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Public bodies urge FoIA clampdown in post-legislative review

The Telegraph reports that public bodies are urging the government to restrict the Freedom of Information Act, including by charging for requests, as Parliament announces a fourth session of scrutiny for the Act.

The Commons Justice Select Committee will summon former Cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell, historian Peter Hennessy and NHS managers before a panel examining the future of the FoIA in the wake of David Cameron’s testimony that it is “furring up the arteries” of government.

Hampshire County Council leader Ken Thornber said: “We spent £365,000 in 2010 answering Freedom of Information requests. What else could I do with that money? More social workers, more school inspectors, more spent on road maintenance.”

But the Telegraph pointed out that local governments routinely spend more on council offices (£111m, Newham borough) and other facilities.

The Department of Work and Pensions spent more on ‘search engine biasing’ than it did answering FOI requests, while eight departments spent more on ministerial cars, and O’Donnell’s own pension (£300,000) nearly matched Thornber’s figure.

Murderers and rapists among 30,000 still sought by police

An FOI request by the BBC found that over 2,000 suspects of violent crimes remain at large despite outstanding warrants for their arrest.

Figures from 52 police forces across the country found 30,000 people were wanted, of whom 14% were suspected of violent crimes and 3% of sex-related ones.

Among them is 25-year-old Kimamo Wanjunki Kimamo, who skipped bail in 2009 after being charged with the rape of Heidi Olseen at a London house party.

Javed Khan, chief executive of charity Victim Support, said: “Not only does this create considerable anger and frustration for victims but it means that justice is not achieved and puts more people at risk of becoming victims.”

Assistant Chief Constable Alison Roome-Gifford of the Association of Chief Police Officers said forces had “robust” systems for tracking wayward suspects and that many of the warrants were for minor crimes such as traffic offences.

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