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Posts Tagged ‘FoIA support’

The Day in FoIA: The £million sponsors of the Met Police and the ‘great brain robbery’

Met Police got £22.7m from sponsors, FOI request finds

The Metropolitan Police has received donations and sponsorship worth £22.7m from dozens of organisations over the past five years, the BBC has learned.

The figures were disclosed following a Freedom of Information Act request.

Donations ranged from football shirts provided by Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea to motorcycles and cars supplied by Land Rover, BMW and Nestle.

Scotland Yard said it had a “long history” of working with different partners to tackle crime. Read more.

BBC | 1st November 2012

Medical examiner’s office refuses to release more than 9,000 brains belonging to New Yorkers so they can use them for ‘experiments and practice’

It’s being called ‘the great brain robbery.’

New York City’s medical examiner’s office has kept the brains of more than 9,200 deceased New Yorkers — from the elderly to newborns — so newbie pathologists can practice their skills.

The discovery comes after three families publicly questioned whether or not the city is banking the brains for medical purposes.

Under The New York Post’s Freedom of Information Law request, the ME gave a list of 9,200 brains and 45 spinal cords removed between Nov. 1, 2004, and July 1, 2012. Some 7,700 brains were taken before the notifications began. Read more.

The Daily Mail | 29th October 2012

200 North Wales Police officers injured in the line of duty.

NEARLY 200 police officers in North Wales were injured in the line of duty last year.

A total of 142 male officers and 50 females were hurt, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

The causes of officers’ injuries included being hit by a vehicle, slipping over, being injured by an animal or physically assaulted

The number of injuries sustained by officers, however, has fallen notably in recent years. Read more.

The Daily Post | 31st October 2012

Australia: Government working overtime to keep secrets secret

GOVERNMENT spending on keeping files safe from Freedom of Information inquiries has doubled to more than $40 million a year in just eight years.

But during the same period the number of FOI applications fell by 40 per cent. So government agencies are spending much more on dealing with fewer demands for the documents of bureaucrats and politicians to be made public. About a third of information requests were rejected in 2011-12 and each application – successful or otherwise -cost about $1700. Read more.

Malcolm Farr and Lisa Cornish | Herald Sun | 31st October 2012

ICO deputy commissioner advises against FOIA costs

Requests submitted under the Freedom of Information Act should remain free of charge, advised Deputy Information Commissioner Graham Smith on Wednesday night at City University.

Mr Smith was addressing a Request Initiative seminar on the Justice Select Committee’s post-legislative scrutiny of the FOIA alongside a panel of information law experts. He said it was “concerning” that some members of the Justice Select Committee suggested commercial fees should be imposed on media organisations “on the rather crude basis that journalists are using FOI to get stories to sell to newspapers.”

While it was an area of concern to the Committee that commercial organisations appear to be gathering data for their own purposes, the “vast majority” of requests made by journalists are in the public interest, insisted Mr Smith.

The introduction of fees would be an attempt at cost recovery; implementing the Act is costing local government £31.6m per year, although it was suggested this figure may be overblown after a Bexley Council study found the average spend per request was just £19.  Request Initiative director Brendan Montague flipped the coin and said FOIA costs are the government’s problem and “councils are spending £31.6 million a year to keep information secret.”

There was lively debate between other information law experts on the night including Maurice Frankel, director of the UK Campaign for Freedom of Information, “FOI Man” Paul Gibbons and FOIA trainer Tim Turner, who chewed over some other key points of the select committee’s report published earlier this year. Mr Turner suggested the ICO is not enforcing the act strongly enough although he praised the office for working through a huge backlog of complaints.

Under Section 77 of the FOIA, it is a criminal offence to destroy information but no prosecutions have been launched to date, as proceedings must begin within six months of the alleged destruction. “The problem we’ve found,” explained Mr Smith, “is that very often evidence does not come to light until six months it occurred so there’s a clear problem with that time limit.”

An audience of more than 90 people attended and spoke of their increasing difficulties in obtaining specific types of information such as email correspondence and information relating to policy formulation.

