Freedom of information exemptions
We have completed our current investigation into certain payments made to Better for the Country Limited (BFTC) and Leave.EU Group Limited (Leave.EU).
These payments were for the purposes of meeting expenses incurred by BFTC (including on behalf of Leave.EU) in the 2016 EU Referendum.
We have reasonable grounds to suspect a number of criminal offences and have referred the matter to the National Crime Agency (NCA). Read our report about the investigation
We have received requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI Act) about this investigation. We have withheld the following types of information which are considered to be exempt from disclosure:
- correspondence between us, Police and or the National Crime Agency (NCA)
- internal correspondence between our staff in relation to the investigation itself
- internal documents relating to our enforcement activity
If you are considering submitting a request which doesn’t cover exempt information, or you are unsure if your request is exempt from disclosure, please contact FOI@electoralcommission.org.uk.
We will review the information we have identified as exempt once the NCA has conducted and published the findings of their investigation.
How we applied the exemptions
We considered this correspondence to be exempt under section 30 and 31 of the FOI Act.
Section 30 applies to investigations and proceedings. Section 31 applies to prejudice to law enforcement.
- section 30(1)(a)(i) – criminal investigations and proceeding’s held at any time
- section 31(1)(a) – the prevention or detection of crime and 31(1)(b) the apprehension or prosecution of offenders
In line with the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA), we have a statutory function to conduct investigations into potential breaches of electoral law.
According to section 30(1)(a)(i) of the FOI Act, information that we hold may be exempt from disclosure if it has been held at any time for the purposes of an any investigation which the authority has a duty to conduct with a view to it being ascertained whether a person should be charged with an offence.
Section 31(1)(a) of the FOI Act stipulates that information does not have to be disclosed if it might prejudice the prevention or detection of crime.
A further exemption from disclosure can be found in section 31(1)(b) of the FOI Act, where information which would prejudice the apprehension or prosecution of offenders is exempt.
Why we applied the exemptions
Each of these exemptions is subject to the public interest test. We understand the legitimate public interest in respect of these proceedings. However, in considering previous requests for disclosure of information falling within these exemptions, we concluded that the use of the exemptions outweighed the public interest in disclosure of the information.
Although we have closed our investigation in relation to payments made to Better for the Country, Leave.EU and the associated individuals, we have referred the matter to the NCA. They will be conducting an investigation into potential criminal offences.
We have a duty to protect the information gathered during the course of our investigation. Releasing it would likely prejudice any future investigation or proceeding.
We have a duty to undertake inquiries in relation to a number of our open cases. Releasing information about closed investigations would likely hinder our ability to hold free and frank conversation with those in relation to our ongoing investigations.
While we have powers to require information, the co-operation of the regulated community and other enforcement agencies remains essential to our ability to conduct our statutory functions.
Our investigations rely on gathering evidence from these individuals and organisations. It is in the public interest that we maintain their co-operation and avoid releasing information that could prevent exchange of relevant information in the future and have the effect of hindering our ability to conduct our statutory functions.
We will consider all requests for information separately and consider the public interest test, where required to do so, in each case. Should your request fall within scope of our published statement around the types of requests we consider to be exempt, you will be referred to it.