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PACE trial FOI request: appeal dismissed

28 August 2013

A tribunal has dismissed an appeal against a decision made in January that a Freedom of Information request about the PACE Trial was right to be denied.

The original request was for meeting minutes of the trial steering committee and management groups to be made available.

In responding to the request, Queen Mary University of London concluded that releasing the minutes could have major implications for how trials are conducted on in the future; would alter the way trials are run; and would affect the quality of the minutes of meetings such as this when dealing with contentious areas of medicine.

In appealing this decision, the plaintiff argued that disclosure would increase confidence in the appropriateness of decisions made and the quality of future decisions by such groups. He also considered that his initial appeal had not been given proper consideration by the Information Commissioner.

His appeal was dismissed, and the tribunal judge stated “that it would be helpful to make further observations as to three issues which arise out of this case.”

These are:

  • “the profound importance of academic freedom; in particular in the area of scientific research”
  • “the strategy which universities faced with the likelihood of a high degree of hostile attention in connection with research (or indeed a high degree of public interest) could adopt in order to protect the highly valuable time and energy of their researchers while at the same time giving a high degree of transparency and accountability to what is done”
  • “the nature of requests in cases such as this […] The tribunal has no doubt that, properly viewed in its context, this request should have been seen as vexatious: it was not a true request for information, rather its function was largely polemical.”

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