Police investigating allegations about the honours system and links to a royal charity advised the Foreign Office not to release information under FOI about an award given to a Saudi businessman.
The Metropolitan Police’s central specialist crime unit told Foreign Office officials that disclosing the material publicly could damage the process of law enforcement.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has now dismissed an appeal from me and ruled the information cannot be revealed because it would jeopardise a live police investigation and prejudice the apprehension and prosecution of offenders.
The material kept secret includes emails, letters, forms, notes, briefings and committee documents.
The Foreign Office initially dismissed my FOI request on the basis that confidentiality is necessary for the ‘integrity’ of the honours system. It did not mention the police investigation, which was only raised as a factor after I complained to the ICO.
The ICO generally allows public authorities to alter their grounds for withholding material, in line with case law. While the Commissioner’s role is to assess whether the authority’s decision was correct at the time it was taken, in this case the ruling states it was, because the police had already been asked to investigate at that point.
The ICO’s decision notice explains background to the case and summarises the arguments I put forward as to why the information should be disclosed in the public interest.