Freedom of Information | Northern Ireland Law Commission
Skip navigation

Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) gives people the right to request information from public authorities. It is intended to promote a culture of openness and accountability amongst public sector bodies, and therefore facilitate better public understanding as to how public authorities carry out their duties, why they make the decisions they do, and how they spend public money. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 came fully into force on 1 January 2005. Further information on the Act is available on the following web site: new window)

The Freedom of Information Act 2000

The Northern Ireland Law Commission (NILC) is one of the public bodies which is covered by the terms of this Act. The right to request information under this Act is not confined to citizens of the United Kingdom or from those resident in the United Kingdom. Requests can be made by individuals of any nationality from anywhere in the world.

The request must be in writing and may be made by e-mail, but the authority receiving the request has the right to confirm the address of the applicant. It must also relate to information that we already hold. The Act does not provide for the compilation of information.

Existing sources of information

The Northern Ireland Law Commission proactively provides information on many aspects of our work on the Commissions internet website (opens new window) Before making your request you may wish to view the Commissions website to see if the information you require has already been published. Our Publication Scheme also lists the type of information that the Commission publishes or intends to publish.

Making a request

If you believe that the information you require is not readily accessible (i.e. it cannot be found on the web site, etc) applications for information can be made in one of two ways:

E-MAIL - send your request to the following e-mail address:

POST - send your written request to:
Freedom of Information Team
Northern Ireland Law Commission
Linum Chambers, 8th Floor
2 Bedford Square
Bedford Street
Belfast, BT2 7ES

In order to provide an efficient service it would be helpful if you: -

  • Include your full name and postal address;
  • Describe in as much detail as possible the information that you require,  providing any relevant dates, events or subject-headings that will enable us to ascertain if we hold the information;
  • State if you have any preference for the format in which the information should be supplied (e.g. electronic, paper; a summary or table of statistics, etc).


How will my request be processed?

If the information you request is already reasonably accessible in the public domain (e.g. on the NILC website or published in a report) then we will point you to where you can obtain the information. Similarly, if your request does not relate to the Northern Ireland Law Commission then we will endeavor to provide you with the contact details of other authorities who may be able to help you. If your request relates to unpublished information held by the Commission then we will acknowledge your request and forward it to the relevant team to action accordingly. We will provide you with a full response within 20 working days of receiving the request.

There are special circumstances when the 20 working day deadline can be extended. These include: -

  • If we write to you asking for clarification because we cannot understand exactly what information you are looking for, the clock stops until we receive a response from you.
  • In order to carry out a public interest test when any of the qualified exemptions are engaged. (i.e. if NILC believes that the information requested is covered by a qualified exemption or exception it must apply the public interest test. The public interest test favours disclosure where a qualified exemption or exception applies. In such cases, the information may be withheld only if NILC considers that the public interest in withholding the information is greater than the public interest in disclosing it).

In all cases you will be kept informed if there is a delay.


Are there any fees?

In the majority of cases there will not be a charge.

However the FOI Act makes provision for the Northern Ireland Law Commission to charge fees where the total cost to provide information exceeds £600. This equates to a charge of £25 per hour for 24 hours work and includes: -

  • Determining whether NILC holds the information requested;
  • Locating the information or document containing the information;
  • Retrieving the information or a document which may contain the information;
  • Extracting the information from a document containing it.

There may be cases where a request for information is so complex that it would exceed the cost threshold. In these instances you will be informed of the options open, such as refining your request so that it can be dealt with for free.

Can all information be released?

In some cases we will not be able to answer all or part of your request because NILC does not hold the information. NILC's aim where possible is to release information that it holds, however, the Freedom of Information Act does include a number of exemptions covering such areas as national security and information provided in confidence. If NILC decides to apply an exemption you will be kept informed. The supply of information under the Freedom of Information Act does not give the recipient or organisation that receives it the automatic right to re-use it in any way that would infringe copyright. This includes, for example, making multiple copies, publishing and issuing copies to the public.

What if I am dissatisfied with the response I receive?

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, everyone has the right to appeal against the response given to a request for information, or to challenge the way in which their request was handled. In the first instance, a person who is dissatisfied with either the response or the handling of a request should contact the relevant public authority. All complaints should be put in writing. For the Northern Ireland Law Commission, any complaints or comments should be addressed to the:

Chief Executive
Northern Ireland Law Commission
8th Floor, 2 Bedford Square
Bedford Street

On receipt of a complaint we will contact you to acknowledge that it has been received. Your complaint will normally be handled by a complaints panel made up of senior staff unconnected with the initial request. Where this is not possible you will be informed. We will aim to complete the review of your request within 6 weeks. Where this is not possible, you will be kept informed of progress and given a likely date for a reply. The review of your request will consist of an analysis of the initial reasons for withholding the information and a consideration of how and why the Public Interest Test was applied. If necessary, the appeals panel will seek legal advice. If the appeals panel overturns the original decision, the request will be processed and the information released to you, entirely or in part. If the appeals panel upholds the original decision, you will receive a letter detailing the reasons why we are unable to provide the information requested.

If you are not satisfied with our response to your complaint, you can contact the Information Commissioner. (opens new window)

Write to:
Information Commissioner
Wycliffe House
Water Lane

Further information:
Further information regarding the Freedom of Information Act can be obtained from the Information Commissioner's Office : (opens new window) the independant public body set up to promote access to official information and protect personal information.

back to top

Freedom of Information Contents ...