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IN THE FIRST-TIER TRIBUNAL Appeal No: EA/2017/0165

GENERAL REGULATORY CHAMBER


(INFORMATION RIGHTS)

BETWEEN

Appellant
and

INFORMATION COMMISSIONER
Respondent

APPLICATION FOR PERMISSION TO APPEAL TO THE UPPER TRIBUNAL

1. Mr seeks permission to appeal against the decision of the Tribunal


promulgated on 9 April 2018 and corrected under the slip rule on 30 April 2018.
The application is refused.

2. As Mr is clearly aware, an appeal may only be brought before the Upper


Tribunal if there is an arguable error of law in the decision in question. Error of law
can include an irrational finding of material fact, failure to take a material
consideration into account, taking an immaterial consideration into account and
procedural irregularity (such as bias) as well as misinterpretation of a statutory
provision and misapplication of binding authority.

Reasons

3. Mr advances four errors of law: (i) misapplying the legal test in the Upper
Tribunal decision in Dransfield; (ii) lack of objectivity; (iii) taking into account
irrelevant factors; and (iv) failure to take into account relevant factors. The Tribunal
will consider each in turn.

Misapplication of Dransfield

4. The Upper Tribunal decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal and it is the
latter decision which governs. It is binding on the Tribunal.

5. In his 24-page Grounds of Appeal, Mr includes just a short paragraph at the


end on this ground. He pleads lack of time (despite the prolixity of the Grounds as
a whole) but says that ‘it was a clear cut case’. It is not clear whether he is referring
to Dransfield or his own case (presumably the latter) but suggests that there was
no question of the request lacking a serious purpose (it was obvious, he says).
The need for the test was surplus to requirements and was therefore applied
erroneously.

6. The Tribunal explained in paragraph 53 et seq why the first part of the request (the
only part realistically in issue because of the unchallenged application of section
12 FOIA to the second part) had negligible value to set against the weighty indicia
of vexatiousness the Tribunal had identified. In short: even if the information in
question – the identity of the Magistrates’ Advisory Committee (MAC) whose
decision had failed to reach the complainant in Case Study 5 – could be said to
have any value in principle, the police had the power to obtain it and there was
therefore no need for Mr to use FOIA to advance his stated desire for a
criminal investigation (the sole reason he had advanced for wanting the
information). He does not explain why this assessment is erroneous in principle.

7. It is not arguable that the Tribunal has misapplied Dransfield.

Lack of objectivity on the part of the Tribunal

8. The allegation is of procedural irregularity.

9. Mr ’s complaint seems to be that the Tribunal referred to the fact that he


had lost several other cases before the Tribunal (and Commissioner) and then
summarised some of them but without analysing whether the decisions were in
fact correct. The decisions included an order striking out an appeal for lack of
prospects and a refusal to extend time to bring another appeal. Mr analyses
some of the decisions at great length either to show that they were wrong or that
legal arguments which he advanced had been vindicated in a judicial review
against Tottenham Magistrates’ Court (brought by someone else).

10. Mr does not dispute the fact that the cases cited by the Tribunal were lost.
He misunderstands why the Tribunal referred to them. This was to highlight
examples of his obsessive and unreasonable behaviour, repeated in the present
case. The pattern of behaviour, over a number of years, was relevant to the finding
of vexatiousness the Tribunal made. The fact that he had lost the previous cases
was not by itself a significant factor in the Tribunal’s finding.

11. In any event, the propriety of costs sought by council tax authorities – the subject
of Mr ’s extensive analysis in his Grounds of Appeal – has no relevance to
the present case, where his explanation for wanting the information in question
was so that the police could investigate whether there was criminal conduct by
Magistrates’ Court and MACs in purporting, but failing, to send letters to
complainants. Mr cannot use this case as a vehicle for his more general
campaign against the costs orders sought by council tax authorities: the
information in question could not advance that campaign.

12. It is not arguable that the Tribunal lacked objectivity. It noted, for example, that he
had been successful in a complaint against the police and that HMCTS upheld
another.

Taking into account irrelevant factors

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13. Apart from the citing of previous unsuccessful cases, Mr appears to identify
two irrelevant factors: (i) the unfounded allegations of corruption he routinely
makes; and (ii) that fact that the original costs order was only for £60.

14. As to (i), the making of unfounded or unsubstantiated allegations of corruption is


a classic indicium of vexatiousness and Mr ’s practice in this regard formed
part of the reason for the Tribunal’s conclusion. He does not dispute that he makes
allegations of corruptness and similarly serious behaviour, nor that he has not
been able to persuade anyone that they are justified. He speaks simply of ‘official
cover-up’ (paragraph 57), and now sweeps the Commissioner and the Tribunal
into it (paragraph 38).

15. As to (ii), the Tribunal was at pains to stress in its decision (paragraph 46) not only
that £60 was not an insignificant sum for him but that the importance of ensuring
competent and honest public administration transcends the money at stake in a
particular case. The amount originally at stake played no part in the Tribunal’s
finding of vexatiousness: the Tribunal simply observed that a relatively modest
sum had spawned legal and quasi-legal proceedings costing thousands of pounds.

16. Mr has not established an arguable case that the Tribunal took into account
irrelevant factors.

Failing into account relevant factors

17. The only factor Mr appears to have identified is the Tribunal’s alleged
naivete in assuming that the police will properly investigate public authorities. Even
if this was capable of constituting a relevant factor in law in the present context
(which is doubtful), Mr has misunderstood what the Tribunal said. It made
no assumption that the police would carry out a full investigation. Its point was
rather that, if the police wanted to do so, it had the power to find out for itself which
was the MAC highlighted in Case 5 and there was therefore no need for Mr
to use FOIA for this purpose. If the police is likely to be as uninterested as he
suggested, his obtaining the information via FOIA would not help.

18. Once again, Mr has not advanced an arguable case.

Conclusion

19. Mr has failed to identify any arguable error of law in the Tribunal’s decision
and his application is therefore dismissed. There is no other compelling reason for
the Upper Tribunal to consider the case.

Signed

Judge David Thomas


Date 31 May 2018