Ever wondered how an FOI officer reacts to your FOI request? One man just did…

We’ve all been there. At least, I know I have. You get an email. You’re either infuriated by the contents or by the author – or both – and you decide to let off some steam.

You write, you click send, you realise … you’ve replied to the person who sent the email, rather than forwarding it on to that friendly ear you’d been aiming for.

A quick apology is in order, normally. Fingers crossed the person receiving it calms down quite quickly. The more brazen among us might even try to suggest it was all some sort of wind up, assuming your reply wasn’t too personal.

Yes, it’s awkward, but it could be so much worse … as the FOI officer at the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service found out to his cost this week when dealing with an FOI submitted through Whatdotheyknow?

It all began so well, with an interesting question posed by a member of the public:

alan smith1

His reply came through on time:


Then Mr Smith decided he wasn’t happy with the responses so sent a reply:


Thanks to the fact that email responses to FOI requests sent via Whatdotheyknow appear on the website straight away, the whole world – in theory – had access to what came next:


Oops. The next reply followed soon after, but is proof of my theory that the most pointless invention ever was the ‘recall email’ function:


Followed quite quickly by that very rare thing these days, a prompt apology:


Mr Smith accepted the apology after an initial reply complaining about the comments.

As ‘there but for the grace of God’ situations at work go, it’s right up there – thank goodness those of us who send in FOI requests don’t find ourselves in a position where our emails will be published straight online.

And there’s also a belting story in there for someone, regardless of the email errors…



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