Cops bombarded by requests from single applicant

| 18/01/2011

(CNS): The forty FOI requests that were refused by the RCIPS on the grounds that they were vexatious came from the same applicant, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has revealed in a mediation summary. Over a ten-month period, between December 2009 and September 2010, the police received 46 separate requests from the same applicant, asking 78 questions, including how much water the RCIPs had used. On several occasions, the applicant submitted up to 20 requests in one day, one after the other, bombarding the police with questions. The information commissioner said it was the first time that an applicant seems to have abused the Freedom of Information system.

The police had responded to the requests in the unusual manner, acknowledging receipt, but after receiving 35 questions from the same applicant over the span of ten days, the ICO said the RCIPS made a decision to use the provision in the law that excuses a public authority from complying with a request where that request is vexatious, repetitive or unreasonable.

The applicant had sent their first request to the RCIPS on 21 December 2009, which consisted of three questions. They then sent another request on the 22 December with 12 questions. Taking a break over Christmas, the requester then sent another request on 3 January 2010 with 20 questions. This was followed by four separate requests on 18 January and 7 requests on 2 February. There followed a gap of several months before the same requester sent twelve more requests in August on three separate occasions before finally sending 20 requests on 24 September.

According to the police information manager, the nature of the questions varied. On one occasion the requester asked how many exposures/pictures RCIPS scenes of crime officers had taken at crime scenes over a given time period and another asked how many gallons of water the police had consumed on each of the three islands over the last five years.

“This was a very unique situation in that it is the first instance in Cayman where it seems that an applicant may have been abusing the FOI system,” said Jennifer Dilbert Information Commissioner. “While the term vexatious is not specifically defined in the legislation, we can draw on the experiences of other jurisdictions to help determine what is unacceptable.”

Dilbert explained that public authorities have been cautious about using the vexatious exception found under section 9 of the law, and although the ICO’s 2010 Bi-Annual Report states that the vexatious exception was applied 41 times, 40 of the requests were from this same applicant.

The commissioner pointed out that the applicant in question had appealed the RCIPS decision but has since abandoned the matter. The failure of the applicant to contact the office and follow through with the appeal strengthened the RCIPS position that the reasoning behind the requests was to waste time.

The ICO has made it clear that a request should not be considered vexatious just because of the number of questions that an applicant may ask or because the requests are relatively frequent but it would have to be a combination of factors before information managers can use this part of the law to make a refusal.

"There are many instances when numerous requests are made by a single applicant and they are not deemed vexatious," the office explained, adding that the  when the law is applied it is to the request and not specifically a requestor. "Just because someone is annoying or rude that does not necessarily mean the request is vexatious." 

The ICO said the threshold is very high for applying this exception and the Information Manager training covers the topic of vexatious requests.

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Category: FOI

Comments (19)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The person could be from Northward prison.

  2. Subway Cookie says:

    Requests don’t have to be made anonymously, people can include their names.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If the request are suppose to be anonymous how do they know it’s the same person?


  4. Anonymous says:

    Charge him with Wasting Police Time and take him to court!

  5. Anonymous says:

     Time this Law was re drafted to allow only certain people access.  People such as journalists, writers and the like.  Time people such as this as.she/he was stopped or he/she will spoil it for all.  This is clearly someone with a personal vendetta rather than an enquiring mind.  Makes a farce of the system and costs us all money as we have to pay for the huge number of FOI staff employed to respond to these idiots.  The system, which was intended to benefit all, has gone mad !  If we repeal the Law, which should be amended, it will cause an outcry !

  6. My2cents says:

     This clown needs to be stopped. He risks making it harder for the rest of us to question government when we have a real question. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Just in case you didn’t notice, they have been stopped.  That was the point of the article.  The reason behind the vexatious exception in the Law to remedy issues such as this type of requester. 

    • Anonymous says:

      mY2cents, I say you are absolutely correct.  Obviously this man has a serious vendeta against the police.  People who would go to this extreme is seriously dangerous and has to be monitored.  Not only a gun can kill a person. Tongue,  Pen and paper can be a gruesome death in its own way. 

  7. Anonymous says:

    Could we get the name of that requestor under FOI? I don’t want to be around them if there’s need for 911 assistance. 🙂

  8. Dennie Warren Jr. says:

    Then release the information so we don’t have to ask for everything! 

    • Anonymous says:


      Do you honestly think that Police time would be best served recording information about how many crime photos were taken over a 5 year period or how many gallons of water were comsumed by the police?  Yes – crime statistics serve a useful purpose, but photos & water?

      Also, maybe you are forgetting but the FOI gives access to "records" not information. 

      • Dennie Warren Jr. says:

        I agree with you on both points, but my comment was referring to the general release of information.

  9. Civil Servant says:

    "The information commissioner said it was the first time that an applicant seems to have abused the Freedom of Information system." 


    It has dawn on her that certain mickey mouse requests are vexatious!  It is easy looking in from the outside, thinking that civil servants can just hocus-pocus come up with answers to all questions in a short given time-frame.

    Thank you CNS for making news about this abuse!  It is about time!

    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds like you might be a "vexed" Public Servant.  Just because a request comes from Mickey Mouse does not make it vexatious. 

      CNS published an article on 10/27/2010 which told of how one of these Mickey Mouse requests obtained policy information from the Immigration Department.  Is this not a prime example of the type of records that should be public and that FOI allows access to?

      The name of the person who makes a request does not matter.  It is only the request itself that should count.  If it is a good and valid request, for information that we can all benefit from having, does it matter if it came via Mickey?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Vexatious?  This man seems as if he is more likely to be labled "police-rage-a-rama-obsession"   This is a good thing that this Police-rage-a-rama-obsession" has been the public. " Frightening" !!.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Finally, the public can see what good this law is for.  Wasting valuable time for no good reason.  People complain about the government not progressing fast enough.  This is one of the reasons.  Every government department has people busy wasting time on foolish questions.  I wonder if this is a strategy being used by the PPM andits supporters to stall progress all around for this government.  CNS, I hope you publish this.

    • Anonymous says:

      Does your mother know you’re using her computer?

    • MER says:

      This law is actually extremely useful, but like anything in the hands of the wrong person it can become either dangerous, useless, stupid or annoying etc!

      The FOI law was put in place for transparency when Government departments were doing everything behind our backs! Keep up the good work with exposing what should be exposed!