The university at the center of the climate change scandal over stolen e-mails broke the law by refusing to hand over its raw data for public scrutiny.
The University of East Anglia breached Britain's Freedom of Information Act by refusing to comply with requests for data concerning claims by its scientists that man-made emissions were causing global warming.
The Information Commissioner's Office decided that UEA failed in its duties under the act but said that it could not prosecute those involved because the complaint was made too late, The Times of London has learned. The ICO is now seeking to change the law to allow prosecutions if a complaint is made more than six months after a breach.
The stolen e-mails, revealed on the eve of the Copenhagen summit, showed how the university's Climatic Research Unit attempted to thwart requests for scientific data and other information, and suggest that senior figures at the university were involved in decisions to refuse the requests. It is not known who stole the e-mails.
Professor Phil Jones, the unit's director, stood down while an inquiry took place. The ICO's decision could make it difficult for him to resume his post.
Details of the breach emerged the day after John Beddington, the Chief Scientific Adviser, warned that there was an urgent need for more honesty about the uncertainty of some predictions. His intervention followed admissions from scientists that the rate of glacial melt in the Himalayas had been grossly exaggerated.
In one e-mail, Professor Jones asked a colleague to delete e-mails relating to the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.