FOI request detail

Determination Hearings

Request ID: FOI-3410-1920
Date published: 28 February 2020

You asked

Refined request from FOI-3168-1920: In the last 12 months, but identified on a month to month basis, how many times have the licensing authority overruled the decision made by either xxxxxx or xxxxxxx?

We answered

Our Ref:         FOI-3410-1920

Thank you for your request received on 7 February 2020 asking for information about determination hearings.

Your request has been considered in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and our information access policy. I can confirm we do hold the information you require.

However, we are refusing your request under section 14(1) of the FOI Act. We consider that providing the requested information would place an unreasonable burden on us. Our principal duty is to provide an effective transport service for London and we consider that answering this request would represent a disproportionate effort. It would be a significant distraction from our work managing the TfL network, requiring re-allocation of already limited resources and placing an unacceptable burden on a small number of personnel.

On the specific application of section 14(1) we have been steered by the ICO guidance on the use of that exemption that can be found on its website here: 

You will note that this guidance includes the following advice to public authorities:

“Section 14(1) may be used in a variety of circumstances where a request, or its impact on a public authority, cannot be justified. Whilst public authorities should think carefully before refusing a request as vexatious they should not regard section 14(1) as something which is only to be applied in the most extreme circumstances”;

“Sometimes a request may be so patently unreasonable or objectionable that it will obviously be vexatious….In cases where the issue is not clear-cut, the key question to ask is whether the request is likely to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress…This will usually be a matter of objectively judging the evidence of the impact on the authority and weighing this against any evidence about the purpose and value of the request”;

“The public authority may take into account the context and history of the request, where this is relevant”;

“The information Commissioner recognises that dealing with unreasonable requests can place a strain on resources and get in the way of delivering mainstream services or answering legitimate requests.”

“Section 14(1) is designed to protect public authorities by allowing them to refuse any request which have the potential to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress”.

“…the concepts of ‘proportionality’ and ‘justification’ are central to any consideration of whether a request is vexatious”;

The guidance includes some specific indicators to help public authorities judge whether or not a case should be considered vexatious. This includes the following:

“Disproportionate effort: the matter being pursued by the requester is relatively trivial and the authority would have to extend a disproportionate amount of resources in order to meet the request.”

We consider the burden of retrieving and reviewing the records we hold in order to extract the requested information would be disproportionate to the benefit of providing it. Each reconsideration hearing is considered on its own merits and each situation vastly different. Furthermore when a reconsideration hearing is heard a recommendation rather than a judgment is made by the individuals who are subject to the request, which then goes on to inform a decision which is made by the Licensing Authority. Your request requires us to spend a significant amount of time reviewing reconsideration hearings and ascertain the detail of the recommendation made by the individuals you have mentioned and then consider whether the ultimate decision made by the Licensing Authority is consistent with that recommendation or otherwise.

It is noteworthy that your request is deliberately broad in its approach to the point it lacks any clear purpose or value. As you will be aware, reconsideration hearings focus on an extremely varied number of issues and recommendations are made for a variety of reasons taking into account a myriad of factors unique to the situation at hand. As such, any meaningful conclusions drawn from the information you have requested are likely to be limited and certainly of minimal value.

To process your request would require a significant amount of staff time to collate the relevant reconsideration hearing documentation and then review them individually one by one and collate the number of those in which the decision taken by the Licensing Authority was not aligned with the recommendation. Although we expect this processing time to fall within the 18 hour cost limit applicable to FOI requests, it is clear that a significant proportion of that time would be taken up by obtaining the information requested.

Even if the information were to be collated it would be devoid of any context, background, rationale or supplementary information to the point where it is difficult to ascertain what value could be gleaned that would justify the burden created by the request. To be clear, compiling the information would be an entirely manual task which would divert personnel away from their core functions specifically to work on your request for up to two days. We consider that this diversion of resources would be entirely disproportionate to the benefit of providing the requested information. Clearly, if there is any concern with the approach taken during any specific reconsideration hearing, there are more appropriate channels that can be taken up to explore this further that can ensure our resources are effectively used in the most productive way that would be of benefit to the wider public. We do not consider there would be any obvious benefit to any individual driver that has undergone a reconsideration hearing (or could do in future), or indeed the wider public, that would justify isolating our limited resources on processing this request.

Therefore we are refusing this request under section 14 of the FOI Act. If you would like to re-submit a more focused, specific request then we will, of course, consider it.

Please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal.

Yours sincerely

Gemma Jacob
Senior FOI Case Officer
FOI Case Management Team
General Counsel
Transport for London
[email protected]

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