Maurice Frankel said some MPs had sought an absolute exemption for information relating to government policy formulation and warned that alternatively we might see more frequent use of the ministerial veto. He added: “It is the sign of any healthy Freedom of Information Act that it is not entirely loved by government.”

A Government decision on the Committee’s findings is expected in later this year. At present there are no plans to introduce commercial fees, but Mr Smith said “it is important to recognise that just because the Committee haven’t recommended something, that doesn’t stop the government from making its own decisions.”

Pressure on budgets makes primary health care trusts limit operations

Pressure on budgets makes primary health care trusts limit operations

Freedom of information requests by GP magazine reveal that 90% of trusts hold back on hip, knee and cataract operations

Pressure to save money has left 90% of primary care trusts restricting procedures including hip, knee and cataract operations, weight loss surgery and tonsillectomies, according to freedom of information requests by GP Magazine.

Health rationing, sometimes cutting across national guidance on the treatment of conditions, was leaving patients very frustrated, according to one senior GP; it was creating waiting lists by the back door, according to another. The National Obesity Forum said cuts in bariatric surgery could lead to crippling extra costs from diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Read more

James Meikle | The Guardian | 19th of June 2012

Hate crimes against disabled people soar to a record level

‘Anti-scrounger’ rhetoric blamed for doubling of offences since 2008 financial crisis

The number of disability hate crimes reported to police has reached a record high, sparking concerns that the Coalition’s “anti-scrounger” rhetoric is fuelling hostility to the most vulnerable members of society. A total of 1,942 disability hate crimes were recorded by police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year.

That figure, based on Freedom of Information answers supplied by 43 of 44 forces, represents a 14 per cent rise on 2010. Disability hate crime has doubled since the start of the financial crisis in 2008. Despite the rise, the number of people convicted for the crime actually fell last year. Only 523 people were found guilty of a disability hate crime in 2011, The Independent has discovered, down 5 per cent from 2010. It suggests that barely one in four reported crimes leads to a conviction – a ratio that got worse last year.

Read more

Ben Riley-Smith | The Independent | 19th of June 2012

Tobacco investments to be reconsidered by Norfolk and Essex councils

Tobacco investments to be reconsidered by Norfolk and Essex councils

Two councils in the East region are to reconsider multi-million pound pension fund investments in tobacco before they take a lead role in NHS anti-smoking campaigns in 2013.

The move comes after a BBC Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request showed councils across the region have invested more than £167m in tobacco.

Norfolk has invested £25.9m while Essex has invested £9.1m.
The two councils have said they would now review their investments

Read more

BBC | 18th of June 2012

Devon and Cornwall Police Taser use nearly doubles

The number of times police have used Tasers in Devon and Cornwall has nearly doubled over a two-year period.

Figures obtained by the BBC through the Freedom of Information Act show the stun guns were used 34 times in 2010 and 65 times last year.
Human rights groups say they were being used too readily. Devon and Cornwall police said the rise could be linked to the increased number of officers now trained to use Tasers.

Of the force’s 3,200 officers, 480 are trained to use Tasers, up from 150 before 2009 and spending on the weapon rose from £33,470 in 2009 to £101,379 last year, according to an FoI request.

Read more

BBC | 19th June 2012

Fife Ness Coastguard Station continues ‘life-or-death’ work as closure approaches

A significantly understaffed workforce at Fife Ness Coastguard Station has coordinated more than 400 potential life-and-death rescue operations since it was announced last July that the centre is to close.

A Freedom of Information request by The Courier has revealed that between July 2011 and June 7 the rescue centre — which will close on September 28 — handled 426 incidents recorded as alarm, distress or uncertainty requiring rescue coordination.

The news that Fife Ness, along with the base at Clyde, would be shutting was confirmed by the UK Government last summer following a lengthy consultation period.

Read more

Michael Alexander | The Courier | 18th of June 2012

Court out: Shocking haul of 10,000 deadly weapons seized every year from people going into court

At least 35,000 dangerous items such as guns and knives have been recovered by court staff in the last three years.

More than 10,000 deadly weapons are seized every year from suspects, witnesses and the public as they go into court. Figures reveal at least 35,000 dangerous items such as guns and knives have been recovered by court security staff across the country in the last three years.

