Anonymous man barred from using FOI Act

A man with a criminal record who has clocked up more than 750 freedom of information demands to government departments since the Freedom of Information Act came into force has been prevented from using the service.

Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, said that the anonymous man claims to be a freelance journalist, but his abuse of the act runs the risk of discrediting the new law. Mr Thomas said the man has made, in the course of a year, 412 requests to the Ministry of Defence, 347 to the police and 22 to the Cabinet Office. "They formed a pattern whose cumulative effect would be characterised by any reasonable person as obsessive and manifestly unreasonable, and having the effect of harassing the public authorities."

Maurice Frankel, of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said: "The real concern is not vexatious requests. The commissioner has demonstrated he has a workable mechanism to stop that." The danger was that the government intended to make it harder for ordinary people to obtain information, by denying it on grounds of expense.

Persistent questioner is barred (The Guardian, 1 August 2006)