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Free schools files set to finally be released after freedom of information battle

 Free schools files set to finally be released after freedom of information battle

Secret files on the impact of opening controversial free schools are to be released after a freedom of information battle.

The National Union of Teachers won a long-running campaign to lift the veil of secrecy over Education Secretary Michael Gove’s pet project.

Scores of the schools – publicly-funded, but set up by parents and faith groups and outside local authority control – have opened in the last two years.

More than 100 are already up and running, with a further 100-plus in the pipeline.

But the Department for Education has refused to release “impact assessments” on how other nearby schools are affected.

It said the disclosure could inhibit “free and frank” advice or “prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs”.

Now the NUT has convinced the Information Commission that the DfE should release the documents in the public interest. Read more

Mark Ellis | Daily Mirror | 02/04/13

Britain’s motorists are enduring 1,434 miles of roadworks – enough to stretch from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

The 19,000 sets of roadworks add up to an average of 43 minutes a week delay to journeys.

Over a year that equals 37 hours and 14 minutes – almost a full-time working week.

In the last five years there have been more than two million roadworks projects started on UK roads, with some councils having thousands of schemes on the go.

The figures came from data from more than 80 British local authorities obtained following requests under the Freedom of Information Act by breakdown company Britannia Rescue. Read more.

Ray Massey | Daily Mail | 27th March 2013

Police give up all hope of finding Jill Dando’s killer despite £600,000 case review

The shooting of Jill Dando on her doorstep remains one of Britain’s enduring murder mysteries.

But after 14 years, Scotland Yard has abandoned any hope of finding who killed the popular TV presenter.

The admission comes after one of the highest-profile police investigations in modern times and a ground-breaking £587,000 review of the case by the forensics firm which helped crack the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

The investigation has effectively been closed, and a number of former officers who worked on the case doubt whether the Yard will ever be able to prove who killed Miss Dando.

Miss Dando, 37, was shot dead outside her home in Fulham, West London, in April 1999.

A year later, unemployed loner Barry George was charged with her murder.

He was convicted in July 2001, but was acquitted at a retrial in August 2008.

Months later, senior officers ordered an exhaustive forensic review of the case which has finished with no leads identified.

In response to a Freedom of Information request from the Daily Mail, Scotland Yard has revealed that since Mr George’s acquittal police paid £587,383 to privately run LGC Forensics for the review of the Jill Dando investigation. Read more

Stephen Wright | Daily Mail | 2nd April 2013

Shame of ‘theft, fraud and under-age sex’ at the BBC: Dossier reveals crimes that have never been reported to police

BBC staff are suspected of  a catalogue of crimes at work – many of which have never been reported to police.

A dossier spanning four years shows theft and fraud allegations running at more than 500 a year.

A significant number of the suspects were employees at the broadcaster.

Documents also reveal allegations of sexual or indecent assault, as well as incidents of suspected drug use.

Thefts of TVs, radios, iPhones, Blackberry devices and computers from BBC staff were endemic.

In one instance, an employee was accused of having under-age sex while on assignment. Because the allegation could not be proved, the log showed the staffer was given only a warning.

This allegation, like many others, was not passed on to police for further investigation because the BBC’s internal investigations service – which employs former police officers – decided it could not be substantiated.

The disclosures follow the Jimmy Savile revelations which saw the corporation accused of turning a blind eye to decades of sex abuse by the presenter.

The dossier, which has emerged on the day Lord Hall takes over as the BBC’s new director general, reveals an apparently lax culture at the BBC when it comes to investigating crimes.

Many of the cases were closed with the remark – ‘no further action’. The incidents surfaced following a Freedom of Information request for details of incidents reported to the investigations service dating back to 2009. Read more

Paul Revoir and Christian Gysin | Daily Mail | 2nd April 2013

Facebook and Twitter-linked sex crimes quadruple in four years as paedophiles exploit social network users

Sex offences linked to Facebook and Twitter have more than quadrupled over the last four years, worrying new figures revealed today.

A total of 1,642 cases where the social networking sites were used to commit a crime or were involved in some way afterwards have been reported to police since 2009.

The number of cases each year soared from 139 to 614 over that period, while the number of alleged rapes has risen from 22 to 117.

Disturbingly, the data reveals that paedophiles are increasingly using the sites to target children.

More than half of the 1,395 victims of all offences except rape were under the age of 16, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show. Read more

Simon Tomlinson | Daily Mail | 2nd April 2013

Christians launch new attack on Boris Johnson in gay poster dispute

A Christian rights group which lost a legal action against Boris Johnson over a freedom of speech case has demanded he discloses internal memos they believe will show he behaved wrongly.

The Christian Legal Centre backed a High Court challenge over the London Mayor’s decision to ban a Christian group advertising on the side of buses in the capital.

He said their posters, which came in response to an earlier campaign by a gay rights group, were offensive because they said: “Not Gay. Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!”

Mrs Justice Lang backed the mayor’s decision earlier this month but, crucially, said some of evidence was “missing” about how Transport for London (TfL) decided how to tackle the case.

Mr Johnson’s role puts him in charge of TfL, which is responsible for approving advertising on buses in the city.

The Christian Legal Centre suggested Mr Johnson put officials under pressure to ban the posters, and alleges that TfL’s failure to produce all the documentation amounts to a “cover up”.

It has submitted a request for all the paperwork under the Freedom of Information Act. Read more

David Barrett | The Telegraph | 2nd April 2013

600 thefts of Yorkshire stone but just 16 charged as ‘heritage being stolen in front of our eyes’

More than 600 thefts of Yorkshire stone have been recorded across Bradford in three years, with just 16 charges brought against those responsible, the Telegraph & Argus can exclusively reveal.

