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Spicing up the Court with some Planck/Maxwell wave-particle duality

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In Ofcom v Information Commissioner, the Information Tribunal held that radio frequency waves from a BTS antenna qualifies as emission under EIR, which as a consequence, does not qualify for protection from disclosure, even if the information is deemed confidential. The discussion below is hilarious:


Mr Facenna, Counsel for T-Mobile, accepted that radio frequency waves may correctly be characterised as both "energy" and "radiation". He also accepted that it was a correct use of the English language to say that they were “emitted” from a base station. However, he argued that they nevertheless did not constitute "emissions" for the purposes of the EIR because the circumstances in which the EIR came into existence require the word to be given a particularly narrow meaning. Those circumstances were that EIR implemented the Directive which included, in its fifth recital, a statement that it was itself intended to be consistent with the 1998 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters ("the Aarhus Convention ").

Mr Facenna accepted that, even if we accepted that base station radiation should not be treated as "emissions", he was still faced with the presence of the words "energy" and "radiation" in subparagraph (b) of the definition. However, he argued that these two "factors" do not affect, and are not likely to affect, any of the elements of the environment referred to in subparagraph (a). At one stage this proposition seemed to be leading Mr Facenna and Mr Choudhury, Counsel for the Information Commissioner, into a debate on the scientific properties of radio waves. It was agreed that they are capable of having an effect on solid matter they come into contact with (for example, the agitation of the molecules of a piece of meat by microwaves for the purpose of cooking). However, it was debated whether or not they have any effect on the air through which they pass en route to such matter. We do not feel qualified to express any view on whether the less dense molecular structure of air results in all radio wave frequencies passing through it with no effect at all on individual molecules. We do not believe that it is necessary for us to do so. The definition is not intended to set out a scientific test and its words should be given their plain and natural meaning. On that basis we believe that radio wave emissions that pass through the atmosphere from a base station to any solid component of the natural world are likely to affect one or more of the elements listed in subparagraph (a) or the…

For all of these reasons we conclude that "emissions" in both subparagraph (b) of the definition of environmental information and regulation 12(9) should be given its plain and natural meaning and not the artificially narrow one set out in the IPPC Directive. As we have indicated it is accepted, on that basis, that radio wave radiation emanating from a base station is an emission.


It’s really nice to spice up the court with some Planck/Maxwell wave/particle duality Smile