Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Frustration over excessive FOI requests

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When requests are made for information under the Freedom of Information Act, a public authority (which includes maintained schools and, probably, academies) has a duty to respond unless there are statutory reasons for refusing.

One of those reasons is that a request is 'vexatious.' Since there is no statutory definition of 'vexatious' the members of the Information Tribunal have been forced to try to define it on their own.

The view is that a request may be vexatious if and when its primary purpose appears to be to cause distress or irritation by requesting information that has already been given or reopening something that has already been considered; using tendentious or offensive language; and placing an unreasonable burden on the authority.

While this is a high standard to meet, it may be helpful to members in some situations to know that a refusal to meet requests for information of these kinds may be supported both by the Information Commissioner and the tribunal.

However, it is only prudent to add that matters may have to continue for some time before the requisite test is met.

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