the council should really comply with the request



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All advice is given freely. It is given without guarantee and responsibility for its use rests with the user
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cp8759
post Mon, 4 Nov 2019 - 14:07
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QUOTE (PASTMYBEST @ Mon, 4 Nov 2019 - 13:28) *
I only read the parts you posted as you said they were the salient points and 55 to me reads that the exemption is applied but that the council should really comply with the request

Ah but unlike the traffic tribunals, the ICO is entitled (in fact by law it must) substitute the council's decision with its own. Therefore where the ICO decides that the public interest favours disclosure, it will order the council to disclose. There is no scope in law for the ICO to remit matters to the council, because discretion doesn't come into it.


--------------------
I am not on the "motorists's side", nor am I on the "police/CPS/council's" side, I am simply in favour of the rule of law.
No, I am not a lawyer.
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The Rookie
post Mon, 4 Nov 2019 - 14:14
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From: Warwickshire
Member No.: 317



QUOTE (cp8759 @ Mon, 4 Nov 2019 - 13:25) *
 The Council is required to disclose the templated parts of its PCN
letters which detail how an individual can pay the fine; what will
happen if payment is not made and, details of how an individual
can appeal to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.

Not much help then really?

Surely what was really needed was the template reasons for rejections?

This post has been edited by The Rookie: Mon, 4 Nov 2019 - 14:16


--------------------
There is no such thing as a law abiding motorist, just those who have been scammed and those yet to be scammed!

S172's
Rookies 1-0 Kent

Council PCN's
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Rookies 1-0 Birmingham

PPC PCN's
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cp8759
post Mon, 4 Nov 2019 - 14:42
Post #7


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Group: Members
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QUOTE (The Rookie @ Mon, 4 Nov 2019 - 14:14) *
Surely what was really needed was the template reasons for rejections?

It depends, the flaws I have identified in the templated rejections are:

NOR conflates service vs delivery
The NoR says recipient must appeal within 28 days of delivery, but does not advise of power of adjudicator to allow late appeal
No paper appeal form provided

This council doesn't have templated rejection reasons so there was nothing to disclose on that front.


--------------------
I am not on the "motorists's side", nor am I on the "police/CPS/council's" side, I am simply in favour of the rule of law.
No, I am not a lawyer.
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The Rookie
post Thu, 14 Nov 2019 - 06:49
Post #8


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Posts: 43,399
Joined: 9 Sep 2003
From: Warwickshire
Member No.: 317



Indeed, but that's not what they have been required to disclose according to what you posted and I quoted, whether it applies to the reasons for rejection (or whether the council supply them anyway) isn't clear.


--------------------
There is no such thing as a law abiding motorist, just those who have been scammed and those yet to be scammed!

S172's
Rookies 1-0 Kent

Council PCN's
Rookies 1-0 Warwick
Rookies 1-0 Birmingham

PPC PCN's
Rookies 10-0 PPC's
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cp8759
post Thu, 14 Nov 2019 - 13:35
Post #9


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Group: Members
Posts: 15,375
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Member No.: 42,618



QUOTE (The Rookie @ Thu, 14 Nov 2019 - 06:49) *
Indeed, but that's not what they have been required to disclose according to what you posted and I quoted, whether it applies to the reasons for rejection (or whether the council supply them anyway) isn't clear.

The council was so required under the original request wording and has stated no such templates exist. If in a FOI response a public authority states the information sought does not exist, there isn't much you can do unless you have evidence that its assertion is mistaken or worse.

This post has been edited by cp8759: Thu, 14 Nov 2019 - 13:36


--------------------
I am not on the "motorists's side", nor am I on the "police/CPS/council's" side, I am simply in favour of the rule of law.
No, I am not a lawyer.
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