Freedom of information

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act  provides a general right of access to information held by public authorities in the UK subject to certain exemptions.

Authorities are also obliged to publish more information and make it easily accessible to the public. The Department of Justice (DoJ) Publication Scheme lists the types of information that the DoJ publishes or intends to publish. Virtually all of this information can be downloaded free of charge. Subjects and titles of items can be obtained from the Publications and Statistics & Research sections of this website.

If you believe that the information you require is not readily accessible (i.e. it cannot be found on the website or in a public library) then you may wish to make a written request for information to:

If the information you require relates to the work of another department or agency in Northern Ireland then you should contact the appropriate department directly.

How do I make a request for information?

If having searched the FOI responses,  publications and statistics & research areas of the Department of Justice website you cannot find the information you require you may wish to contact the Department of Justice by letter or via the enquiry form.

Prior to making a request you should consider whether the Department of Justice is the most appropriate authority to send a request to. Your request will be answered more quickly if you write directly to the authority that holds the information.

Department of Justice Disclosure log

If your request relates to any of the following Agencies:

or any of the smaller bodies sponsored by the DoJ then you should contact them directly.  To contact another department visit the NI Executive website or the Northern Ireland Assembly website.

Your request for information can be sent by letter to the FOI Team at the address below. In order to provide an efficient service it would be helpful if you:

Include your full 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. a summary or a table of statistics).

What happens next - how will my request be processed?

If the information you request is already reasonably accessible in the public domain (e.g. on the website or published in a report that can be found in a library) then we will direct you to where you can obtain the information. Similarly, if your request does not relate to the Department of Justice then we will endeavour to provide you with the contact details of other authorities who may be able to help you. We will not transfer your request to other authorities without contacting you beforehand.

If your request relates to un-published information held by the Department of Justice then we will acknowledge your letter and forward it onto the relevant officials.

We will provide you with a full response within 20 working days of receiving the request.

There are special circumstances when the 20 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.
If legal advice is being sought in regard to applying the public interest test 

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.

The FOI Act makes provision for public authorities to charge fees in accordance with the Fees Regulations (which are laid before parliament).

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 available (such as refining your question 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 the Department of Justice does not hold the information.

In most cases information that the Department of Justice holds can be released but the FOI Act does include a number of exemptions covering areas such as national security and information provided in confidence. If the Department of Justice 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 about personal data?

Requests for personal data are still covered by the Data Protection Act (1998). If you would like a permanent copy of the data which you believe the Department of Justice holds on you then a subject access request can be made by writing to:

You will need to provide adequate identification before your request is processed. Once this has been received we will provide a response within 40 calendar days.

Privacy notice for FoI & DPA requests

In order to process requests for information, it is necessary for us to gather a certain amount of your personal data, e.g. contact details.  We will only gather the information that is necessary to process your request.  The Department of Justice (NI) is the Data Controller for this, and the sole purpose is to allow us to process your request for information.  We will not share this information with anyone else, with the exception of the Information Commissioner, should they request it.  We will retain your information for a period of five years, to allow us to deal with any subsequent complaints.

You have the right to request all personal data we hold about you; if you feel we have made any mistakes, you have the right to request that we correct your information.  While the Data Protection Act gives you the right to request that we delete your personal data relating to an FoI or DPA request, you should be aware that this would mean that we can no longer process your request.

Should you have any concerns about how we handle the personal data relating to your request for information, you have the right to request an Internal Review (FoI) or to raise your concerns with our Data Protection Officer.  In all cases, you have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner.

What if I am dissatisfied with the response I receive?

The FOI Act makes provision for members of the public 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, members of the public who are dissatisfied with either the response or the handling of their request should contact the relevant public authority. All complaints should be put in writing. For the Department of Justice, any complaints or comments should be addressed to:

On receipt of a complaint we will contact you to acknowledge that it has been received. Your complaint will be handled by a 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 20 working days. 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 Complaints Panel overturns the original decision, the request will be processed and the information released to you, entirely or in part. If the 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.

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