The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has launched the third topic in its FoI toolkit to enable public authorities to self-assess how they deal with vexatious freedom of information requests.
The five-module self-assessment course guides FoI practitioners through considering an organisation’s current position, understanding when the provision can be relied on and concludes with learning on how to improve compliance.
Each module can be completed in stages, and generates a report providing overall ratings, suggested actions, and links to relevant ICO guidance.
The FoI Act includes a provision that does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious. That means whether an information request is likely to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress.
The toolkit – which currently also includes topics on timeliness and exemptions due to cost – forms part of a growing suite of resources the ICO has developed following commitments made in ICO25 to improve its FoI services.
Deborah Clark, ICO FoI upstream regulation manager said: “Analysis of our data shows the application of the vexatious provision leads to the third highest number of complaints we receive each year. This, along with listening to feedback from practitioners, drove our commitment to produce this topic to help public authorities understand how to correctly apply the provision.
“The toolkit is part of our growing resources aimed at supporting public authorities achieve good practice, improve openness and transparency, and build public trust and confidence in the decisions they make.”
The ICO said the toolkit was tested with a group of FoI practitioners who provided input for improvement. This process is being expanded with the launch of an Upstream feedback group. Practitioners can apply here to join this group.