Access records is a request for access to a case or documents filed with the authorities. Everyone can request to access records in cases subject to laws on freedom of information.
What is access records?
Access records gives you access to details and information regarding cases that are subject to laws on freedom of information. Fundamentally, this means that you can read and access public documents regarding agreements and cases involving public institutions, hereunder the state, regional and local governments.
Everyone is entitled to seek access records. There are no requirements regarding age, nationality or other. You neither have to give reasons for why you want to look into a specific case, nor do you have to have been personally involved in the case. If you request privileged access records for a case you are personally involved in, you will usually be allowed access to even more information.
In order to protect individual citizens’ privacy, you can usually not gain access to records of cases regarding other individuals’ private circumstances, unless you have a power of attorney granted by them or have other special rights to do so. Authorities will evaluate any request for access records, even if the respective cases do not fall under freedom of information laws. Here, the principle of additional access comes into play.
Denmark’s Freedom of Information Act as example
The Danish Freedom of Information Act entered into force in 2014, with the goal of creating more openness and transparency with public institutions. § 7 of the law made it possible for common citizens to request access records to documents received or drawn up by public institutions. It is used especially by journalists, that need to access documents in order to present relevant information to the broader public.
The Freedom of Information Act grants you the right to request access records for cases involving:
- State authorities
- Regional authorities
- Local authorities
- Unlisted companies that are more than 75 percent publicly owned
- Companies, institutions etc., that form agreements on behalf of the public
There are, however, certain requirements that have to be met, when requesting access records.
How do you request access records?
When requesting access records, you have to contact the authority in possession of the relevant information, to begin with. If the documents are accessible in more than one place, it is of no regard, which authority you choose to contact.
If it concerns a case that has been ruled on, you can only request access at the authority that issued the ruling. They are then required to acquire all relevant documents from other authorities. The request itself can be filed by telephone, email, letter or in person.
You do not have to explain the reasons why you are looking for specific information - or what you need them for. However, you have to be very precise about what records you want to access. That way, you can ensure that you only receive relevant documents and information.
It is also possible to request access records regarding more general topics, which allows for a broader search. This could be a certain time period or an overarching thematic area. A broad theme can slow the process down, however, and present you with a plethora of information irrelevant to your research.
How do I get access to records?
You can acquire access records in different ways. This could be by reading through relevant documents or copying them, e.g. If you have difficulty understanding the content, you can also ask for assistance going through them.
All cases have a journal overview, also referred to as a document list. It is usually a good idea to begin with requesting access to this list, so you can indicate the relevant documents more easily.
Time limit for access records
When requesting access records, the authority has to reply within seven work days after receiving your request. If your case is more extensive or complex, exceptions can be made regarding the time limit.
If the time limit can not be met, you have to be given a reason for the missed deadline and information on when your request is likely to be processed.
Privileged access records - access to your own case
Privileged access is more extensive than usual. This is due to it being requested for cases involving yourself - or a person over whom you have special rights. This could be through a power of attorney given to you, or if you request access records to a case regarding your own minor children.
Privileged access records is more extensive, because you are granted access to information regarding yourself, which is usually not public. This includes any information regarding all the circumstances directly impacted by an authorities ruling in a case. This way, you can familiarize yourself with all relevant information in a case you are involved in.
For instance, if you have applied for financial support, a form of welfare, sick leave benefits, unemployment benefits or counsel and support for your children you can request privileged access records.
Authorities, such as municipalities, are required to note all relevant information, significant actions and agreements. However, there are exceptions to what you are allowed to access. This applies, if the case files contain details about people other than yourself or internal work documents produced by employees for themselves, e.g.
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Disclaimer: This overview is for informational purposes only and cannot be counted as legal advice.