RSPB - 515/12
Dated: 31 Jul 2015
Date of request: 18/06/2012
Date of response: 19/07/2012
Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')(FOIA)
Thank you for your email dated 18 June 2012 in which you made a request for access to certain information which may be held by Northumbria Police.
As you may be aware the purpose of the Act is to allow a general right of access to information held by a Public Authority (including the Police), subject to certain limitations and exemptions.
Please supply any information that you hold in relation to problems with the RSPB and any information that relates to any employees of the RSPB being removed and replaced in any recent active criminal cases.
Please supply any information that you hold that covers any Investigations into employees of the RSPB.
Please supply all of the communications between the police and the RSPB in the last 2 years
If you do not have the information who will the information?
After clarification was sought regarding timescales for question 1 you confirmed 'recent' as being for the past 5 years, and for question 2 also for the past 5 year period.
We have now had the opportunity to fully consider your request and I provide a response for your attention.
Whilst it is the duty to provide advice and assistance where possible, a public authority is not obliged to respond to requests that can be classed as repetitive or vexatious in nature as explained in Section 14 of the Act.
Section 14 (1) - Vexatious Requests
Section 14 (1) does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious.
Whilst not at first apparent, upon further review, it is clear that this request is linked to other requests made by you and members of a group acting in concert.
Under the provision of the Act, an authority must process a request in writing from a named applicant under the terms and conditions of the legislation.
Previous requests relating to the RSPB and birds of prey both from you and others have been fairly declared as vexatious. Whilst giving the maximum support to individuals seeking to exercise the right to know, the Information Commissioner's general approach will be sympathetic towards authorities where a request, which may be the latest in a series of requests, can be characterised as obsessive or manifestly unreasonable. It is also noted that you have in the past submitted an identical request to another request submitted by a member of the group.
The Information Commissioner's guidance states that "There is a risk that some individuals and some organisations may seek to abuse these new rights with requests which are manifestly unreasonable. Such cases may well arise in connection with a grievance or complaint which an individual is pursuing against an authority." The Information Commissioner has also stated that using the FOI to re-open or prolong disputes is clearly inappropriate and the examination of the previous history of the applicant and their requests to the public authority is also very relevant to making an individual vexatious.
The Information Commissioner has also stated that when considering Section 14 of the Act, the general principles of the FOI that the identity of the requester is irrelevant, and that FOI is purpose blind, cannot apply. Identity and purpose can be very relevant in determining whether a request is vexatious. This means that even if the request appears reasonable in isolation, it may be vexatious if it demonstrates a continuation of behaviour which is obsessive. The group has submitted a large number of requests on this and related subjects to a number of public authorities. Many of these requests are freely available to view via the whatdotheyknow web-site. A number of those requests have been declared as vexatious.
You have previously submitted a request to Northumbria Police regarding the RSPB, that request was identical to an enquiry submitted by another individual. This is a clear indication that you are acting in concert with other members of a group. The requests that have been submitted, including this one are a continuation of previous requests that have been determined as being vexatious. The use of the Freedom of Information Act to recycle similar issues and points that have already been made is inherently obsessive. This is clear upon review of the many requests made on this subject by the members of your group. You and other applicants have previously been advised that similar requests would not be acknowledged or answered.
It is also noted that when responses have been supplied to previous requests surrounding this subject matter, the response inevitably led to further requests being submitted. This had the effect of perpetuating the requests and adding to the burden placed on the resources of the Force. This shows a pattern of behaviour that can fairly be classed as obsessive.
Requests on this subject can also be classed as causing disruption to the normal operations of the Force. This is due to such requests that inevitably repeatedly return to an issue concerning an operation carried out, these are likely to cause disruption and annoyance to the public authority.
Whilst the tone of this request is not accusatory in nature, it is noted that previous requests submitted by the group have been accusatory in nature and can be classed as designed to harass staff. The history of the requests can fairly be taken into account when considering whether a request is vexatious.
This subject area has been the subject of a Decision Notice from the Information Commissioner's Office. The Decision Notice is freely available to view via the Information Commissioner's web-site (Reference FS50274648).
This request has beeen classed as vexatious under section 14(1) of the Act, subsequent requests submitted on this or related subjects will neither be acknowledged or responded to.
You should consider this to be a refusal notice under Section 17 of the Act for your request.
You may be interested to know that Northumbria Police routinely publish information that has been disclosed by Northumbria Police in response to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 via the Disclosure Log. The aim of the Disclosure Log is to promote openness and transparency by voluntarily placing information into the public arena.
Whilst it is not possible to publish all responses we will endeavour to publish those where we feel that the information disclosed is in the public interest. The Disclosure Log will be updated once responses have been sent to the requester. I have provided the relevant link below:-
The information we have supplied to you is likely to contain intellectual property rights of Northumbria Police. Your use of the information must be strictly in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (as amended) or such other applicable legislation. In particular, you must not re-use this information for any commercial purpose.
How to complain
If you are unhappy with our decision or do not consider that we have handled your request properly and we are unable to resolve this issue informally, you are entitled to make a formal complaint to us underour complaints procedure which can be found at:http://www.northumbria.police.uk/foi/disclosurelog/foicomprights.asp
If you are still unhappy after we have investigated your complaint and reported to you the outcome, you may complain directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office and request that they investigate to ascertain whether we have dealt with your request in accordance with the Act.