Absolute exemptions to a freedom of information request
Absolute exemptions to a freedom of information request

The following Public Law practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Absolute exemptions to a freedom of information request
  • In brief
  • Absolute exemptions
  • Historical records
  • Information accessible to the applicant by other means
  • Information supplied by or relating to security bodies
  • Court, inquiry or arbitration records
  • Information protected by parliamentary privilege
  • Information that if disclosed would prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs
  • Communications with the Sovereign, etc
  • More...

In brief

A public authority need not disclose information following a request for information made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FIA 2000) if:

  1. the estimated cost would exceed the appropriate limit

  2. the request is vexatious

  3. the request is repeated, or

  4. an exemption applies

The FIA 2000 contains 24 exemptions which permit an authority to withhold the requested information. These exemptions fall broadly into the following two categories:

  1. absolute exemptions

  2. qualified exemptions, which are subject to a public interest test

When dealing with a freedom of information request, even one where an exemption applies, an authority must still act according to the duty to provide advice and assistance so far as it would be reasonable. And so, even when information is deemed exempt, an authority should not merely issue a refusal notice, but rather it should also consider what assistance to provide to the applicant. For further reading, see Practice Note: Procedural traps in relation to FOI requests—Duty to provide advice and assistance.

This Practice Note focuses on absolute exemptions under FIA 2000. For information on qualified exemptions, see Practice Note: Qualified exemptions to a freedom of information request.

For further guidance on the exemptions given by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), see ICO—Guidance Index.

Absolute exemptions

Absolute exemptions relate to the primary duties placed upon an authority by FIA 2000, s 1:

  1. the duty to confirm or

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