Key Issue: Balancing Freedom of Information with Vexatious Requests in Howard Liu v The Information Commissioner

Citation: [2023] UKFTT 938 (GRC)
Judgment on

Introduction

The case law summary of Howard Liu v The Information Commissioner provides a rich discussion on the application of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the legal principles surrounding vexatious requests. This analysis will delve into the key topics discussed in the summary, elucidating on the legal principles applied in the case.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The FOIA is a central theme in this case. The Act provides the public with a right to access information held by public authorities. However, this right is not absolute, and section 14(1) of the FOIA was invoked in this case to deny the appellant’s request. This section allows a public authority to refuse to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious.

Vexatious Requests

The case law summary provides an in-depth discussion on the legal definition of vexatiousness. A request can be deemed vexatious if it is disruptive, threatening, or part of a concerted campaign to disrupt the services of a public authority. The court referenced a previous case, stating that the purpose of section 14 of FOIA is to protect the resources of public authorities from being wasted on disproportionate use of FOIA.

Indicators of Vexatiousness

The summary also outlines the indicators that may be useful in identifying vexatious requests. These include abusive language, personal grudges, and unreasonable persistence. In this case, the appellant’s persistence despite clear evidence and the burden the request placed on the public authority were factors that led to the request being deemed vexatious.

Public Interest and Legitimate Requests

The appellant argued that there was a legitimate public interest in the information requested. However, the court found that the lack of value in the request outweighed any public interest. This highlights the balance that must be struck between the public’s right to access information and the need to protect public authorities from vexatious requests.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the case law summary of Howard Liu v The Information Commissioner provides a detailed exploration of the application of the FOIA and the principles surrounding vexatious requests. The case underscores the need for a careful balance between the public’s right to access information and the protection of public authorities from disruptive or burdensome requests.

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