Alan Dransfield's Blog

Alan Dransfield's Blog

Freedom of Information and Health and Safety

This blog is aimed at shaming those who ignore health and safety and those who abuse the Freedom of Information Act out of laziness, corruption or to cover up incompetence.

No transparency at the Information Commissioner's Office

Information CommissionerPosted by Sheila Oliver Tue, July 02, 2013 18:18:37

Request for Information

Dear Mr Dransfield

Further to our acknowledgement, we are now in a position to provide you with a response to your request for information dated 31 May 2013.

As you know we have dealt with your request in accordance with your ‘right to know’ under section 1(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), which entitles you to be provided with a copy of any information ‘held’ by a public authority, unless an appropriate exemption applies.

Request

In your e-mail of 31 May 2013 you asked us to provide you with the following information:

‘Please provide me with the following information related to the recent publication of the New 37 Page Vexatious Request documentation, published 15th May2013.

1.Who made the final decision that New Criteria and guidance was required.

2.Copies of all letters, emails ,internal memos on any related issue with the New 37 Page document.

3.Total Costs for the documentation

4.Who from the ICO authorised this document.

5.Was the 37 page document reviewed by the ICO Legal Department, if so please provided the approved Legal Advisor's signature.

6. Did the ICO consult any 3rd parties on this new vexatious document, if so please provide copies of such consultation.

7. Did the ICO consult the Upper Tribunal or the Department of Justice before they published the 37 page vexatious guidelines, if so please provide letter or email both ways.

8. Please provide any documentation or instruction you may hold which Authorises ICO Officers or ICO Barristers to Compile Final Decision Notices for approval signatures of the Upper Tribunals Final Decision Notices.’

Response to request

In this instance we have decided to refuse to provide you with the information you are requesting under section 14(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). This refusal has been made having carefully considered the ICO’s new and recently published guidance on the application of section 14 FOIA,

http://www.ico.org.uk/for_organisations/guidance_index/~/media/documents/library/Freedom_of_Information/Detailed_specialist_guides/dealing-with-vexatious-requests.ashx

Section 14 of FOIA is intended to protect public authorities from those who might abuse the right to request information. It states:

‘14.—(1) Section 1(1) does not oblige a public authority to comply
with a request for information if the request is vexatious.’


The ICO’s new guidance explains that when deciding on whether or not a request is vexatious, the key question to be asked is, ‘…whether the request is likely to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress.’

There can be a number of indicators which point to a request being vexatious. Further to these, a public authority is able to take into account its previous dealings with a requestor.

In this situation we believe that there is an over-arching theme which runs through a number of your requests to the ICO. At least 12 of your requests, in the ICO’s opinion, can be linked to this theme.

You made a complaint to us regarding Devon County Council’s (DCC) decision to apply section 14(1) FOIA to a request of yours. This complaint led to the issuing of a decision notice under section 50 FOIA, upholding the application of section 14(1) by DCC. You subsequently appealed to the First-Tier Tribunal, which upheld your appeal. The ICO appealed that decision to the Upper Tribunal, it upheld the ICO’s appeal.

All 12 of these requests relate either directly to your original complaint, to the subsequent appeals, to those involved in the complaint and appeals process and to the ICO’s relationship and dealings with the Information Rights Tribunal (please see appendix at the end of this response for the full list of requests). Ultimately all of these requests stem from your dissatisfaction with the decisions in relation to your complaint made to the ICO and Upper Tribunal and your belief that the ICO’s application of section 14(1) FOIA is incorrect and, as you have stated, our newly produced guidance is unlawful.

Your persistence in this matter, despite the binding conclusion of the Upper Tribunal, can be fairly characterised as an attempt to re-open an issue that has clearly already been dealt with. This is particularly the case when considering the legal standing of the Upper Tribunal’s decision and the fact that to some extent it has informed our new guidance on section 14 FOIA.

Further to this, you have made complaints about the conduct of the members of staff at the ICO who dealt with your complaint and the appeals process, none of which have been substantiated. It is clear that such complaints could cause irritation and distress to those individuals to which the complaints relate. For example, in an email of yours to a member of the ICO’s legal department, Richard Bailey, of 4 June 2012 you stated the following:

I wish to introduce the Fraud Act 2006 for my forthcoming TEST CASE and I seek the UT permission to use it please.
The Fraud Act 2006 is relevant to the TEST CASE because there is prima facie evidence on record that BOTH the ICO Solicitor Richard Bailey and the DCC have knowingly and wilfully submitted false and misleading information to the Upper Tribunal to assist the passage of fraud by the DCC and to Pervert the Course of Justice.’


This can be seen further in the way you have corresponded with staff, using language which goes beyond that which is necessary. For example, in an email to the ICO of 9 October 2012, you wrote the following:

‘I don't wish you to respond to me Sir, I wish you to elevate my complaint against Richard Bailey and YOU to your Line Manager, that is assuming you do have a superior and don't answer directly to GOD??!!’

Although this is not overtly offensive, in that it does not use profane language, the tone can perhaps be viewed as at least disrespectful.

Although you clearly believe that your complaints are valid with regards to these individuals and the conclusion of the complaint process, your persistence and your inability to accept our decision, one which has been accepted by an independent body (the Upper Tribunal) has eroded what serious purpose there was to your requests.

Following on from this, the necessity of the ICO’s Information Governance department having to deal with continued requests on this theme, despite the erosion of their serious purpose and when it is clear that the answers which are provided are not accepted, is having a detrimental impact on the ability of Information Governance to carry out its day-to-day work. It takes staff away from core work which they could be doing.

It is for these reasons that the ICO believes your request to be vexatious and as such, we do not feel we are obliged to respond to it.

I would also like to point out that any further requests which relate to the theme identified in this refusal notice, will remain unanswered.


Review Procedure

I hope this response sets out clearly our position in relation to this request. If you are dissatisfied with the response you have received and wish to request a review of our decision or make a complaint about how your request has been handled you should write to the Information Governance Department at the address below or e-mail mailto:informationgovernance@ico.gsi.gov.uk

Your request for internal review should be submitted to us within 40 working days of receipt by you of this response. Any such request received after this time will only be considered at the discretion of the Commissioner.

If having exhausted the review process you are not content that your request or review has been dealt with correctly, you have a further right of appeal to this office in our capacity as the statutory complaint handler under the legislation. To make such an application, please write to the First Contact Team, at the address below or visit the ‘Complaints’ section of our website to make a Freedom of Information Act or Environmental Information Regulations complaint online.

A copy of our review procedure is available here.

Yours sincerely



Richard Sisson
Lead Information Governance Officer
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.
www.ico.gov.uk




















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