A Town Clerk at Whitchurch Town Council has been convicted under Section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) for deliberately destroying records in order to prevent them from being disclosed as part of a Freedom of Information request.
An individual believing that the written minutes of a council meeting had been fabricated, submitted a request under FOIA for a copy of the audio recording of a council meeting. They were informed by Whitchurch Town Council that the file had already been deleted in line with council policy.
The individual complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office who following an investigation found that the Town Clerk, being aware of the request, deleted the audio recording.
It is an offence under Section 77 to alter, deface, block, erase, destroy or conceal any record held by a public authority with an intention of preventing disclosure of requested information under FOIA.
The Town Clerk initially denied committing any offence but later pleaded guilty to blocking records with the intention of preventing disclosure. The Town Clerk was fined £400, ordered to pay costs of £1,493 and victim surcharge of £40.
This case marks the first successful conviction under FOIA.