LTT186 - When a refusal notice is not required in respect of a vexatious request

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Line to take

  • A public authority wishing to rely on s17(6) and avoid the need for a refusal notice must have previously given the applicant a timely refusal notice under s17(5), stating its reliance on s14.
  • It must in all the circumstances be unreasonable for the authority to issue a further notice
  • We would also expect the authority to have told the applicant that it would not respond to further requests of a similar nature or on the same topic


Further Information

Where a public authority deems a request vexatious and hence relies on s14, under s17(5) it must still issue a refusal notice stating that fact within the Si (1) timescale for compliance.

However where there are any further vexatious requests, s17(6) states that there is no need to issue a refusal notice under s17(5) in the following specified circumstances:

(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

Therefore in order for an authority to rely on s17(6) and avoid the need to issue a further refusal notice in response to any further vexatious requests from the same applicant, all the above criteria (a),(b) and (c) must apply


Example

Our decisions in three linked cases involving the same applicant and public authority illustrate our approach, looking at the circumstances of the particular case:

  • In FS50274648 we found that the authority breached s17(5) because it had issued the s14 refusal notice late
  • In FS50308736 and FS50308744 we found that the authority had applied s17(6) appropriately since it had already issued a refusal notice under s17(5) in relation to vexatious requests on the same subject matter, and we agreed that in all the circumstances it would be unreasonable for the authority to have to issue a further notice

We are unlikely to accept that s17(6) applies unless the authority has warned the complainant that further requests on the same or similar topics will not receive a response


Example

In FS50306071 we found that s17(6) had been incorrectly applied in relation to a further request for information from the same applicant. Although the authority had issued a refusal notice under s17(5) in relation to a previous request, it had not indicated that it would treat any request of a similar nature or on a similar topic as vexatious. We considered that it would not have been unreasonable in the circumstances for the authority to have informed the applicant of that. Therefore it was in breach of s17(5).