FOIA Section 17

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Refusal Notices

  • If a public authority refuses to provide you with the information that you have requested, they must provide you with a "Refusal Notice" outlining their decision, and details as to why they've applied an exemption.
  • There are some occasions where they don't have to fully explain their reasons for refusal - when it may end up disclosing the information requested, or if they have determined that your request is vexatious.
  • The Information Commissioner will investigate complaints if you believe that a public authority has not provided you with a correct refusal notice, although you should always ask the public authority for an internal review first.

What the law says

Section 17. Refusal of request
(1) A public authority which, in relation to any request for information, is to any extent relying on a claim that any provision of Part II relating to the duty to confirm or deny is relevant to the request or on a claim that information is exempt information must, within the time for complying with section 1(1), give the applicant a notice which—
(a) states that fact,
(b) specifies the exemption in question, and
(c) states (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies.
(2) Where—
(a) in relation to any request for information, a public authority is, as respects any information, relying on a claim—
(i) that any provision of Part II which relates to the duty to confirm or deny and is not specified in section 2(3) is relevant to the request, or
(ii) that the information is exempt information only by virtue of a provision not specified in section 2(3), and
(b) at the time when the notice under subsection (1) is given to the applicant, the public authority (or, in a case falling within section 66(3) or (4), the responsible authority) has not yet reached a decision as to the application of subsection (1)(b) or (2)(b) of section 2,the notice under subsection (1) must indicate that no decision as to the application of that provision has yet been reached and must contain an estimate of the date by which the authority expects that such a decision will have been reached.
(3) A public authority which, in relation to any request for information, is to any extent relying on a claim that subsection (1)(b) or (2)(b) of section 2 applies must, either in the notice under subsection (1) or in a separate notice given within such time as is reasonable in the circumstances, state the reasons for claiming—
(a) that, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exclusion of the duty to confirm or deny outweighs the public interest in disclosing whether the authority holds the information, or
(b) that, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
(4) A public authority is not obliged to make a statement under subsection (1)(c) or (3) if, or to the extent that, the statement would involve the disclosure of information which would itself be exempt information.
(5) A public authority which, in relation to any request for information, is relying on a claim that section 12 or 14 applies must, within the time for complying with section 1(1), give the applicant a notice stating that fact.
(6) Subsection (5) does not apply where—
(a) the public authority is relying on a claim that section 14 applies,
(b) the authority has given the applicant a notice, in relation to a previous request for information, stating that it is relying on such a claim, and
(c) it would in all the circumstances be unreasonable to expect the authority to serve a further notice under subsection (5) in relation to the current request.
(7) A notice under subsection (1), (3) or (5) must—
(a) contain particulars of any procedure provided by the public authority for dealing with complaints about the handling of requests for information or state that the authority does not provide such a procedure, and
(b) contain particulars of the right conferred by section 50.
Freedom of Information Act 2000

ICO Lines To Take

Relevant Lines to Take
  • LTT29 - Finding in breach of sections 1, 10 or 17 - 18/01/2011
  • LTT187 - Investigating procedural breaches - gateway line - 18/01/2011
  • LTT101 - Failure to cite specific exemption section number - 15/09/2008
  • LTT69 - Partial breach of s17 - 24/09/2007
  • LTT63 - Failure to specify an exemption / exception on which the PA later relies - 08/07/2007
  • LTT39 - Failure to issue refusal notice in time - 30/03/2007
  • LTT34 - Responses to ‘information not held’ cases - 16/02/2007



Relevant ICO Decision Notices

No Decision Notice provided: s17(1)

Complaints upheld / partly upheld (P) Complaints not upheld

None

Includes DNs up to: 26 April 2010


Did not specify the exemption: s17(1)(b)

Complaints upheld / partly upheld (P) Complaints not upheld

None

Includes DNs up to: 26 April 2010


Did not say why the exemption applied: s17(1)(c)

Complaints upheld / partly upheld (P) Complaints not upheld
  • FS50125293 - King's College London - 25/09/2008
  • FS50193659 - Liverpool Hope University - 15/09/2008
  • FS50168774 - HM Revenue and Customs - 04/08/2008
  • FS50199479 - National Offender Management Service - 28/07/2008
  • FS50198451 - National Offender Management Service - 28/07/2008
  • FS50141374 - Department for Transport - 28/07/2008

None

Includes DNs up to: 26 April 2010


Did not confirm or deny whether they held the information: s17(2)

