When to refuse to confirm or deny
Scheduled public authorities (SPAs) can respond to a freedom of information request by refusing to confirm or deny that exempt information is being held. This is called a ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) response.
This is applicable if even confirming or denying that the requested information is held would be sensitive, damaging and not in the public interest. An NCND response is more likely for very specific requests rather than for more general or wide-ranging requests. It needs to be worded carefully to avoid revealing exempt information.
The SPA must use an NCND response consistently, every time a certain type of information is requested, regardless of whether the information is held or not.
The decision to neither confirm nor deny is separate from a decision not to disclose information and needs to be taken entirely on its own merits.
Note: keeping good records is essential. The SPA should be able to explain why it’s appropriate to provide an NCND response and carefully document the decision-making process. Whilst the rationale for that decision doesn’t need to be disclosed to the applicant, it may be required if the applicant seeks to appeal the decision.
You can read more detail about when to refuse to confirm or deny in our guide. It will help you to fully understand your obligations, maintain consistency and promote good practice.