FOIA Section 21 Exemption

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Section 21: Information Accessible By Other Means

Section 21 applies to information that is already reasonably accessible to the applicant. It recognises that the right of access under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 is supplementary to the very many ways in which public authorities already provide information to members of the public. For example, section 21 will apply if information is included on a public authority's publication scheme or if the public authority is under a statutory obligation to give out the information to members of the public on request.

Key points

  • The question is whether the information is reasonably accessible to the applicant: public authorities need to be alert to any attributes of an individual applicant which may mean that information is more or less accessible to him than it is to the public at large;
  • Section 21 may apply even if a fee is charged for supplying the information;
  • Where information is exempt under section 21, the Act does not allow a public authority to 'neither confirm nor deny' that fact.
  • Section 21 is not subject to any public interest balance.

Crown Copyright

MoJ Guidance.

Official Guidance

What the law says

21 Information accessible to applicant by other means

(1) Information which is reasonably accessible to the applicant otherwise than under section 1 is exempt information.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)—
(a) information may be reasonably accessible to the applicant even though it is accessible only on payment, and
(b) information is to be taken to be reasonably accessible to the applicant if it is information which the public authority or any other person is obliged by or under any enactment to communicate (otherwise than by making the information available for inspection) to members of the public on request, whether free of charge or on payment.
(3) For the purposes of subsection (1), information which is held by a public authority and does not fall within subsection (2)(b) is not to be regarded as reasonably accessible to the applicant merely because the information is available from the public authority itself on request, unless the information is made available in accordance with the authority’s publication scheme and any payment required is specified in, or determined in accordance with, the scheme.

ICO Lines To Take

Relevant Lines to Take
  • LTT143 - Reasonably accessible information - 27/09/2010
  • LTT37 - Access to medical records of the deceased - 15/05/2009
  • LTT22 - Accessibility of court records - 01/05/2009
  • LTT151 - Examples where information is accepted as reasonably accessible to the applicant - 24/03/2009
  • LTT119 - Inter-relation between s21 & s39 FOIA and the EIRs - 08/11/2008
  • LTT107 - No prejudice / adverse effect test for class based exemptions / exceptions - 20/06/2008
  • LTT65 - Vexatious request for published information - 08/07/2007
  • LTT26 - Reasonably accessible information and publication schemes - 21/05/2007
  • LTT25 - Inspection as a form of publication - 12/11/2006
  • LTT27 - Audit Commission Act 1998 - 12/11/2006


Related Information Commissioner / Information Tribunal Decision notices

FS50140361: Information not reasonably accessible where it was a newspaper article whose title was not known to the applicant.


Complaints upheld / partly upheld (P) Complaints not upheld
  • FS50140361(P) - Cabinet Office - 31/03/2010
  • FS50146907 - The Treasury Solicitor's Department (TSOL) - 23/03/2010
  • FS50198230 - Home Office - 09/03/2010
  • FS50206324 - Home Office - 01/03/2010
  • FS50164902 - Home Office - 03/02/2010
  • FS50085720 - Cabinet Office - 22/12/2009
  • FS50140374 - University of Central Lancashire - 30/03/2009
  • FS50083726(P) - Foreign and Commonwealth Office - 05/03/2009
  • FS50127256 - Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service - 14/10/2008
  • FS50106800(P) - Metropolitan Police Service - 20/08/2008
  • FS50104541 - Health and Safety Executive - 21/07/2008
  • FS50129143 - HM Revenue and Customs - 14/07/2008
  • FS50150536 - Hampshire County Council - 02/01/2008
  • FS50118883 - Ministry of Justice - 16/10/2007
  • FS50154362 - Transport for London - 25/07/2007
  • FS50117954 - Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council - 19/06/2007
  • FS50073646 - Ministry of Justice - 05/06/2007
  • FS50118044 - Leeds City Council - 10/04/2007
  • FS50135471 - Brockhampton Group Parish Council - 29/03/2007
  • FS50115610 - Monitor - 12/12/2006
  • FS50087563(P) - Metropolitan Police Service - 20/09/2006
  • FS50072190 - Bexley Council - 25/07/2006
  • FS50086060 - North Yorkshire Constabulary - 20/07/2006
  • FS50065043 - Metropolitan Ambulance Service - 31/05/2006
  • FS50075171 - Transport for London - 05/05/2006
  • FS50204620 - Sport England - 15/02/2010
  • FS50154684 - Department for Culture, Media and Sport - 15/12/2009
  • FS50202116 - HM Treasury - 14/12/2009
  • FS50242937 - Office of Communications - 14/12/2009
  • FS50073464 - South Yorkshire Police - 16/03/2009
  • FS50175530 - Staffordshire County Council - 24/02/2009
  • FS50147637 - Financial Services Authority - 26/06/2008
  • FS50177655 - Commission for Local Administration in England - 25/03/2008
  • FS50165280 - Bletchingley Parish Council - 25/02/2008
  • FS50113234 - Northern Ireland Court Service - 28/01/2008
  • FS50084349 - Ministry of Justice - 20/11/2007
  • FS50108122 - Birmingham City Council - 19/11/2007
  • FS50150319 - Cabinet Office - 27/09/2007
  • FS50082559 - Cabinet Office - 13/08/2007
  • FS50093058 - Great Sankey Parish Council - 07/08/2007
  • FS50136185 - Great Sankey Parish Council - 07/08/2007
  • FS50081276 - Ministry of Justice - 30/07/2007
  • FS50144286 - Brockhampton Group Parish Council - 25/06/2007
  • FS50063318 - Bury Metropolitan Borough Council - 29/03/2007
  • FS50127442 - Liverpool Womens NHS Foundation Trust - 19/02/2007
  • FS50092946 - Canterbury City Council - 07/02/2007
  • FS50128269 - Royal Surrey County Hospital - 05/02/2007
  • FS50063716 - Royal Surrey County Hospital - 20/12/2006
  • FS50086317 - HM Treasury - 05/10/2006
  • FS50073980 - Ministry of Defence - 19/04/2006
  • FS50066313 - Department of Trade and Industry - 24/10/2005
  • FS50063907 - Hertfordshire County Council - 25/08/2005

Includes DNs up to: 26 April 2010


External links



Freedom of Information Act 2000
Exemptions
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