- 30 Aug 2018
FOI reference: FOI/18/02109
Date received: 3 August 2018
Date responded: 29 August 2018
1. All meetings between 1 January, 2015 to date between the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and victims of crime; including meetings with representative bodies of victims, such as Victim Support Scotland;
2. All meetings scheduled to be held at a future date;
3. Who was or is scheduled to be present at these meetings;
4. The agenda for these meetings;
5. Notes or minutes taken of these meetings; and
6. Outcomes of the meetings.
I enclose a copy of most of the information you requested.
Some of the Information you requested is already available. Information on Ministers’ engagements is published. The link for engagements from 2012 up to May 2016 is:
then from June 2016 it is:
Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.
Some information on the agendas, notes of meetings, lists of attendees and outcomes from the meetings held between the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and victims, and victims’ organisations, is provided in the attachment to this letter.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because an exemption(s) under section(s) Section 38(1)(b)(personal information) of FOISA applies to that information. This is because it is personal data of a third party, ie names and contact details of individuals, material of a personal and sensitive nature that would cause distress by publishing, etc and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.
In addition, for some of the information an exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies. It is essential for Ministers to be able to meet, often in confidence, with external stakeholders on a range of issues, including with victims of crime, and victims’ organisations. Disclosing information about these meetings, particularly without the consent of the stakeholder, is likely to undermine their trust in the Scottish Government and will substantially inhibit communications on this type of issue in the future. These stakeholders will be reluctant to participate in meetings and provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that their views are likely to be made public, particularly while these discussions relate to a sensitive issue such as the personal impact of being a victim of crime. This would significantly harm the Government’s ability to carry out many aspects of its work, and could adversely affect its ability to gather all of the evidence it needs to make fully informed policy decisions.
This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which to meet with appropriate external stakeholders and individuals as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s policy position on criminal justice matters, until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good policy decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence, such as that provided by people who have had direct and personal experience of the criminal justice system. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, which in turn will undermine the quality of the policy making process, which would not be in the public interest.
An exemption under section 39(1) of FOISA also applies for the information you have requested on future scheduled meetings, in relation to Ministerial accommodation and security. This exemption applies because we consider that release would be likely to endanger the safety of Scottish Government Ministers. This exemption is also subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. While we recognise that there is some public interest in release of this information in order to promote openness, there is a much greater public interest in avoiding significant risks to the safety of Ministers.
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at https://www.gov.scot/foi-responses
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House