Read more

Mirror | 18th of June 2012

Fear of bullying claims hits public-sector reform

Senior officials express grave doubts over viability of Croke Park deal. Public-sector reform is impossible because managers “fear” they will not be “backed up” and could be accused of bullying if they try to tackle underperformance, top civil servants have said.

Confidential Department of Finance documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show senior officials have expressed grave doubts over the viability of the Croke Park deal.

These documents come amid fresh concern that the agreement is not delivering and follow comments by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar that compulsory redundancies must form part of any new Croke Park deal.

Read more

Daniel McConnell and Tom Lyons | Irish Independent | 17th of June 2012

Google claims engineers were unaware of Street View data breach

Google claims engineers were unaware of Street View data breach

Google has published sworn declarations from nine engineers, as the company tries to answer claims it orchestrated a cover-up of its collection of personal data from millions of internet users. Nine engineers involved in the controversial Street View project said they were unaware it had been designed to capture private data, including full emails, medical listings and passwords.

Google published the written testimony late on Tuesday, hours after the UK information commissioner launched a fresh investigation into the data collection. It is understood that Google publicly released the documents in response to a Freedom of Information request, not in response to the ICO investigation.

Read more

Josh Halliday | The Guardian | 13th June 2012

FoI by Salmon and Trout Association shows reality of failure on sea lice
control in salmon farms

(S&TA) has today published yet more worrying evidence of widespread failure to control sea lice in the Scottish salmon-farming industry. An analysis by S&TA of the inspections conducted by the Scottish Government’s Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) of marine salmon farms in Scotland between June and December last year (2011), obtained under Freedom of Information (FoI), shows:

  • of the marine farms inspected over 30% were breaching the industry’s own
    CoGP sea-lice standards during the period for which sea-lice records were
  • either resistance to, of lack of efficacy of, sea-lice treatments was
    recorded at 17% of sites inspected.

Read more

Andrew Graham-Stewart | Argyll News | 13th June 2012

3m savers pay too much tax on their savings

3m savers pay too much tax on their savings – Almost three million pensioners and low-paid workers have paid too much tax on their savings according to new research

HM Revenue & Customs has admitted that as many as 3.5 million people should have been liable to pay just 10pc tax on their savings, during 2009/10 – rather than the 20pc tax that is automatically deducted. But a freedom of information request revealed that only 718,000 had applied to have this tax repaid.

Save our Savers – the campaign group that is lobbying for a change to the way bank and building society accounts are taxed – said these figures showed that many people are paying far more tax than they should on their savings. A spokesman said: “It is often pensioners, who have low incomes, but reasonable savings pots that are losing out. A recent Parliamentary report suggested that as many as 2.4 million pensioners have overpaid tax on their savings.”

Read more

Emma Simon | The Telegraph | 7th June 2012

Carole Ewart: Freedom of Information ‘reform’ is too limited

IT’S always worrying when government ministers boast how good they are at disclosing information that we are entitled to know.

And wen Brian Adam MSP, in announcing the Freedom of Information (FoI) Bill, tells us how good the Scottish Government is getting in disclosing information, campaigners feel the news is being managed.

Ironically, it is what he hasn’t said, and what isn’t in the bill that is the problem. Increasing the range and number of organisations covered by FoI in Scotland is key to any legal reform.

Read more

The Scotsman | 7th June 2012

First the ‘targeted killing’ campaign, then the targeted propaganda campaign – Officially, the CIA insists its drone war is a state secret, yet we’re now seeing a concerted PR effort to sanitise its dubious legality

A story in last week’s New York Times painted a remarkably detailed picture of the US government’s so-called “targeted killing” campaign, a campaign that involves the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to kill suspected insurgents and terrorists and, it turns out, many, many others, as well. The story, written by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, discussed the CIA’s choice of munitions, its efforts to avoid civilian casualties, and its method for calculating the number of civilians killed in any given strike. The story also underscored the extent to which President Obama himself is involved in overseeing the campaign – and even in selecting its targets.

The story has already received a great deal of coverage, but two aspects of it deserve more attention.

