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Monday, June 16, 2008

Reasonable steps in searching for documents

This recent decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal provides a good statement of the law concerning the requirement in the Federal Freedom of Information Act to undertake a search for documents relevant to an application and what to be considered if they cannot be located. In this case the documents were 40 years old and records of this kind may have been in poorly marked boxes in a government storage facility. However Defence had put a considerable effort into searching records in various locations and the responsible officer could not identify any further steps that could practically be taken . Senior Member Dunne agreed and(at 20) summarised the relevant issue:
"..the question is not, “Were the searches that were done reasonable, in a general sense?” Rather, the question is, “Is there a reasonable step that has not been taken?” As was succinctly put by Finn J, is the Tribunal, upon review, properly satisfied that the respondent has done all that could reasonably be required of it to find the documents in question?"

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