Bradford Council’s heritage champion, Councillor Val Slater, said that thefts had a major impact on the social and historic environment of Bradford.

She added that she was disappointed that so few had been brought to justice and called for anyone with knowledge or information about the theft of Yorkshire stone to contact police.

A Freedom of Information request by the T&A revealed that there were 343 crimes recorded in 2009, 151 in 2010 and 116 in 2011, amounting to 610 crimes. Read more

Dolores Cowburn | Telegraph & Argus | 1st April 2013

Horsemeat scandal: Dept refuses to release over 200 pages of emails with FSAI

THE DEPARTMENT OF Agriculture has refused to release hundreds of pages of emails detailing correspondence with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) over the horsemeat scandal.

The Department refused to release a total of 144 pages of emails from 23 and 24 January with results from DNA testing carried out on meat products in the days after it was publicly revealed that equine DNA was discovered in some beef burgers.

It said releasing the information could prejudice or impair the prevention, detection or investigation of offences or any resultant prosecution. It also cited commercial reasons in that disclosure could potentially result in material financial loss or gain for the persons concerned.

In total 14 out of 24 records which the Department stated as coming under the scope of a request by TheJournal.ie were refused with seven partly-released and three records released in full.

The Department said of its decision to refuse the release of most records that “on balance, there is no public interest in releasing the records”. Read more

Hugh O’Connell | The Journal | 29th March 2013

Police find two drugs farms a week

THE number of cannabis farms being discovered in Bolton is on the rise, with an average detection of almost two per week.

New figures reveal that, between November, 2009, and October, 2012, there were 286 cannabis farms found in the town.

The figures, which have been revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, show 66 were uncovered between November, 2009, and October, 2010, 89 for the same period to October, 2011, and 96 in the following 12 months. Read more

This is Lancashire | 1st April 2013


Britain’s roadworks would stretch from Land’s End to John O’Groats – and back! UK has 19,000 sites covering 789 miles


Lawsuit against EPA seeks evidence of hidden messages

Top Environmental Protection Agency officials used computer instant messages to try to circumvent open-records laws, according to a lawsuit filed by a researcher who has been hounding the agency to comply with the law.

Christopher C. Horner, the researcher who earlier uncovered that EPA officials were using private email addresses to conduct official business, said that in going over some of those earlier records he discovered that the agency was using instant messages, too.

He is now suing to get a look at those records, which he said the EPA has been stonewalling.

“It seems we have uncovered yet another major transparency scandal in that either EPA is destroying instant messages against the law, or it is withholding them in defiance of its legal obligations to produce,” Mr. Horner said.

The lawsuit says EPA “has never produced an instant message in response either to a request under FOIA, or in response to a congressional oversight request, despite numerous requests from both for ‘records’ or ‘electronic records.’” Read more

Stephen Dinan | The Washington Times | 01/04/13


Britain’s roadworks would stretch from Land’s End to John O’Groats – and back! UK has 19,000 sites covering 789 miles


Convicted criminals working as cabbies in region

Taxi drivers with criminal records for gun possession, violence and drugs offences are working in the region, the Yorkshire Post can today reveal.

Applicants with convictions for motoring offences including drink and dangerous driving have also been granted licences, figures released following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request show.

And there are fears the true scale of criminality among cabbies could be hidden owing to slacker checks on immigrant applicants.

Now campaigners are demanding stricter vetting of all drivers in the wake of several sex attacks on passengers, including two by foreign taxi drivers in Yorkshire and those carried out by London black-cab rapist John Worboys. Read more

Yorkshire Post | 01/04/13


Britain’s roadworks would stretch from Land’s End to John O’Groats – and back! UK has 19,000 sites covering 789 miles


States split on issue of emails, texts being public records

The First Amendment protects our free speech from government control, punishment or interference, but when public officials speak freely through private email accounts or mobile phones, are they free to ignore freedom of information laws?

On one hand, they are paying from their own funds for those means of communication and even public officials have private lives, though less so than before their win at the ballot box or appointment to public office.

But it would seem that there’s nothing really private about a conversation about public policies, spending public funds or making hiring decisions for public employment.

States are about evenly divided on whether the latter kind of conversations is covered by FOI or public records laws. A recent Associated Press story, citing data from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, noted that 26 states see private emails or other kinds of electronic communications about government business as public records. Those records generally are to be held open for review by citizens and subject to laws and regulations on how long they must be stored and retained.

The most recent battleground over the issue is in California, which had not defined access to such information. A state court judge ruled recently that private text messages, emails and other electronic communications sent and received by San Jose officials about city affairs are public records.

But that ruling won’t address the question for 23 other states, where public officials may well be able to discuss sensitive decisions — major spending proposals or the hiring of top officials like school superintendents — out of the view of taxpayers and fellow citizens. Read more

The Spectrum | 31/03/13


Britain’s roadworks would stretch from Land’s End to John O’Groats – and back! UK has 19,000 sites covering 789 miles


Child crimes in Norfolk revealed

More than 200 children under 10 years of age have committed crimes in Norfolk over the last five years, a Freedom of Information Act request has revealed.

The majority of offences are criminal damage, but they also include more serious crimes such as arson and assault causing actual bodily harm.

The figures also include one nine-year-old listed for possessing a firearm or imitation firearm.

The statistics were recorded by police between January 2007 and December 2012. Read more

Nanette Aldous | BBC | 01/04/13





















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