Freedom of information
You have statutory rights to access information held by public authorities, including local authorities. A wide range of information is available, though there are some exemptions.
We will not respond to vexatious or repeated requests, or those that are deliberately burdensome or frivolous, or which seek to disrupt our work. Similarly, if you make a request that is the same or substantially similar to a previous request, it will be refused if a reasonable amount of time has not elapsed since the first request. Some requests exceed our cost limit.
If we cannot deal with a request, we will explain why.
Under section 14(1) of the Freedom of information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), Scottish public authorities do not have to comply with requests that are vexatious.
Under section 14(2) of FOISA, Scottish public authorities do not have to comply with requests that are repeated.
Although there is no definition of “vexatious” in FOISA. The Scottish Parliament considered that the term “vexatious” was well-established in law and chose to give the Commissioner latitude to interpret the term in that context, so that the interpretation might evolve over time in light of experience and precedent.
Essentially, section 14(1) is concerned with the effect of a request on the authority and its staff. It should be interpreted in the context of the importance of the right of access to information provided by section 1(1) of FOISA and must not be used to undermine that right. In recognising that a request may be vexatious, Parliament has acknowledged the damage which may be done to the right by disproportionate use of the vexatious provision.
There is no single formula or definitive set of criteria that allow a formulaic approach to be taken to determining whether a request is vexatious. Each request must be considered on the merits of the case, supported by evidence, clear evaluation and reasoning.
The following factors will be relevant to a finding that a request (which may be the latest in a series of requests or other related correspondence) is vexatious:
- It would impose a significant burden on the public authority.
- It does not have a serious purpose or value.
- It is designed to cause disruption or annoyance to the public authority.
- It has the effect of harassing the public authority.
- It would otherwise, in the opinion of a reasonable person, be considered to be manifestly unreasonable or disproportionate.
This is not an exhaustive list and must not be used as a check-list. Depending on the circumstances, and provided the impact on the authority can be supported by evidence, other factors may be relevant.
You will then have the right of appeal to the commissioner. Please look at this link for any further information.
Pseudo Legal Letters and Requests including the so called Common Law Court
The Council is frequently receiving letters and requests that appear to be phrased in a legal manner. However the letters are using a particular style of legal language that is meaningless and has no legal effect in Scotland. There are often references to outdated laws and laws from various countries, like the USA, that have no place, effect or jurisdiction in Scotland.
The letters frequently refer to the so called “Common Law Court” which does not actually exist and certainly has no jurisdiction or legal effect in Scotland.
Given the content of these letters, the Council can only conclude that they are designed to frustrate the correct legal processes being pursued by the Council under various statutes that do not have effect in Scotland. Particularly common are deliberate attempts to divert the Council’s attention from the business of collecting Council tax that is properly due through proper legal means. The senders are using the fake law as an excuse not to make payment. You will still be liable to pay all backdated Council tax plus any legal expenses and fees incurred. Failure to make payments after repeated requests will result in legal action being taken against you.
It is not clear whether the senders actually believe that the letters are effective and are meant to be serious. However, the Council can only judge them by reference to the apparent purpose of a fake.
Some letters even threaten fake legal action and appear to be a vain attempt to use “offence” as a means of “defence”.
In short they are designed to simply frustrate and delay so there is no valid legal purpose to them.
Lastly the letters demand answers within certain time periods and spawn repeated requests.
Taking all this information and these apparent purposes into account, the Council considers these letters and the requests they contain to be simply vexatious. This means the Council will not be specifically responding to these fake, vexatious letters or the requests they contain.
Anyone sending such a letter has been referred to this website page by way of response.