- 30 May 2019
Date received: 17 Apr 2019
Date responded: 29 May 2019
Details of any correspondence sent to the Scottish Government and its ministers in relation to the home leave of Robbie McIntosh, who attacked Linda McDonald in August 2016.
In particular, you requested:
- Details of the number of complaints received by the Scottish Government, the justice department, ministers or the First Minister in relation to the decision to grant home leave to McIntosh.
- Copies of said correspondence (redacted where necessary to preserve the anonymity of complainants).
- Any responses to said correspondence sent by or on behalf of the Scottish Government, its departments or ministers (redacted where necessary to preserve the anonymity of complainants).
- Details (in similar terms to above) of any complaints made to the Scottish Government, its departments or ministers (redacted where necessary to preserve the anonymity of complainants) about the justice system in general but which include reference to the aforementioned McIntosh case.
- Details of any responses to said correspondence relating to point 4 (above) sent by the Scottish Government, its departments or ministers (redacted where necessary to preserve the anonymity of complainants) about the justice system in general but which include reference to the aforementioned McIntosh case.
Our records indicate that two individuals submitted correspondence that could be interpreted as complaints. The first individual wrote to the Scottish Government on two occasions and had a letter relayed to the Scottish Government by another individual on a third occasion. Two letters were sent in reply by the First Minister. The second individual submitted one letter of complaint, which was responded to by an official. Your request has also encompassed correspondence between Joe FitzPatrick MSP and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and some internal correspondence.
I have also enclosed a copy of some of the information you requested.
Reasons for not providing information
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some the information you have requested because an exemption under Section 38(1)(b) applies. This relates to the personal information and contact details of both the complainants and officials who have responded to the complaints. Also, the letters of one of the individuals has not been provided as they are clearly identifiable from the content.
Disclosing this information 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.
An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) also applies to some of the information requested. It is essential for Ministers to be able to communicate, often in confidence, with external stakeholders on a range of issues, including to discuss the impact of violent crime. Disclosing the content of these communications 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. Individuals would be reluctant to 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 or controversial issue. 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 policies.
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 communicate with appropriate external stakeholders. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, which would not be in the public interest.
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House