Making a PATI request for records
The PATI Act grants every Bermudian and Bermuda resident the right to request access to a record held by a public authority. Here, we have included the basic steps to filing a request and other helpful information.
Writing and submitting your request
Step 1: What record do you want to request?
Think about the record you want to request. A good place to start is the public authority's 'Information Statement'. This will tell you about what the public authority does, how it acts and makes decisions, what classes of records it holds and how to access information.
Look at the Information Statement:
to decide whether to ask a public authority for records because it does the work or handles the topic you are interested in;
to learn about what classes of records it holds and which ones relate to that work or topic;
to figure out if the information you want is routinely available to the public without needing to file a request for records under the PATI Act;
to decide what specific records to request if a PATI request is needed, and;
to find out the Information Officer’s name and contact details - you will give your request to the Information Officer.
If you have questions about what records to ask for, talk to the Information Officer.
The ICO's list of public authorities and their Information Officers is available here.
Step 2: Write your request.
Write your request. You don't need a lawyer. The only requirements for a valid request are that:
1. it is made in writing;
2. it describes the records you want sufficiently clear enough for the Information Officer to identify them; and
3. you are a Bermudian or Bermuda resident (you may need to show proof of eligibility).
You may want to include two additional kinds of information in your request, but these are not required:
1. Background information: you do not have to state why you are asking for the records. But you may want to provide some background information to assist the Information Officer in locating the records, or in determining whether disclosure of the records you want would benefit the public.
2. Manner of access to records: you may want to request access to the records in a certain manner although your requested manner of access may not always be possible. Some ways of accessing the records might cost more. Look at the fee schedule in Head 53 of the Government Fees Regulations 1976 for the PATI Act.
There is no charge to submit a PATI request for records, but you may need to pay a fee to obtain copies of records, similar to other fees charged to get copies of public records.
Your confidentiality is protected. The PATI Act forbids the Information Officer from revealing your name to anyone unless that person is required to help find the records and requires your name to do so.
What happens next - how the public authority processes your request
1. The Information Officer must send you a written acknowledgement of receipt of your request within 5 days. If you don’t receive one, call the Information Officer.
If you have submitted a request to the wrong public authority and the Information Officer knows where your request should go, he or she will transfer the request and send you a written notification within 5 days.
2. The Information Officer has 6 weeks to find the records and decide what part of the record can be given to you – it may be released 'in whole,' released 'in part' or withheld altogether.
The default rule under the PATI Act is to disclose the record; but the Information Officer may find that one of 16 'exemptions' applies to justify withholding the record, or part of the record, from you. An 'exemption' is a specific reason set forth in the PATI Act that a record or information can be kept confidential to protect the health or safety of individuals, or the interests of the country. To learn more about 'exemptions', click here.
The purpose of the PATI Act is ultimately to lead to more accountable and efficient public authorities. So if disclosure of a record would actually hurt or undermine the ability of the public authority to do its job, the disclosure is not justified.
3. No later than six weeks from the day you file your request, the Information Officer will send you a response that will:
be in writing;
tell you the public authority’s decision to:
grant you access to the whole record or part of the record;
deny your request on administrative grounds (click here to learn more about a denial on administrative grounds);
refuse to tell you whether or not the record exists, because if it did, it would be exempt; or
deny you access to the entire or part of the record;
tell you the reasons for the public authority’s decision; and
if your request is granted in any way, tell you how you get access to the record and what fees, if any, you must pay for that access.
Note that if the Information Officer does not give you any response within the 6 weeks, this is considered a refusal to grant access and can be appealed to the head of the public authority.
4. If you agree with the Information Officer's decision, you can pay any fees required for access to the record. For more information about when you can get access to a record, you may want to read the Information Commissioner's Guidance for public authorities on Timeframes for providing access to records: section 14 and Part 2.
5. If you disagree with any aspect of the Information Officer’s decision or the handling of your request, you have the right to an 'internal review' by the head of the public authority. You must make this request in writing within 6 weeks of your receipt of the Information Officer's decision. The internal review process is explained below.
Appealling the decision: Internal review
If you disagree with any aspect of the Information Officer's decision or the handling of your request, you have the right to appeal it by asking for an 'internal review' by the head of the public authority.
To request an internal review, you must submit a written request to the public authority asking for an internal review within 6 weeks of receiving the Information Officer's response.
You can seek review of any aspect of the Information Officer’s responsibilities under the PATI Act, including a:
Decision to refuse or grant access to a record
Decision about the manner in which access is granted
Decision to transfer your request to another authority
Decision to extend time to process your request
Determination of the fees charged for accessing the record
Decision to refuse a request to amend a record in respect of personal information
Decision to refuse to disclose the existence of a record
Failure to do anything related to the request within the required time period
The head of public authority has 6 weeks to issue a decision that may uphold, reject or modify the Information Officer's decision. The decision and the reasons for the decision must be provided to you.
If you disagree with any aspect of the decision by the head of the authority, you have a right to appeal. Within 6 weeks of receiving notification of the decision, you may apply in writing for an independent review by the Information Commissioner. Also, if the head of the public authority fails to make any decision within 6 weeks of receiving your request for a review, you may request an independent review by the Information Commissioner.
Independent Appeal: Review by the Information Commissioner
The Information Commissioner can conduct an independent review of your PATI Act request once you have completed any available internal review within the public authority. This means that if the Information Officer gave you the first response from the public authority, you must seek an internal review from the head of the public authority before appealing to the Information Commissioner. If the head of the public authority was the first officer to decide your request, then you can immediately seek review by the Information Commissioner.
Your request for review by the Information Commissioner must be made in writing and submitted to the ICO within 6 weeks of receiving notification of the public authority’s final decision or, when the public authority fails to respond, within 6 weeks after the date when the decision was due. To the extent possible, your request for review should include copies of supporting information, including:
your initial request,
the public authority’s initial decision,
your request for an internal review,
the decision by the head of the public authority, and
any records that were disclosed to you.
If you are unable to afford to make copies of these documents, please bring the originals to the Information Commissioner’s Office and we will make photocopies of your records for you.
The Information Commissioner’s Office shall send you an acknowledgment of the receipt of your request for review within 5 working days. The Information Commissioner's Office will then determine if the Information Commissioner has the legal power to accept your application or if you must meet other requirements prior to her review, such as completing an internal review by the head of the public authority. Once the Information Commissioner's review process begins, the outcomes may range from an informal resolution to a formal review before the Information Commissioner resulting in a binding decision.
In many cases, the Information Commissioner will try to resolve matters informally. The Information Commissioner’s Office will contact the public authority to inform them we have received a request for review and give the public authority an opportunity to revisit the request for records. During the Information Commissioner’s investigation into the public authority’s compliance with its obligations under the PATI Act, the public authority may change its assertion of exemptions or offer a compromise to release certain records while continuing to withhold others. If any informal resolution appears available, the Information Commissioner’s Office will notify you. You are not under any obligation to accept an informal agreement unless you are satisfied with the outcome.
Other appeals may also result in a formal review by the Information Commissioner and the issuance of a binding decision. Once the Information Commissioner has issued a decision, either party may seek judicial review of the decision by application to the Supreme Court.
The time a review will take depends upon a number of factors, including the complexity of your request, the nature of the public authority, the exemptions involved and the novelty of the issues raised by your appeal. The timing will also be affected by whether or not the matter is resolved informally or proceeds to a formal review. The Information Commissioner’s Office anticipates that the time for a review may range from a few weeks to several months.
The Information Commissioner’s Office will keep you updated about progress, but feel free to ask at any time how things are moving on.