This guidance concerns a recent development regarding Freedom of Information (FOI) requests that may affect your institution. Several schools and Trusts have received FOI requests via the website “WhatDoTheyKnow” from individuals whose accounts have been suspended.
These accounts have, for the most part, been recently setup and sent out hundreds of FOI requests to different organisations. Whilst this can be a legitimate practice, the fact that the accounts are currently suspended gives grounds for refusal:
Legitimate Grounds for Refusal
Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, public authorities, including schools and Trusts, are obligated to respond to FOI requests. However, there are specific conditions that must be met for a request to be valid.
One such condition is that the requester must provide a valid correspondence address. If an account has been suspended on “WhatDoTheyKnow,” it raises questions about the validity of the correspondence address and the authenticity of the requester. Therefore, you may have legitimate grounds to refuse such requests.
Suggested Text Response
If your institution receives an FOI request from a suspended account on “WhatDoTheyKnow,” you may use the following template to respond:
We note from WhatDoTheyKnow that your account has been suspended.
We are declining your request as Section 8(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information Act requires a valid address for correspondence.
We recommend that you circulate this guidance among your staff who handle FOI requests to ensure that they are aware of this development and know how to respond appropriately.
We hope this guidance is helpful to you. It is crucial to maintain the integrity of the FOI process while also ensuring that your institution’s resources are used effectively.
If you have any other questions about this or any other data protection topic, please contact us at DPO@schoolpro.uk.
Stay safe and healthy,
The SchoolPro TLC Team
SchoolPro TLC Ltd (2023)
SchoolPro TLC guidance does not constitute legal advice.
SchoolPro TLC is not responsible for the content of external websites.