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European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007-2014 (S.I. No. 133 of 2007, S.I. No. 662 of 2011 and S.I. No. 615 of 2014)

Access to Information on the Environment

Introduction

In this section we provide general information on the policy and legislative background to the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 - 2014 and how to make access requests under the AIE regulations.

The Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) Regulations give you the right to access Environmental Information held by the Courts Service

Obligations on public authorities

Under the AIE Regulations, information relating to the environment held by, or for, a public authority must be made available on request; subject to certain exceptions. The AIE regulations also oblige public authorities to provide environmental information to the public.

In general, the Courts Service is required to respond to an AIE request within 20 working days of receipt of the request.

Where, due to the complexity or volume of information requested, we are unable to respond within that timeframe, we are required to write to the applicant within the timeframe indicating when a response will issue.

If we do not have the information requested, we can either transfer the request to another public authority or advise the applicant of where we believe the request should be directed. In either case, we are required to notify the applicant.

How to make an AIE request

Applications for access to information on the environment held by the Courts Service should be made to:

Ms. Linda Memery
The Courts Service
6th Floor Phoenix House
15/24 Phoenix Street North
Smithfield
Dublin 7

foi@courts.ie

When you are making a request for information under the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations you are required to:

• state that the application is being made under the AIE Regulations and send it in writing or by email to the address above

• provide your contact details

• set out in detail, the environmental information you require, and specify the form and manner of access you want

Definition of environmental information

The AIE Regulations define environmental information as:

'any information in written, visual, aural, electronic or any other material form on —

  • the state of the elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites including wetlands, coastal and marine areas, biological diversity and its components, including genetically modified organisms and the interaction among these elements,

  • factors, such as substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste, including radioactive waste, emissions, discharges and other releases into the environment, affecting or likely to affect the elements of the environment,

  • measures (including administrative measures), such as policies, legislation, plans, programmes, environmental agreements, and activities affecting or likely to affect the elements and factors referred to in paragraphs (1) and (2) as well as measures or activities designed to protect those elements,

  • reports on the implementation of environmental legislation,

  • cost-benefit and other economic analyses and assumptions used within the framework of the measures and activities referred to in paragraph (3), and

  • the state of human health and safety, including the contamination of the food chain, where relevant, conditions of human life, cultural sites and built structures inasmuch as they are, or may be, affected by the state of the elements of the environment referred to in paragraph (1) or, through those elements, by any of the matters referred to in paragraphs (2) and (3);'

 

Grounds for refusing information

A body acting in a legislative of judicial capacity can under Article 3(2) refuse access to environmental information.

There is also provision for both mandatory (Article 8) and discretionary (Article 9) grounds for refusing information.

A public body is required to consider the provisions in Article 10 when making a decision on whether to release information.

Court records

All records created in relation to court proceedings are considered 'court records'. As these records relate to the business of the court, they are within the control of the judge concerned.

Article 3(2) of Statutory Instrument No. 133 of 2007 states:

'Notwithstanding anything in sub-article (1), 'public authority' does not include any body when acting in a judicial or legislative capacity'

The Statutory Instrument (S.I. No. 133 of 2007) does not apply to court records and therefore access to court records cannot be granted under this Statutory Instrument.

Court records are under the control of the courts and not the Courts Service. This is in accordance with section 65 Court Officers Act, 1926 which states that;

'all proofs and all other documents and papers lodged in or handed in to any court in relation to or in the course of the hearing of any suit or matter shall be held by or at the order and disposal of the judge or the senior of the judges by or before whom such suit is heard.'

Access to court records

Outside of the Statutory Instrument (S.I. No. 133 of 2007) access to certain court records may be given to the parties concerned or their legal representatives.

Persons seeking access to court records should contact the court office where the case was heard. The court office staff will explain the procedures which apply.

Fees for AIE requests

There is no fee charged for the making of a request under the AIE Regulations. There is no fee charged for the internal review process.

Fees may be charged for the cost of supplying the information, including the staff costs associated with compiling, copying, printing and posting of the information. The charges will only relate to the supply of the information. Details of the charges, if any, will be advised in the final decision letter.

Currently, the cost of taking an appeal to the Commissioner for Environmental Information is €50. If you are the holder of a medical card, or you are a dependent of the holder of a medical card, or you are a third party appealing the decision to release certain information, the fee for an appeal is €15.

Further information is available on the website of the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information.

Appealing a decision

Under Article 11 of the AIE Regulations, an applicant has the right to seek an internal review of the initial decision made on their request.

An applicant also has the right to request an internal review if they have not received a response within the timeframe.

An internal review must be requested within one month of receipt of the original decision. (The public authority may extend this timeframe but is not required to do so) .

An internal review involves a complete reconsideration of the matter by a member of the staff of the public authority. The public authority may affirm, vary or annul the original decision made.

The outcome of the review should be sent in writing, within one month of the public authority receiving the request for the review. It should inform the requestor of the decision and the reason for the decision made.

This response should advise the applicant of the right of appeal to the Commissioner for Environmental Information (OCEI), and include details of the time limits and fees associated with such an appeal.

If a person is not satisfied with the outcome of the internal review, they may appeal to the Commissioner for Environmental Information. 

Such an appeal must be lodged within one month of receiving the decision on the internal review from the Courts Service. However, the Commissioner may extend this time limit in individual cases.

Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information

The Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information (OCEI) was established by the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations 2007.

The role of the Commissioner is to decide on appeals by members of the public who are not satisfied with the outcome of their requests to public authorities for environmental information.

The regulations provide that the Commissioner can review decisions of public authorities and can make binding decisions on access to environmental information.

Information not available under the AIE Regulations

The AIE Regulations do not apply to environmental information that is made available under any other statutory provision.

If the information you require does not come within the scope of the definition of environmental information, and is not already publicly available, you may request the information under the Freedom of Information Act 2014.

Assistance in making requests

If you have any queries in relation to making an AIE request, the Courts Service can be contacted at:

Phone:
+353 1 888 6464 (Linda Memery)
or
+353 1 888 6461 (Michael Walsh)

Email: lindamemery@courts.ie