Details of outstanding debt
IPSA holds the information you requested.
Having considered your request for information on Ms McGarry’s debt, we believe this information to be exempt from disclosure under section 42 FOIA (Legal Professional Privilege). Further information is available below.
Section 42 – Legal Professional Privilege
Section 42 FOIA provides that information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege (LPP) could be maintained in legal proceedings is exempt information. This exemption acknowledges two distinct types of LPP; litigation privilege and advice privilege and outlines them fully by way of Bellamy v the Information Commissioner and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (EA/2005/0023, 4 April 2006).
Legal professional privilege protects confidential communications between lawyers and their clients (advice privilege), as well as confidential communications made for the purposes of providing or obtaining legal advice about proposed or contemplated litigation (litigation privilege).
Litigation privilege is a distinct aspect of legal professional privilege. It is wider than communications between solicitor and client and applies to information created in contemplation of litigation, and to communications when litigation is either pending or being considered. In this context, litigation privilege includes communications with third parties and pre-existing documents that have been selected by legal advisors for the purposes of the litigation. The information requested relates to debt recovery and is therefore covered by litigation privilege.
Legal issues surrounding Ms McGarry’s outstanding debt owed to IPSA are still live and therefore the appropriate forum for disclosure of information is through any legal proceedings, and if so required by those legal proceedings.
Section 42(1) is a qualified exemption, so information can only be withheld when the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure. In making this assessment, IPSA acknowledges the importance of promoting openness and transparency. However, we are also mindful of the decision in Bellamy v Information Commissioner (EA/2005/0023) which stated that there is a strong element of public interest inbuilt into privilege itself. There is also a clear public interest in protecting the confidentiality of communications and information exchanged between legal advisors and their clients.
On balance IPSA considers that the public interest in favour of disclosure is outweighed by the public interest in favour of maintaining the exemption and therefore considers the information is exempt from disclosure in reliance on section 42 FOIA.
This concludes our response to your request.
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- June 19, 2019
- Exemptions Applied:
- Section 42