Request for names of informants
Request for names of informants—information withheld under section 6(a)—general approach applied
A licensed restaurant that hosted live music had been the subject of numerous noise complaints made to the local authority. It had taken action in respect of these complaints and, upon request by the restaurant, had released the number and precise nature of the complaints. However, it had declined to release the names of the complainants in reliance upon section 6(a) of the LGOIMA.
Local authorities are responsible for a range of law enforcement functions, most notably under the Resource Management Act. Accordingly, where complainants’ or informants’ identities are at issue, the applicability of section 6(a) must be considered.
The approach taken to this provision in relation to the identity of informants has been well established. Although each case must be considered on its merits, information identifying an informant can, in most cases, be withheld. This is because many public sector agencies have law enforcement functions and rely significantly on information from the public to assist them to discharge those functions. If they were unable to protect the identity of informants or complainants, members of the public would be less likely to come forward with information regarding possible offences, thereby prejudicing the ability of the agencies to maintain the law, including the prevention, investigation and detection of offences.
In this case, no factors emerged to suggest that the general approach should not be adopted. It was clear that in seeking to detect offences against the Resource Management Act, the local authority concerned placed considerable reliance on information received from members of the general public and disclosure would be likely to jeopardise the continued supply of information from the public.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.