There must be some doubt as to whether the Commissioner has adequately considered, or has misdirected himself on, certain matters.
Mr Spoonseeker has referred to and dealt with the point about the sheer weight of requests but I think there is another point.
The Guidance apparently states that "if a public authority has reason to believe that several different requesters are acting in concert as part of a campaign to disrupt the organisation by virtue of the sheer weight of FOIA requests being submitted......"
This guidance appears to be primarily, and quite reasonably, directed at and applicable to an entirely different type of campaign where the object is to bring about the disruption of the organisation, rather than a bona fide attempt to obtain information. Has any evidence been presented with the purpose of demonstrating that the requesters intent was disruption of the organisation of QMUL rather than obtaining the information which we believe to be the real object of the request?
Given the Commissioner's acceptance that this particular request on its own would not impose a significant burden, the onus of proof to establish whether the person was acting in concert with others, whose intent was disruption, ought to be significantly higher.
In order to show that the request constituted part of a campaign one might expect it to be necessary to adduce evidence of a campaign predating the request. It seems to me that the examples quoted by QMUL probably were made after the request and in response to the initial refusal. Alternatively one might attempt to show a link to subsequent requests, but as I recall it there was no such attempt.
Hi - Potbatch aka Spoonseeker here. Many thanks to Dolphin for all the quotes from my blog post. Thanks, too, to Chrisb for the above remarks. I feel that I did deal with most of the points which chrisb raises in my post but I think he is right to raise this as a very important issue. Whether there was 'a campaign to disrupt the organisation by virtue of the sheer weight of FOIA requests being submitted' lies at the heart of the tenuous argument used to justify the refusal. Having read Chrisb's remarks, I decided to track down the quotation from this forum which was cited in the refusal notice as evidence of this supposed campaign. Having found it, I wish I'd done it before. Here it is (it appeared in 2012):
Big up to the forum member who achieved this. Let's have some more FOI requests please, informed by the same factors that achieved success here - I'm sure there's lots more data which would be...interesting...to have on public view, and indeed the entire dataset should be released in a timely fashion according the MRC guidelines, so there's plenty of potential here. I always thought that FOI requests are our best weapon and we need to play that card much more strongly in all areas, so I look forward to seeing the secrets that disclosure may reveal.
Compare this with the selective quote that QMUL provided in their FOI submission: “Let’s have some more FOI requests please… I always thought FOI requests were our best weapon and we need to play that card much more strongly in all areas”
It is clear from the full quotation that Mark is encouraging FOI requests in order to access the data, just as the FOIA intends. He is not intending to disrupt QMUL by sheer weight of requests. This would have been entirely clear in the refusal notice had QMUL not deliberately cherry-picked two phrases out of context in order - one can only assume - to mislead the Commissioner. Even bearing in mind what I know about the way the PACE trial was run and the way the results have been deliberately spun to mislead, I have to say that I was flabbergasted by the brazen cheek of this deliberate out of context quotation. This is the only 'evidence' supplied for this supposed campaign of disruption. Without it, it seems to me that the whole case for refusal cited in the notice collapses. I hope that the complainant will appeal the decision and bring this misquotation to the Commissioner's attention.
Yes, there is still a right of appeal. It has to be made within 28 days of the refusal notice. I mentioned your comment in my latest post. It just seems to be quoted as an example of general hostility towards the PACE authors! They accept that it's nothing to do with FOI so it's not really relevant to anything and it's quite rightly not mentioned by the Commissioner in the reasons for the decision. It's interesting that QMUL accuse the patients of taking an 'anything and everything' approach to FOI requests. That's exactly how I would describe their long and repetitive evidence in this case. It's one of many examples of QMUL trying to pin on patients something that more accurately applies to them, such as trying to impose beliefs upon others.