FOIMan brings you the first in a series of articles about the practical implications of FOI.

This year I’ve been writing a series of articles about the practical implications of FOI in PDP’s Freedom of Information Journal. Over the next few weeks, with PDP’s kind permission, I’m going to publish each article here. I’ll be continuing to write for the journal next year.

This week I’m publishing the first article in the series which covers the 20 working day deadline whilst referencing Douglas Adams and Lewis Carroll en route. Next week – Game, Dataset and Match – about… well, I’m sure you can figure that out.

UPDATE, 27 November 2013: my thanks to Ganesh Sittampalam and Lee Gardiner for highlighting an error in this article. On the second page (helpfully labelled p.4), second column, second paragraph, public authorities are not obliged to restart the clock once a request has been better defined – it will normally be the case that the newly defined request will be treated as a new request and the clock restarted at 20 working days. I’m sure that what I’ve said there made sense to me at the time, but right here and now I cannot recall what I intended. Apologies if anyone reading has been misled on this point.


  1. What’s the basis for “If it is perfectly clear what a requester wants, but it would take five weeks to search for the information relevant to the request, then FOI Officers must stop the clock until the request has been narrowed down. Once the
    requester has better defined their request, the FOI Officer must continue counting from the point that was reached when they asked the requester to do so.”?

    That sounds like a simple s12 refusal followed by fresh request – clock stopping and restarting only applies in the case of a fees notice.

    Ganesh Sittampalam
  2. @Ganesh

    Although this is a simple s12 you would still be required by s16 to provide advice and assistance so you should still be notifying the requestor how they could make their request fall within the timescales.

    That said I agree with your basic premise, the clock doesnt stop, the reqyest stops and once a revised and clarified request is received it is a new request so we again have the full 20 days.


    Lee Gardiner
    1. Hi Lee, Ganesh
      You know what…you’re absolutely right. The worst thing is that I can’t remember now why I wrote that or what I intended by it. From memory this was based on a statement/example in the ICO’s guidance, but I can’t even check now as they’ve updated it (and from memory, the new guidance is much clearer). It could even be that something went astray in the editing but too late to check now, and in all honesty I suspect it is my error (it was a busy time is my only excuse!). So thanks for pointing that out.

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