First-tier Tribunal Rules Lack of Jurisdiction in M Hands v The Information Commissioner Appeal

Citation: [2024] UKFTT 86 (GRC)
Judgment on

Introduction

The case “M Hands v The Information Commissioner” ([2024] UKFTT 86 (GRC)) involves an appeal within the jurisdiction of information rights that was brought before the First-tier Tribunal, General Regulatory Chamber. This case primarily centers around the tribunal’s jurisdictional authority regarding decisions made by the Scottish Information Commissioner in relation to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) and the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.

Key Facts

The appellant, M Hands, appealed against a decision made by the Scottish Information Commissioner. Case management directions were issued by the Registrar on the 18th of December, 2023, requiring the appellant to substantiate the Tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear the case or to argue against the proposed striking out of the appeal by the 8th of January, 2024. No response was provided by the appellant within the specified timeframe.

The legal principles applied by Tribunal Judge Buckley are centered around the jurisdictional scope of the First-tier Tribunal. As outlined under section 56 of the FOISA, any appeals against decisions made by the Scottish Information Commissioner are to be made to the Court of Session, not the First-tier Tribunal. The decision notice that the appellant sought to challenge explicitly states this jurisdictional limitation.

Furthermore, Judge Buckley refers to rule 8(2)(a), which permits the striking out of a case if the Tribunal lacks jurisdiction. Additionally, Judge Buckley considers rule 5(3)(k)(i), which allows for the transfer of proceedings to another court, but concludes that it is not appropriate to exercise this power due to differences in the costs and expenses regimes between the Court of Session and the information rights tribunal.

Outcomes

Judge Buckley decided to strike out the appeal. This decision was reached on the understanding that the First-tier Tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to hear an appeal against a decision made by the Scottish Information Commissioner. Furthermore, as the appellant did not make any representations regarding why the appeal should not be struck out, there was no basis for the Tribunal to transfer the case to the Court of Session.

Conclusion

In “M Hands v The Information Commissioner,” the First-tier Tribunal made a clear assertion of its jurisdictional bounds. When appellants seek to challenge decisions made by the Scottish Information Commissioner, this case reaffirms that such appeals must be directed to the Court of Session in accordance with section 56 FOISA. Failure to adhere to procedural requirements, as well as a lack of engagement by the appellant (e.g., failure to respond to case management directions), will result in the case being struck out due to the Tribunal’s lack of jurisdiction. Legal professionals practicing in the UK should note this case as a straightforward application of the jurisdictional rules relating to information rights appeals in Scotland.

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