Compliance with a freedom of information request
Compliance with a freedom of information request

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

  • Compliance with a freedom of information request
  • In brief
  • Duty to provide advice and assistance
  • Assessing the validity of a request
  • Timeframe for compliance
  • Establishing if the information is held
  • Estimating fees
  • Charging fees
  • Exceptions
  • Refusing a request

In brief

This practice note focuses on the key points to consider when complying with a freedom of information request. Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FIA 2000) a public authority (an 'authority') has an obligation to respond to a request for information made by any person, located anywhere in the world. Upon receipt of a valid request, the authority has a duty to confirm or deny in writing whether it holds the information requested, and if that is the case to communicate that information to the applicant.

The timeframe for compliance is 20 working days, although in certain limited circumstances this can be extended. Upon receipt of a request, an authority should

  1. record the date on which the request was received

  2. assess the validity of the request

  3. establish whether information of the description specified in the request is held by the authority

  4. estimate the cost of compliance

  5. consider charging a fee

  6. consider whether any exemptions apply

An authority may need not disclose the requested information if:

  1. the cost of doing so would exceed the appropriate limit, which is set by regulation

  2. the request is repeated or vexatious, or

  3. an exemption applies

However, at all times when dealing with a request, the authority should act according to the duty to provide such advice and assistance as would be reasonable to