Duty to assist requires complete, accurate and timely responses

Complaint: After committing, as a result of a complaint investigation, to release a report into the 2011 crash of a Chinook helicopter in southern Afghanistan by a certain date, the Department of National Defence (DND) did not do so.

Investigation: As part of a second investigation, which the Commissioner initiated in light of the publication delay, the OIC came to the view that DND could not have reasonably expected to complete the report by the initial deadline, since important stages of the investigation had not yet begun. DND did not mention this fact to the OIC during the first investigation.

Outcome: DND ultimately released the report 18 months after the original access request had been made and 10 months after the promised publication date.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • The delay in releasing the report, and the second investigation in its entirety, could have been avoided if DND had met its basic obligations under the duty to assist to provide an accurate, complete and timely response at the outset.
  • When the information requesters are seeking is to be published, institutions should monitor the situation and follow up with requesters when publication occurs or is to be delayed.
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