One of the key elements of the Freedom of Information Act is that it is motive blind - in other words, public bodies like councils or police forces are not supposed to take into account why someone has sought information from them.
It goes without saying that there is often a suspicion among people like me that this part of the Act is not always adhered to quite as strictly as it should be when it comes to FOI requests from the media.
Such suspicions were reinforced this week when Kent County Council responded to my request for details of the costs associated with preparing a draft environmental report on the Operation Stack lorry park off the M20.
How KCC spent £417k preparing Op Stack report>>>
This request followed an earlier one seeking a copy of the report, which was initially rejected by KCC but then accepted after we appealed.
As a result of that request, we published a story in August that highlighted how Kent Fire had flagged up some serious issues about how they would cope in the event of a serious incident at the site unless certain steps were taken.
At the time, KCC was offered the chance to comment - as was Kent Fire - but both declined, with Kent Fire saying that as the scheme was one that may not happen, it did not see much merit in it responding.
You can read that story here
KCC responded to our second request for the costs this week and provided all the information we had asked for (albeit on Day 20).
What was equally interesting was that the response criticised our previous coverage, saying we had selectively reported part of the Jacobs' report - it was 1,700 pages by the way - and had therefore "failed to provide the public with an accurate reflection of the facts."
It's not unusual for KCC - and many other councils - to take issue with the way in which their activities are covered.
But this is the first time I've seen an FOI response deployed to direct criticism at media coverage. It's especially odd given that the authority was offered a chance to comment at the time of the first story but declined. It didn't even respond at the time the article was published. (And it wasn't entirely right in asserting we had not referred to the need for measures to reduce the risk.)
I've no idea why the response incorporated this or who decided it should be. But I feel an FOI request coming on.
Read KCC's FOI response here:
20111006112628405_0001.pdf (513.93 kb)