The first has to do with the targeted killing campaign itself. Long before the New York Times story was published, human rights organizations questioned the campaign’s lawfulness. At the ACLU, we sued over elements of the campaign two years ago, contending that the US government’s then-proposed (and now-realized) killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen would violate both international law and the US constitution.

Read more

Jameel Jaffer and Nathan Wessler | The Guardian | 6th June 2012

House to work on Freedom of Information Bill in July

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives has run out of time to tackle the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill and will work on it in its next and last regular session, which starts on July 23.

The House and the Senate are ending their second regular session this weekend.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, public information committee chairman, said yesterday he would like to assure all stakeholders that the FOI Bill will be in the front burner after President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23.

Read more

Jess Diaz | The Philippine Star | 6th
June 2012

The Guardian covers Request Initiative’s findings on drug seizures at 10 popular UK music festivals

Research by Request Initiative is published today in the Guardian. Figures obtained via the Freedom of Information act (FOIA) reveal the amount and nature of drug confiscations at ten of the UK’s most popular music festivals.

Ahead of  2012′s festival season, Alex Montague, information manager at Request, obtained figures from constabularies around the country who are responsible for policing the UK’s most high profile live music events. The data spans 2008-2011 and the festivals included:

-       Bestival (Hampshire Police)

-       Download Festival (Leicestershire Police)

-       Glastonbury (Avon and Somerset Constabulary)

-       The Isle of Wight Festival (Hampshire Police)

-       Leeds Festival (West Yorkshire Police)

-       Reading Festival (Thames Valley Police)

-       Sonisphere (Hertfordshire Police)

-       V Festival (Staffordshire Police)

-       Wireless Festival (Metropolitan Police)

-       Womad (Wiltshire Police).

The Guardian’s Ben Quinn and John Burn-Murdoch  have reported on the data gathered under the headline Revealed: types and quantities of drugs seized by police at UK music festivals. Further analysis is available on the Guardian’s Data blog which includes charts of the street value of the seized drugs.

Brendan Montague, executive director of Request Initiative said: “This is the first major research project providing empirical evidence showing the extent and nature of drug taking at national music festivals in the UK and shows that Class A drugs including cocaine and MDMA are still very popular among music fans.”

Read the full story.

Jack Straw calls for Freedom of Information Act to be rewritten

The Labour Cabinet minister responsible for the Freedom of Information Act has called for it to be rewritten.

Jack Straw claimed that minutes were not taken of some “high level” meetings in order not to leave a paper trail while other important decisions would be made by text message, reducing accountability rather than increasing it.

He said that senior civil servants feared “horrific detail” from their notebooks about their ministers’ “streams of consciousness” would be made public under the transparency law, which he passed as Home Secretary in 2000.

Mr Straw said some discussions between ministers and officials about the formation of policy and the risks of certain decisions should be protected from disclosure, in order to allow a frank exchange of views.

But Mr Straw is only the latest in a series of senior politicians and mandarins to regret the scope of the FOI Act, which has laid bare Government spending, suppressed reports and the development of policy, often in embarrassing detail

Read more here.

Martin Beckford | The Telegraph | 17th April 2012

‘Thousands of children’ to lose legal aid in shake-up

Thousands of children will lose access to legal aid under government plans to shake up the system, campaigners say.

Child rights group JustRights analysed government data obtained from a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

It claims 6,000 children, or 13% of those who receive help with legal-aid costs, will lose it in the reforms.

Read more here.

Hannah Richardson | BBC | 17th April 2012

BBC redundancy payments cost almost £277m in seven years 

The BBC has spent just under £277m in redundancy payments to nearly 6,000 staff in the past seven years, according to figures obtained by MediaGuardian.

Between March 2005 and February 2012 the BBC paid out £276,833,465 in redundancy payments to the 5,992 staff, according to the figures which have been obtained from a freedom of information request.

This makes the average redundancy payment just over £46,200 for each member of staff who took either compulsory or voluntary redundancy from the BBC during that period. Some of the redundancy payouts include extra money paid in lieu of holiday owed to staff

Read more here.

