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23 December 2013 – FOI Response: 762.2013-14 – Freedom of information request

Request

Please could you let me have a copy of the legal advice provided by Mr James Watson QC. In the accompanying documents PDF, the advice by Mr James Watson QC is referred to as document 46 and is 14 pages long. For some reason this document has been redacted from the PDF.

Response

Extent and Result of Searches

Searches were carried out within the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. The information you have requested is held by the Commissioner.

Decision

Section 42 – Legal Professional Privilege

It has been decided that the Commissioner is fully exempt from providing you with the information pursuant to Section 42 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, as the information is subject to Legal Professional Privilege.

Section 42 is a qualified class based exemption, which means that consideration must be given to the public interest in disclosure or non-disclosure of the information, but I am not required to demonstrate any harm that may occur in the event of the information being disclosed.

Public Interest Considerations – Section 42
Factors favouring Disclosure

This document is an Appendix to a comprehensive report entitled “Review of Chief Police Officer Remuneration Terms and Conditions”. Disclosure of the complete legal advice from Mr James Watson QC would enable the public to view the entire review document and obtain a full understanding of the legal advice obtained in connection with this highly publicised issue.

Factors favouring non-Disclosure

A summary of the conclusions of Mr James Watson QC’s advice is already published within the main body of the review document, providing the public with as much information as possible about the advice sought, without waiving Legal Professional Privilege.

Disclosure of the entire advice document would add little to the public’s understanding of this situation (given the comprehensive review and the legal advice summary already published), but would risk waiving Legal Professional Privilege.

Mr James Watson QC has been consulted in connection with the publication of his advice, and agreed to the summary in the main report being published, but not the entire advice document.

Disclosure of advice obtained from Counsel may set a precedent for future disclosures which may fundamentally undermine the principle of Legal Professional Privilege.

Balancing Test

Given the information about the legal advice already published, disclosure of this information would not significantly enhance the public’s understanding of the situation, nor affect the accountability of the force in this case. Balancing this against the risks in disclosing the entire advice document, the factors favouring non-disclosure outweigh those factors favouring disclosure.

Pursuant to Section 17(1) Freedom of Information Act 2000, this letter acts as a refusal notice in relation to your request.