Public authorities sometimes express concern about the apparent tendency of some requesters, most notably journalists, to make random requests on the off chance they may capture some interesting information. These are sometimes called ‘fishing expeditions’.
Such requests are quite different to those where a requester is trying to access specific information, or information on a particular subject. In those cases, they might make the request in very broad terms because they are either unaware of how and where the information they seek is held, or they want to make sure their request captures all the relevant information.
Whilst these requests may appear unfocused, they cannot be categorised as speculative requests or ‘fishing expeditions’ if the requester is genuinely trying to obtain information about a particular issue. In this situation, the requester may well be open to some assistance to help them to reframe or refocus their request.
Even where a request is speculative, fishing for information is not, in itself, enough to make a request vexatious. However, some requests might:
- impose a burden by obliging you to sift through a substantial volume of information to isolate and extract the relevant details;
- encompass information which is only of limited value because of the wide scope of the request;
- create a burden by requiring you to spend a considerable amount of time considering any exemptions and redactions; or
- be part of a pattern of persistent fishing expeditions by the same requester.
Then, you may take this into consideration when weighing the impact of that request against its value and purpose as explained earlier.