Vexatious or Repeated Requests

In certain circumstances, the University may choose not to respond to an FOI or EIRs request which is considered to be "vexatious" or "repeated".

FOISA and EIR provide the following exemptions for responding to requests with these classifications:

  • Vexatious or repeated requests – section 14(1) and 14(2) FOISA: Scottish public authorities are not obliged to comply with requests for information that are vexatious or repeated.
  • Manifestly unreasonable or general requests – regulations 10(4)(b) & (c) EIRs: Scottish public authorities may refuse requests for environmental information that are manifestly unreasonable, while regulation 10(4)(c) justifies refusal where requests are formulated in too general a manner.
  • Frivolous or vexatious applications – section 49(1) FOISA: applies to applications made to the Commissioner under FOISA and the EIRs, and gives the Commissioner the discretion not to reach a decision on an application which, in the Commissioner's opinion, is frivolous or vexatious

Vexatious requests

FOISA does not specifically define "vexatious", however the Scottish Information Commissioner suggests that the following factors may affect the decision to find a request vexatious:

  • it would impose a significant burden on the public authority;
  • it does not have a serious purpose or value;
  • it is designed to cause disruption or annoyance to the public authority;
  • it has the effect of harassing the public authority;
  • it would otherwise, in the opinion of a reasonable person, be considered to be manifestly unreasonable or disproportionate.

Note that the term "vexatious" must be applied to the request and not the requester.


Repeated requests

If a repeat request comes in from an applicant, the University must decide whether a "reasonable period of time has elapsed" between the current request and the prior one(s). If a reasonable amount of time has not passed, then a response does not have to be provided.

The Scottish Information Commissioner suggests considering the following, when determining if a reasonable amount of time has passed:

  • Has the information changed?
  • Have the circumstances surrounding the information changed?

 

The Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner states: 'Public authorities should not use these provisions lightly - applicants cannot be unjustly denied the opportunity to make a genuine information request. Requests may be inconvenient, and meeting them may at times stretch an authority's resources, but these factors are not on their own sufficient to deem a request vexatious or manifestly unreasonable.' 

The University recognises its responsibility to respond where possible, and will assess each request on a case-by-case basis following the Commissioner's guidance on vexatious or repeated requests. As with any exemption, the Data Protection and FOI Office has the final authority on approval of any non-disclosure decision.