Complaints upheld / partly upheld (P) Complaints not upheld
  • FER0081530 - Foreign and Commonwealth Office - 30/09/2008

None

Includes DNs up to: 26 April 2010


Did not provide details of, or carry out a Public Interest Test: s17(3)

Complaints upheld / partly upheld (P) Complaints not upheld
  • FS50199479 - National Offender Management Service - 28/07/2008
  • FS50198451 - National Offender Management Service - 28/07/2008
  • FS50150711 - HM Revenue and Customs - 24/07/2008

None

Includes DNs up to: 26 April 2010


Did not say which way the public interest balance went: s17(3)(b)

Complaints upheld / partly upheld (P) Complaints not upheld

None

Includes DNs up to: 26 April 2010


Decision Notice not provided for a Vexatious request, or for one exceeding the allowed costs: s17(5)

Complaints upheld / partly upheld (P) Complaints not upheld

None

Includes DNs up to: 26 April 2010


No information provided for how to request an internal review or complain to the Information Commissioner: s17(7)

Complaints upheld / partly upheld (P) Complaints not upheld

None

Includes DNs up to: 26 April 2010


General: s17

Complaints upheld / partly upheld (P) Complaints not upheld
  • FS50241186 - St Neots Town Council - 26/04/2010
  • FS50249189 - Derbyshire County Council - 19/04/2010
  • FS50212107 - Financial Services Authority - 14/04/2010
  • FS50256704 - Royal Mail - 08/04/2010
  • FS50237887 - Eastleigh Borough Council - 08/04/2010
  • FS50186242 - Thames Valley Police - 31/03/2010
  • FS50218809 - Electoral Commission - 31/03/2010
  • FS50225088 - Ministry of Justice - 31/03/2010
  • FS50089369 - Cabinet Office - 31/03/2010
  • FS50086426 - Cabinet Office - 31/03/2010
  • FS50140361 - Cabinet Office - 31/03/2010
  • FS50142134 - Northern Ireland Office - 30/03/2010
  • FS50121686 - Ministry of Justice - 30/03/2010
  • FS50128567 - Department of Health - 30/03/2010
  • FS50132961 - Ministry of Defence - 30/03/2010
  • FS50136631 - British Nuclear Fuels Limited - 30/03/2010
  • FS50204654 - Foreign and Commonwealth Office - 29/03/2010
  • FS50255373 - Attorney General’s Office - 29/03/2010
  • FS50193661 - Department for Culture, Media and Sport - 29/03/2010
  • FS50211876 - Portsmouth City Council - 25/03/2010
  • FS50129139 - Department for Business, Innovation and Skills - 25/03/2010
  • FS50189595 - Department for Employment and Learning - 25/03/2010
  • FS50183692 - Royal Mail - 25/03/2010
  • FS50278279 - General Medical Council - 25/03/2010
  • FS50205418 - Electoral Commission - 24/03/2010
  • FS50227049 - Attorney General’s Office - 23/03/2010
  • FS50211872 - Valuation Office Agency - 23/03/2010
  • FS50146907 - The Treasury Solicitor's Department (TSOL) - 23/03/2010
  • FS50225815 - Cumbria Constabulary - 23/03/2010
  • FS50227721 - Ministry of Justice - 22/03/2010
  • FS50248665 - Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs - 18/03/2010
  • FS50232320 - Cornwall County Council - 18/03/2010
  • FS50197502 - Cabinet Office - 16/03/2010
  • FS50192677 - Ministry of Defence - 16/03/2010
  • FS50150313 - Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency - 11/03/2010
  • FS50227055 - Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs - 11/03/2010
  • FS50210858 - Department for Work and Pensions - 10/03/2010
  • FS50171231 - British Council - 09/03/2010
  • FS50163207 - British Council - 09/03/2010
  • FS50198230 - Home Office - 09/03/2010
  • FS50164940 - Department for Children, Schools and Families - 04/03/2010
  • FS50194062 - National Savings and Investments - 02/03/2010
  • FS50127519 - Department for Children, Schools and Families - 02/03/2010
  • FS50144197 - Department for Communities and Local Government - 02/03/2010
  • FS50143525 - Department for Culture, Media and Sport - 02/03/2010
  • FS50139606 - Ministry of Defence - 02/03/2010
  • FS50208934 - Ministry of Justice - 02/03/2010
  • FS50124339 - Home Office - 02/03/2010
  • FS50246007 - Serious Fraud Office - 01/03/2010
  • FS50185270 - Department of Health - 01/03/2010... further results

Includes DNs up to: 26 April 2010