Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Charter for responsible FOI requests

The Information Commissioner's Office has published a charter for responsible freedom of information requests. The charter is not a legal document but is intended as a guide to help requesters make effective use of the FOI Act:
"This charter sets out how the ICO believes these rights can be used responsibly for the benefit of all involved in the freedom of information process: applicants and public authorities."
"Responsible use

Requesters should consider the following factors when making requests:

Does the request impose a significant burden on the public authority in terms of expense or distraction?
Could the request be narrowed or refocused to avoid this burden?
Can the public authority help you refocus your request?

Does the request use language that could be seen to harass the public authority?
Are you using acceptable, everyday language?
Is this the latest in a series of similar requests?

Does the request relate to a complaint on a previous grievance that has been deemed closed and fully investigated by due process?
Will a request serve any purpose when it has been demonstrated by due process that no wrong doing took place?

Does the request have a serious purpose?
Can you justify the request as having a relevant purpose or value? (this is an issue for applicants to consider for themselves, as the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations do not require you to explain your purpose)
Could you justify the request to the organisation on whose behalf you are acting?

Is the request the latest in a series of requests that have already been made?
Will another request serve any further purpose?
If the request is about a changing situation, would it be better to allow a reasonable period of time to pass before making a further request?

Could the request be regarded as part of a campaign to disrupt the work of the public authority?
Can you refocus the request for information that you genuinely require?

Have you already had very similar requests refused before?
Have circumstances changed or do you have a legitimate reason for making the request again?"
Download the complete charter (Pdf)

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