Legislation and access to PRONI records
The Public Records Act (NI) 1923
The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is governed by The Public Records Act (NI) 1923, which established PRONI as the place of deposit for public records, defined the context of public records, and created the roles of Keeper and Deputy Keeper of the Records. It also permitted PRONI to accept records from private sources.
This primary legislation also enabled the creation of specific subordinate legislation relating to the disposal of public records, management of the record office and access to the records.
The Disposal of Documents Order, 1925
The 1925 Disposal of Documents Order sets out how PRONI and government departments should deal with the disposal of public records once their business need comes to an end.
The Imperial Records Order, 1925
The Imperial Records Order of 1925 sets out how PRONI, the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service, Department of Justice and the Northern Ireland Office should deal with the disposal of Imperial records once their business need comes to an end. This includes certain classes of Court Records and those records which relate to excepted or reserved matters.
The Public Use of the Records (Management and Fees) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2016
The Public Use of the Records (Management and Fees) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2016 set out rules relating to the management of PRONI and access to the records, and include a Schedule of Fees for optional goods and services offered in addition to the free public access to records provided onsite. See (insert are there any fees and charges link) for further information.
The Court Files Privileged Access Rules (NI) 2016
The Court Files Privileged Access Rules (Northern Ireland) 2016 enable relatives and victims of the Northern Ireland conflict to contact PRONI to find out if we hold a particular court record. The process under the 2016 Rules allows individuals privileged access to information in court files provided they sign an Undertaking that they will keep the released files confidential. Applicants can either request access to information themselves, or they can appoint a legal representative or charity to receive the information on their behalf. See (add Conflict related court records webpage link) for further information.
General Legislation which affects PRONI and access to records
In addition to the legislation specific to PRONI, there are several other pieces of legislation that PRONI, as a public body, must adhere to:
The Freedom of Information Act, 2000
The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 came into force on 1 January 2005. The Act gives members of the public the legal right to access information held by a public authority. Changes to legislation: Freedom of Information Act 2000, Section 46 is up to date with all changes known to be in force on or before 27 March 2018.
The Lord Chancellor’s Code of Practice, 2000
The Lord Chancellor’s Code of Practice under section 46 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 sets out what the Lord Chancellor requires from public authorities as they carry out their duties in relation to the Freedom of Information Act.
The aims of the code are twofold:
- the first aim is to provide a suitable set of practices in relation to the creation, management and disposal of public records
- the second deals with the arrangements for reviewing and transferring the records to a place of deposit once their administrative use has come to an end
The General Data Protection Regulation and The Data Protection Act 2018
You can see how PRONI handles personal data on the DfC Privacy Notice.
Environmental Information Regulations, 2004
The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 give rights of access to environmental information under terms similar to Freedom of Information.
Temporary Suspension of Historic Freedom of Information Requests
From 28 October 2022, PRONI will be temporarily suspending the completion of Freedom of Information and the Court Files Privileged Access Rules requests, in the absence of the 'appropriate Northern Ireland Minister', that is the Minister for the Department for Communities.
The Department for Communities does not have the authority to complete the necessary consultation process with the Responsible Authority for transferred closed public records in the absence of a Minister, subject to section 15(5) and section 66(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).
Decisions to disclose information through the Court Files Privileged Access Rules (2016) were taken by the designated Minister for the Department for Communities. PRONI is therefore not able to progress these requests in the absence of a Minister.
PRONI will commence FOIA and Court Files Privileged Access Rules requests once a Minister has been appointed.
If you wish to make a complaint about the temporary suspension of FOIA requests, please contact the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).