Ben Dowell | The Guardian | 17th April 2012

Minicab boss granted meeting with transport minister after Tory donation

The chairman of a minicab company that wants access to London’s restricted bus lanes was granted a private meeting with the transport secretary at which they discussed the matter after his firm donated £250,000 to the Conservative party.

John Griffin, the chairman of Addison Lee, met Philip Hammond last October and raised the question of access to the lanes. He also pushed the idea that the government should outsource chauffeur services for ministers to private companies.

Addison Lee, which has 3,500 vehicles in the capital, gave the Conservatives £100,000 last year, and £50,000 a year in each of the three previous years.

Minutes of the meeting with Hammond, released under the Freedom of Information Act, sparked opposition calls for the government to explain whether the donation and the meeting were linked.

Read more here.

Robert Booth | The Guardian | 16th April 2012

Security fears 8,500 military ID cards lost or stolen in one year

About 9,000 military identity cards were lost or stolen last year despite a huge anti-terror clampdown ahead of the Olympics.

The number of missing ID passes for the Army, Navy and RAF is more than double the figure from 2007 and 2008 combined.

Figures revealed by a Daily Mirror Freedom of ­Information request show numbers of “lost” cards reached a five-year high, with some 750 disappearing every month.

Read more here.

Chris Hughes | The Mirror | 18th April 2012

Number of university students caught cheating almost doubles in three years

Universities disciplined 1,169 students for cheating last year a 92% increase on the 608 students caught out in 2008-09.

And over the past three years, a staggering 3,067 students have been found guilty of cheating after being brought before college authorities.

Offences of academic misconduct including plagiarism, bringing mobile phones into exams and using cheat notes have all been uncovered.

The level of cheating by students in Wales was uncovered through a series of Freedom of Information requests submitted to seven Welsh universities

Read more here,

Brendan Hughes | Wales Online | 10th April 2012

3000 BBC workers paid through limited companies

Conservative MP, David Mowat has used the FoIA to reveal that “around 3,000″ BBC workers have avoided paying PAYE tax by billing the BBC through personal service companies,reports the Telegraph. Furthermore, 31 of these have not had tax deducted at source from their £100,000 a year salaries.  318 on salaries of £50,000 reportedly have similar arrangements.

The Telegraph writes: “The true figure could be higher as the BBC said it excluded “talent” such as high-profile presenters and reporters, as well as people working in commercial subsidiaries”.

Stephen Barclay, a Tory MP on the Public Accounts Committee, said: “This [FoIA] reply shows that there is a need for much greater transparency at the BBC because the figures do not include so many people from BBC’s talent – which covers its main presenters – and its commercial operations.

The findings follow last month’s disclosure that Ed Lester, chief executive of the Student Loans Company, was potentially allowed to avoid paying thousands of pounds in tax by being paid through a private firm in a deal approved by the Coalition.

Thousand of paedophiles, drug dealers and violent thugs caught trying to get jobs as teachers.

“Paedophiles, violent thugs and drug dealers were among more than 4,000 offenders who applied to become teachers last year despite having almost 10,000 criminal convictions between them,” reports that Daily Mail.

In 2011, the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) refused 4,098 out of 263,477 applicants for school jobs, who, between them, shared 9,493 convictions. These include 50 sex offences, 11 for arson, and two for death threats.

Separate figures showed that sex offenders and hundreds of violent criminals applied to work in nurseries last year. A CRB spokesman said: “Criminal records checks have helped to stop at least 130,000 unsuitable people from working or volunteering with children or vulnerable people”.

Spain moves towards freedom of information law amid outrage over corruption

Freedom of information in Spain has come one step nearer after newly elected government agrees to introduce bill, reports the Washington Post.

Spain is one of the few European nations without freedom of information legislation. However, the country’s cabinet has agreed to put forward legislation that will allow Spaniards to find out more about how their money is spent by government.

The goal of the new law is to make public officials at all levels much more accountable for how they spend taxpayer money. The Washington Post reports: “Under the new bill, information on subjects including senior public servants’ salaries and detailed data on government contracts and subsidies will be published online. Spaniards will also be able to file requests for other kinds of information providing it does not breach national security or personal privacy.”

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