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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Primogeniture still trumps

In March the Acting WA Information Commissioner decided that where an issue of who was the closest living relative of a deceased person among siblings arose in the course of dealing with a Freedom of information application, the correct interpretation was that this meant the oldest sibling. He said other factors such as the quality and closeness of family relationships were too subjective to rely upon in interpreting the term “closest relative”. (See case 1)

In this decision he has reaffirmed the principle and applied it not only where there was evidence of an estrangement between the person and his late mother, but where in her later years she expressed the wish that he not be given access to her medical records
"The FOI Act was not intended to deal with such questions as the proper interpretation of words used in a statutory declaration or the state of mind of a deceased person. The A/Commissioner considered that the most appropriate way to distinguish which surviving child should be designated the “closest relative” for the purposes of the FOI Act is to select the individual born first in time because this provides the most objective and certain approach to interpretation, and accords with the ordinary dictionary definition of the term as used in the FOI Act'.

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