Hampshire Fire and Rescue: Please mark as “Private and Confidential”

I was looking through the most recently successful FOI requests on Whatdotheyknow.com when I discovered this response from Hampshire Fire and rescue Service.  The response curiously contained the following paragraph:

Any future correspondence you may have with HFRS in relation to this matter should be marked “Private & Confidential” and sent to the Information Compliance Officer at the above address.

It struck me as somewhat odd that in a response to a request for information made to a public authority under statutory provisions designed to promote openness and tranparency that a public authority would include such a request.  I went and had a look through the other responses from Hampshire Fire and Rescue available on the WDTK website and discovered that it was indeed standard practice for them to include this request in their responses.

I have had a think as to why they might include such a response but keep coimg back to the idea that maybe it is a way of trying to exclude correspondence from release under future FOI requests.  This would, of course, be in complete contravention of the spirit of the Freedom of Information legislation.  It would be counter to the principles of transparency and openness.  Indeed, if it was an attempt to circumvent the Act and prevent disclosure of correspondence it would, morally speaking, be a very serious issue.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service have been contacted seeking their comment on the purpose of this request contained within these responses.  They have also been asked directly whether it is an attempt to exclude correspondence from release under future requests for information.  Any response provided by Hampshire Fire and Rescue will be published in full on this site.

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