When considering requests for information concerning public health funerals the Council generally applies an exemption to the following information relating to welfare funerals:
- The deceased person's first name and surname
- Dates of birth / ages at death
- Date of death
- Last known address
- Maiden surnames of married or widowed females
- Estimated value of estates
- Have next of kin/family members been traced
The exemption to disclosure under Section 31 (1) (a) of the Freedom of Information Act applies to this information.
Section 31(1) (a) of the FOIA states:
Information which is not exempt information by virtue of section 30 is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice:
- the prevention or detection of crime,
- the apprehension or prosecution of offenders,
- the administration of justice,
- the assessment or collection of any tax or duty
(ICO Guidance entitled Law Enforcement Section 31 issued in May 2013.)
Section 31 is a prejudiced based exemption and is subject to a public interest test.
It is considered that disclosure of the requested information would, or would likely to, prejudice the prevention or detection of crime. The information, if disclosed, represents enough data to commit identity fraud. Whilst the commission of identity fraud is not of itself a crime the use of another's identity is for the purpose of the commission of a crime. The Council considers that there is a real and significant risk of prejudice.
It should be noted that simply because the Council has arranged a funeral does not mean that there are no next of kin. There may be relatives of the deceased who are financially affected as heirs to any estate which has been stolen from them and/or would suffer damage and distress as a result of fraud being committed using the deceased's details.
The greater the potential for a disclosure to result in crime, the greater the public interest in maintaining the exemption. The victims of crime can be both organisations and individuals. Although there is a public interest in protecting both, there is a greater public interest in protecting individuals from the impact of crime. The impact of crime is not confined to its immediate victims. For example a request for the addresses of empty homes provided the opportunity to consider the wider repercussions of crime in more detail.
For the reasons outlined above, the Council does not usually disclose information that could be used fraudulently and prejudice the prevent and detection of crime. For that reason, whilst the Council will continue to consider each request it receives individually it is unlikely that applicants will receive any information that it considers is covered by the exemption above.