The Freedom of Information Law gives the public the right of access to information held by public authorities in the Cayman Islands.
Ms. Kathryn Dinspel-Powell, is the Freedom of Information Manager at the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Ms. Allyson Minus-Philips is the Records Officer and will also be involved in processing FOI requests, and may contact you to request that you provide them with documents/records/files etc.
As one of the many public authorities covered by the Law, the Ministry is responsible for ensuring that the public has access to information held in all forms. The right to access is not unlimited, there are exemptions, some of these exemptions relate to the disclosure of:
• Personal information;
• Information that prejudices security, defence or international relations;
• Information that would endanger someone’s physical or mental health or safety;
• Information that would facilitate the escape of a person from detention or jeopardize prison security.
Some of these exemptions are not absolute and may be subject to the ‘public interest’ test. This broadly means that even if the information requested falls under an exemption, if it is in the public interest to release the information, then it may be released under the public interest test.
Identifying a Freedom of Information Request
Every written request for information/records/files/documents received by mail, email, fax, or in person is considered a Freedom of Information request unless it is a request for information that is already in the public domain, or if it is information that is already generally provided to the public. Information in the public domain is information that is available for purchase or is already generally made available to the public.
How can a request be made?
An FOI request must be in writing and must include a name (this does not have to be your real name), contact information, and a description of the information you are requesting. An applicant is not required to state that they are making a request under the FOI Law. The Ministry must respond to a request within 30 calendar days of receipt of the request by either granting or refusing access to the information requested. Calendar days include weekends and holidays. In some cases, fees may be charged for FOI requests (Terms and conditions regarding fees are outlined in the FOI Regulations).
A request can be made by any person, anywhere in the world. A person does not have to be an adult to make an FOI request, they do not have to give their real name, nor do they have to give any reason for making an application.
An application must:-
• Have a name
• Be made in writing (email, fax, letter or filling out an FOI request form). A FOI request cannot be made over the telephone.
• An address to which notices and information can be sent. (The address should be a full postal address. Ideally, a request should also contain a phone number and email address in order to contact the requestor as quickly as possible if there are questions regarding the nature of the request).
• The date the application is submitted
• Contain enough detail to allow the information sought to be identified
• Form of access preferred (photocopies, view original documents, etc)
If a person makes an application for their own personal information, they MUST produce identification so that the Ministry can be sure it is disclosing the information to the right person.
A person may make a request for their personal information, or make a request for third party information (someone else’s personal information).
Where a person makes a request for their personal information they must provide photo identification confirming that he or she is the person to whom the information relates. Acceptable identification for a person requesting their personal information at this time is a valid Driver’s Licence or valid Passport.
When making a request in person for personal information, the staff member accepting the FOI request must confirm the requestor’s identity, make a copy of the identification and attach it to the FOI request form.
Where the requestor is not the person to whom the personal information relates, the person applying for the information must provide sufficient proof that he or she has the authority to request and be granted the information. Acceptable identification under Section 13(2) of the Regulations include, but is not limited to-
a. A power of Attorney;
b. A court order;
c. Probate or letters of administration; or
d. Written authority by a next of kin to whom the information relates to apply for and gain access to the information.
The Regulations now provide for expedited service of FOI requests, this means that the information requested must be provided to the requestor within 10 calendar days. If a person attends personally to submit a FOI request and asks for expedited service, please contact the Information Manger as expedited service will only be provided in specific circumstances and can only be approved by the Information Manager.
Collection of Fees
While there is no fee to make a request for information or to view the information requested at our office, the Regulations do provide for the collection of fees for reproducing information. For example, we may collect fees for providing photocopies, audio tapes or CD’s of the information requested. Fees may also be collected from persons overseas and it is anticipated that the Portfolio will collect those fees in the form of a bank draft.
Please note that the Information Manager is willing to meet with any member of the public (including staff members) to discuss a request if needed. If a requester wishes to make an appointment with the Information Manager they may do so by calling (345) 244-3179