BICESTER Town Council has issued a statement following the outcome of an appeals tribunal between a resident.

ALSO READ: Bicester town council accused of lying to Commissioner in tribunal

The authority was caught out for giving fake evidence in a tribunal case after it failed to respond to multiple requests from resdient Iain Belton.

It said: "Bicester Town Council has now been advised of the outcome of the Appeals tribunal between Mr Belton and the Information Commissioners Office. The Tribunal found that the ICO had wrongly upheld the Town Council view that they had responded to Mr Belton’s FOI request in a timely manner.

"The Judge did however state that the Town Council had responded to the FOI but not in a timely manner.

"The Town Council had provided paper copies of the email and attached letter to the Commissioner’s Office which indicated that a response had been made within the time frame allowed.

"Mr Belton had challenged this through the Commissioner’s Office claiming he had received no such documents and asked for computer generated documents that would contain data showing when they were created.

"On receipt of the appeal from Mr Belton the Commissioner’s Office requested computer generated documents and not scanned copies.

"It is the Proper Officer of the Council who is responsible for dealing with FOI requests and those from the ICO without councillor involvement. At the time of the ICO request for more information the Proper Officer was now on sick leave and was unavailable to assist with this request.

"A search of the IT system was carried out by  both Town Council staff and the IT Contractor which failed to discover any files on either the council email system or word files. The officer who forwarded the original documents to the ICO advised that paper copies were held within the files but these were not acceptable to the Commissioner.

"The Commissioner advised the Town Council that without the computer generated documents as evidence they would consider that on the balance of probabilities they would assume the paper documents were fabricated .

"Without evidence to the contrary the Town Council could not argue further that the documents were genuine.

"To prevent the possibility of this happening in the future the Town Council have instigated a change to the handling of FOI requests and requests from the ICO.

"All future requests will be investigated by the Proper Officer of the council and the results double checked and countersigned by the Chairman of the Policy committee. Such requests will also be reported to the Policy committee at each meeting.

"The Officer responsible is no longer employed by Bicester Town Council."

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