To me, the most blatant thing in the Climategate emails was the obvious attempts to circumvent legal requirements under the Freedom of Information (FOI) act. It appears the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) agrees, but has found itself powerless to do anything because the University of East Anglia/CRU scientists stonewalled long enough for the statute of limitations to pass. The ICO told the Sunday Times:
The emails which are now public reveal that Mr Holland’s requests under the Freedom of Information Act were not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation. Section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act makes it an offence for public authorities to act so as to prevent intentionally the disclosure of requested information. Mr Holland’s FOI requests were submitted in 2007/8, but it has only recently come to light that they were not dealt with in accordance with the Act.
The legislation requires action within six months of the offence taking place, so by the time the action taken came to light the opportunity to consider a prosecution was long gone. The ICO is gathering evidence from this and other time-barred cases to support the case for a change in the law. It is important to note that the ICO enforces the law as it stands – we do not make it.
This being the case, I find it hard to believe that the UEA's internal investigation will not recommend severe disciplinary action against the UEA scientists involved. Anything less would demonstrate an appalling disregard for the spirit of the Freedom of Information laws.
The ICO leaves open the possibility of action under the Data Protection Act.