Where a repeated request is received that is identical or substantially similar to a previous request from the same person, The Council will consider this as a repeated request. The Council is not obliged to comply with repeat requests for information, under the FOI Act unless a reasonable interval has elapsed between compliance with the previous request and the making of the current request.
In reaching a decision about whether an application for access should be categorised, as a repeat request the Council will have regard to:
- The time that has elapsed since the previous request;
- Whether the request is identical or substantially similar to the previous request;
- Whether any relevant, new information has been generated since the previous request.
- A ‘reasonable interval’ will be deemed to be 40 working days.
Where a request is refused because it is considered repeated, the Council will issue a written notice within 20 working days of the request. The Council will send out a standard letter stating that the request has been declined on the grounds that it is repeated. The applicant will receive information about the Council’s Internal Review Process. Details of the rights of appeal to the Information Commissioner will also be enclosed.
Where a notice has previously been issued to the applicant that the request is repeated, the Council will not issue a further notice.
The Council is not obliged to comply with vexatious requests under the FOI Act.
The Council will apply the term ‘vexatious’ fairly and consistently.
In determining whether a request should be refused because it is vexatious the Council will consider all the circumstances of the request, including:
- The context and history of requests submitted by an applicant;
- Repeat requests submitted by an applicant (see, ‘Repeat Requests’);
- Whether the request is likely to cause unjustified distress, disruption or irritation.
- Whether the request could fairly be seen as obsessive?
- Whether complying with the request imposes a significant burden?
- Whether an applicant is habitually and persistently submitting requests where there appears to be no reasonable grounds for them to do so
- Whether there is a strong likelihood that such requests are being made to intentionally cause harassment, cause distress to staff, divert resources or to disrupt the proper workings of the Council.
The Council is aware that the term ‘vexatious’ should be applied to the activities of the applicant and not to their nature or attitude. The Council will assess whether a request is vexatious based on the type of information requested and not on the identity of the applicant.
Where a request is refused on the grounds that it is deemed to be vexatious, a written notice from the Council will be issued within 20 working days of receipt of the request.
The Council will send out a standard letter stating that the request has been declined on the grounds that it is vexatious. The applicant will be notified of the internal procedures for dealing with a complaint. Details of the rights of appeal to the Information Commissioner will also be enclosed.
Where a notice has previously been issued to inform the applicant that the request has been classified as vexatious, the Council will neither acknowledge nor answer subsequent requests that are made on the same or similar subject.
Where a request is received and there is a chance it is merely vague rather than vexatious due to a lack of knowledge on the part of the applicant, the Council will clarify with the applicant what is actually required. This may be done by telephone or by providing a written request for clarification.
Where a request is suspected of being vexatious, the Solutions Team will consult with the Head of Legal and Democratic Services before any further action is taken.