The Denial of Information Act

It seems that Avon & Somerset Constabulary thinks that suspicion of wrong doing by a public body is not in the public interest and therefore any request on the topic of Injury on duty awards is vexatious.  Surprisingly that there has been disclosure up until now but now the questions are getting uncomfortable for them they no longer want answer any … something to hide perhaps?

It seems others are being thwarted by the doors being closure on the Freedom of Information Act.

Is an FOI request from an investigative journalist ever vexatious?

Last week, in the Court of Appeal, the indefatigable, if rather hyperbolic, Mr Dransfield was trying to convince three judges that his request, made long ago, to Devon County Council, for information on Lightning Protection System test results relating to a pedestrian bridge at Exeter Chiefs Rugby Ground, was not vexatious.

Here is what Avon & Somerset Police are saying upon refusing a request on the subject of IODs:

Your requests for information have been considered and I am now informing
you that for the following reasons the Constabulary is not obliged to
supply the information you have requested and will therefore not be
providing the information requested on this occasion.

The Constabulary is obliged under Section 17(5) of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000, when refusing to provide the information requested
to provide you with written confirmation (referred to as a “Notice” under
the Act) to explain that the request(s) have been refused and which
exemptions have been applied and why. This letter constitutes that
“Notice” and will in due course explain the reasons for refusal on this

The Constabulary will not be providing the information requested, as your
requests are deemed vexatious by virtue of Section 14(1). Section 14(1) of
the Freedom of Information Act states: Section 1(1) does not oblige a
public authority to comply with a request for information if the request
is vexatious. The term ‘vexatious’ is not defined in the Act, but guidance
from the Information Commissioner outlines this as requests which cause an
undue burden and can be viewed as either obsessive, harassing to the
public authority or its staff, designed to cause disruption or annoyance
or is lacking any serious purpose or value.
For your information, the Information Commissioner has published guidance
with examples, concerning vexatious requests and I would suggest the below
as a useful reference should you wish to read more on this subject


It is important in such matters to consider the wider picture.  Deciding
whether a request is vexatious is a balancing exercise, taking into
account the context and history of the requests. The key question is
whether the request is likely to cause distress, or disruption, without
any proper or justified cause.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary as you know, has commenced reviewing injury
on duty pensions.  These reviews have caused a great deal of concern
amongst those former officers currently receiving an injury on duty
pension, as this has the potential to affect their income.  Initially 16
former officers are due to be reviewed and after that it will be a rolling
programme of reviews.

These reviews have generated a great deal of interest from numerous
individuals.  Nearly all of these, like yours, have been generated via the
Whatdotheyknow website. The Constabulary has formed the opinion that the
flood of emails is a deliberate and orchestrated campaign against the
Force. Your request is one of 118 requests currently being processed by
the Constabulary. In total the Constabulary has received 189 such
requests, totalling 492 questions.

To date the Constabulary has been responding to requests of this nature.
However it is apparent each response is generating further questions, the
requests are all similar in nature, with some lacking any serious purpose
or value other than to overwhelm or harass the Constabulary.  In addition
to this a small number of other questions have also been posed by the same
individuals concerning seemingly un-associated subjects such as the
Freedom of Information process.  These are also considered to form part of
a campaign against the Force to cause disruption as the individuals
history only extends otherwise to IOD related questions in the recent

We are experiencing significantly high volumes of requests at this time,
and even so these requests alone make up 49% of our current volume. This
has put a significant burden on the Constabulary. As you know there is a
legislative requirement to respond to requests within 20 working days. In
order to respond to these requests would adversely affect our ability to
meet the legal requirements for the other requests we are currently
dealing with.

The application of this exemption, under the terms of the Act is designed
to protect forces from requestors that abuse freedom of information in an
attempt to disrupt or impact on the delivery of public functions.  It is
the Constabulary’s opinion that the volume and frequency of these requests
show a clear intention to deliberately disrupt the Constabulary, imposing
a significant burden. These requests have become obsessive in nature.  Any
reasonable person would regard the volume and frequency of these requests
as harassing the authority, irrespective of whether that was personally
your intention.

There is a public interest in the public being assured that the force is
spending its funding wisely.  The Constabulary and the Police Crime
Commissioner each have a Chief Financial Officer who has a statutory role
under section 151 of the local government act 1972 Act that requires them
to have a fiduciary duty to local taxpayers to ensure that monies are used
efficiently and effectively.

The application of this exemption will not disadvantage those going
through the review process as they are able to direct any questions they
may have to the appropriate individuals. In addition there is information
already in the public domain concerning these reviews.

The most common theme of the Injury on Duty pensions requests received by
the Force are associated with the members of staff and independent Doctor
involved in the review process, for example requesting all email, written,
correspondence, diary appointments, qualifications of those individuals,
and in most cases, once the information is provided, numerous questions
about those disclosures are received from the same group of individuals,
similar or identical in wording. This information serves no public
interest, and is viewed that its only purpose is to disrupt the
Constabulary adversely affecting our ability to deliver public functions.
Our figures show a steady increase of these requests, and as the reviews
continue, there does not appear to be an end point. Although the Avon and
Somerset Constabulary is a relatively large organisation the size of the
organisation is not a reliable indicator of capacity in relation to
Freedom of Information. The requests are about a single topic which is
dealt with by a relatively small part of the organisation ie Human
Resources and Occupational Health. It is not a practical resolution for
these areas to be resourced to assist with the requests. In addition
occupational health files are confidential and only accessible by staff
from the unit – staff not connected with the unit cannot be given access
to them due to patient confidentiality. In some cases these are the files
that need or be accesses to provide the FOI responses.  Capacity is
therefore limited and cannot be expanded.

The ability of both HR and Occupational Health to perform their business
tasks has been undermined to the extent that service delivery has been
adversely affected.

As described above these requests have caused a disproportionate and
unjustified level of disruption, in that we will no longer be able to
respond to our other freedom of information requests within the
legislative timeframe. In addition the services provided by our Human
Resources department, Occupational Health, and Force Medical Advisor had
been inhibited as a result.  This most certainly is not in the public

As we believe that the vexatious criteria are met in this case, we will
not be responding to this or any further similar requests.  As per section
17(6) further refusal notices will not be issued.

Yours sincerely

C Quartey

Freedom of Information Officer

Corporate Information Management Department

The Denial of Information Act