Vexatious or repeated requests

Guidance on applying section 14 of FOISA

Under section 14(1) of the Freedom of information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), Scottish public authorities do not have to comply with requests that are vexatious.

Under section 14(2) of FOISA, Scottish public authorities do not have to comply with requests that are repeated.

Although public authorities do not have to comply with vexatious or repeated requests, they cannot simply ignore the requests.In most cases, the authority must notify the requester that their request is being treated as vexatious or repeated.

This briefing also looks at the Commissioner's general approach to frivolous or vexatious applications. Under section 49(1) FOISA, the Commissioner is not required to reach a decision on an application which the Commissioner considers to be frivolous or vexatious.

The provisions in section 14 and 49(1) aim to protect the credibility and effectiveness of freedom of information laws. Most requesters exercise their rights to information responsibly, but there are rare occasions when this is not the case. These provisions provide a way of dealing with the few cases that:

  • are unreasonable;
  • would impose a significant burden on the financial and human resources of public authorities; or
  • are deemed to be vexatious because of other impacts on the authority.

Public authorities should not use the provisions in section 14 lightly. They should consider all the relevant circumstances in order to reach a balanced conclusion as to whether a request is vexatious or repeated.

Requesters must not 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, on their own, are not sufficient grounds for an authority to deem a request vexatious or repeated.

Download the briefing

Vexatious or repeated requests

Environmental information

There is no direct equivalent of vexatious or repeat requests under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (the EIRs). However, under regulation 10(4)(b) of the EIRs, a public authority may refuse to make environmental information available to the extent that the request for information is manifestly unreasonable. The Commissioner has issued separate guidance for public authorities on regulation 10(4)(b) of the EIRs, available in our guidance on the EIRs exceptions.

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