Qualified exemptions to a freedom of information request
Qualified exemptions to a freedom of information request

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

  • Qualified exemptions to a freedom of information request
  • In brief
  • Qualified exemptions
  • Class and prejudice based qualified exemptions
  • The public interest test
  • Historical records
  • Information intended for future publication
  • Information relating to national security
  • Ministerial certificate
  • Information relating to defence
  • More...

In brief

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

  1. the estimated cost would exceed an appropriate limit

  2. the request is vexatious

  3. the request is repeated, or

  4. an exemption applies

The FIA 2000 contains a number of 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 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 to expect. And so, even when information is deemed exempt, an authority should not merely issue a refusal notice, but rather should also consider what further assistance to provide to the applicant.

This Practice Note focuses on qualified exemptions. For further information on absolute exemptions see the Practice Note: Absolute 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.

Qualified exemptions

Qualified exemptions can relate to both of the duties placed upon an authority by FIA 2000, s 1:

  1. the duty to confirm or deny, which requires an authority to inform an applicant in writing whether or not the

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