Freedom Of Information
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3. Public health funerals
The Council receives a large number of requests about public health funerals and Bona Vacantia cases under the Freedom of Information Act (2000).
We believe that the information requests are exempt for the following reasons:
Section 21 - Information accessible to applicant by other means
Details of all deaths within the Borough of Reigate and Banstead are registered. Deaths can be registered at any Registry but the borough registry’s are:
- The Register Office, First Floor, Reigate Library, Bancroft Road, Reigate, RH2 7RP
- Leatherhead Registry Office, The Mansion, 70 Church Street, Leatherhead, KT22 8DP
Although we will hold some of the information on estates passed, or estates to be passed, to the Treasury Solicitor, we consider that we hold it on behalf of the Treasury Solicitor’s Department and it is up to them when and how they publish it.
Sec 22 – information intended for future publication.
We also believe that the information is exempt under Section 22 of the FOI Act as it is information that we hold with the intention of publishing at some future, pre-scheduled date.
We already publish information on the Council website Cemetries in the borough page proving the Council has a process in place to regularly and routinely publish this information. We will publish quarterly in April, June, September and December of each year.
While there maybe times when information is requested outside this publication cycle we believe that providing that information could potentially impact on the quality and accuracy of the data and not allow for the information to be thoroughly checked in the normal process of checking. Therefore the Council considers that the arguments in favour of maintaining the exemption outweigh the arguments in favour of disclosing it.
Section 31(1)(a) FoIA- law enforcement – prevention and detection of crime
The Council will not disclose details into the public domain where they relate to the addresses. When tracing relatives it can take several months to complete the enquiries that the Council has to undertake. While we carry out those enquires the property can remain unoccupied and fully furnished with household possessions, papers and personal effects.
Advertising the address would leave the property vulnerable to crime; including anti-social behavior, criminal damage, arson, identity fraud and the crimes that can be committed using false documents.
There is a compelling public interest in ensuring that the Council’s activities are conducted in a transparent and honest way. However, disclosure of exempt information could facilitate the commission of fraud, potentially resulting in a loss to the public purse, and there is a similarly strong public interest in protecting it. We therefore, believe in these circumstances, that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing such information.
Section 40 (2) – Personal Data
This exemption applies because the information requested may be personal information which relates to individuals, as defined by the Data Protection Act 1998.
Disclosing the full name and address of the deceased can lead to some living relatives being identified. This could identify the spouse, partner or other relatives who may (or may not) still reside in the property.
The release of this information would breach the first principle, which states that data should be processed fairly and lawfully. In the council’s view, no individual would reasonably expect that information of this nature would be disclosed to the public. The Council believes that the individuals could potentially be identified and that the disclosure of this information could cause the individuals unwarranted detriment and distress.
Additionally, where any property has been reoccupied after the death, the new occupants have a right to a private and family life and security of correspondence under Article 8 ECHR, in Schedule 1 of the Human Rights Act 1998, and public authorities, including the Council, are required to give effect to the Convention Rights under Section 6 of that Act.
Information Commissioners Office (ICO)
The ICO, in its Decision Notices (FS50584670 and FS50583220), supports the non-disclosure of the personal details of the deceased. You can read these decisions below: