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Do documents have to be released at the same time a decision is notified?

Not always. An agency must withhold release of documents until outstanding charges are paid and third party review rights have run out. An agency may also decide to defer access in certain circumstances. The agency must tell the applicant the reason and how long the period of deferment will be. See s 21 and Part 8 of the Guidelines.

Otherwise, agencies and ministers should ensure that access is provided as soon as practical after the decision is made. For large requests it is open to an agency and an applicant to consult and agree on a staggered approach to release of documents.

Do agencies need to check with the Information Commissioner whether third parties have sought review before giving the applicant access?

Yes. To minimise the possibility of dispute about the correctness or timing of a decision to release information where a third party objects, agencies and ministers are advised to check first with the Information Commissioner as to whether any review proceedings are in progress. See Part 8 of the Guidelines.