What constitutes a vexatious request under freedom of information legislation? (18 March 2011)

S.14 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (and similarly s.14 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002) provide a exemption to release if a request is a vexatious request.  The term "vexatious" is not defined in either Act, but guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) assists colleges and universities to find a valid approach:

The ICO guidance states that the Commissioner's general approach will be sympathetic towards authorities where a request, which may be the latest in a series of requests, would impose a significant burden and:

  • clearly does not have any serious purpose or value
  • is designed to cause disruption or annoyance
  • has the effect of harassing the public authority
  • can otherwise fairly be characterised as obsessive or manifestly unreasonable.

However, a request for information which should be made available on the public authority's publication will not be vexatious, according the ICO's Line-To-Take guidance LTT65, as publishing what is required under the scheme will never amount to an additional burden.

In relation to the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, guidance on vexatious requests can be found at http://foiwiki.com/foiwiki/index.php/LTT182.

 

Posted on 18/03/2011