Nearly 3,000 children placed in care were repeatedly running away last year, with one able to go missing a total of 67 times in twelve months, figures released today reveal. The news raises fears about the vulnerability of children to child sex grooming gangs preying on the care system, such as those which operated in Rotherham and Rochdale.
According to the NSPCC, which collected the data under the Freedom of Information Act, police forces in England and Wales recorded more than 28,000 individual incidents involving children who are recorded as having absconded more than once.
The charity found that 7,885 children in total went missing, including those who only absconded once. Most were aged 13-17 years old and the youngest was only six. Read more
Kevin Rawlinson | The Independent | 24th April 2013
This is a sorry story which encapsulates all that has gone wrong with modern democracy and how taxpayers’ money is being scandalously wasted. It involves a quango squandering our money, a pugilistic MP and an extraordinarily large bill from lawyers. All over a £23.90 train ticket.
The saga started after a Labour MP launched a legal challenge against the Commons expenses watchdog because it rejected his claim for reimbursement of the fare for an 80-mile rail journey.
What makes the story all the more farcical is that the watchdog — which ran up a £27,000 legal bill — was set up in 2009 in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal specifically to save money for the taxpayer. Read more
Zoe Brennan | The Daily Mail | 25th April 2013
I was told something would happen at Tate Modern on Monday, but not exactly what. In the event, had you wandered through the London museum mid-afternoon, you would probably have missed the three activists winding their way through the galleries, whispering chunks of the transcript of the BP Deepwater Horizon trial into phone-sized cameras.
Last year, Liberate Tate, the group founded three years ago with the aim of ending the sponsorship of Tate by BP, delivered a wind turbine blade to the gallery. The year before, a naked man covered in oil curled up in a foetal position on the floor. By contrast this week’s “performance”, timed to coincide with the third anniversary of the notorious oil spill, is low-key. Read more
Susanna Rustin | The Guardian | 24th April 2013
It may not have been his most hostile confrontation of the day but it was probably the loudest. David Cameron emerged from Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons yesterday to be bearded in Downing Street by foghorn-voiced actor Brian Blessed.
The larger-than-life star, 76, was at No 10 to deliver a petition calling on Mr Cameron to end the secrecy surrounding testing on animals for research.
It was signed by a host of celebrities including Joanna Lumley, Eddie Izzard, Twiggy and Prunella Scales. The Government is consulting on a review of the regulations which exempt such tests from Freedom of Information rules. Read more
The Daily Mail | 25th April 2013
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has stepped up its enforcement activities, by issuing double the number of data breach fines in 2012-2013 as it did in the previous 12 months. This is according to data obtained via a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by digital comms vendor ViaSat.
The ICO issued 20 monetary penalties in 2012-2013 totalling £2.6 million, according to the figures. During the previous year, the organisation fined just nine organisations generating £791,000 in the process. Read more
Caroline Donnelly | IT PRO | 24th April 2013
Reporters Without Borders representatives yesterday attended hearings in two trials in Silivri, 60 km northwest of Istanbul, that have major implications for freedom of information in Turkey.
One is the trial of Kurdish journalists who are accused of being members of an alleged “media committee” created by the outlawedUnion of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK). The other is a trial of alleged members of the Ergenekon ultranationalist conspiracy.
“We are here to yet again demonstrate our support for those who have been jailed because of their work as journalists and to point out that Turkey currently holds the world record in this category,” Reporters Without Borders said. Read more
Reporters without Borders | 23rd April 2013
Washington: In the late 1970s, Central Intelligence Agency had information that China might have provided a fairly comprehensive package of proven nuclear weapons design information to Pakistan, a recently declassified document has revealed.
According to recently declassified CIA data, obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act, the CIA had evidence suggesting close Pakistan-China nuclear cooperation, to the point of facilitating a nuclear weapons capability, although the intelligence community saw this as possibly a special case based on an alliance that had existed since 1963.
“This allegation has come up before, for example in a State Department document and in major news stories but this is the first time the CIA has released some of its own information,” according to the set of two documents obtained by the National Security Archive. Read more
IBN Live | 24th April
In the wake of the beating of a Farmington Hills family last year that left a man dead and two others severely injured, a state lawmaker is trying to limit the release of 911 recordings requested under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.
Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth, said he wants to strike a balance between the public’s right to the information and the need to be sensitive after potentially horrifying emergencies.
“It seems to shock the conscience,” Heise said of making 911 tapes immediately accessible to the public. “What we’re trying to do is at least create a cooling off period to investigate these matters properly and also have some respect for victims or those who may know the victims.” Read more
Lansing State Journal | 23rd April 2013
Collaborative investigation site Help Me Investigate has compiled data which shows how council spending on the Olympic torch relay breaks down.
Based on FOI requests by Juliet Ferguson and Carol Miers to 100 local councils and police authorities, the responses contain some interesting budget decisions. These include:
• One authority used their torch relay budget to appoint a new member of staff for 18 months
• Two authorities – Aberdeenshire and Lewisham – spent £7,398 of their torch relay budgets on new CCTV cameras
• The biggest spenders were Dover District Council and Bournemouth: both spent over £220,000. But Somerset paid nothing after organisers LOCOG agreed to pay all their costs, previously estimated in the hundreds of thousands
Paul Bradshaw | The Guardian | 6th March 2013
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is briefing smaller app developers on data protection obligations as it and other data protection authorities draft an official “opinion” on how developers should treat consumers’ data.
The ICO’s efforts will concentrate on smaller app development workshops, or even individuals, making sure their products comply with the Data Protection Act and secure full consent of users over how their personal information will be accessed.
This includes potential workshops for start-up firms held at development hubs, such as TechHub in London’s Silicon Roundabout, according to Dr Simon Rice, group manager, technology, at the ICO.
“Getting to people like the ‘bedroom developers’ [smaller developers who often produce apps in their spare time] can be the tricky part,” he says. Read more.
Ronan Shields | Marketing Week | 4th March 2013
Released in response to a freedom of information request, the FBI’s documents cover 11 years of threats against the singer, from 1988 to 1999. But the pages are heavily redacted – in many cases, to the point of incomprehensibility.
Sometimes the redactions are tantalising. In late 1992, an unidentified Chicago lawyer wrote to Houston’s New Jersey-based production company stating that unless the singer paid $100,000 (£66,000), his client planned to “reveal certain details of [Houston's] private life … to several publications”. Later the blackmail amount was boosted even higher, to $250,000 (£165,000). Read more.
Sean Michaels | The Guardian | 5th March 2013
Obama DOJ again refuses to tell a court whether CIA drone program even exists
It is not news that the US government systematically abuses its secrecy powers to shield its actions from public scrutiny, democratic accountability, and judicial review. But sometimes that abuse is so extreme, so glaring, that it is worth taking note of, as it reveals its purported concern over national security to be a complete sham.
Such is the case with the Obama DOJ’s behavior in the lawsuit brought by the ACLU against the CIA to compel a response to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about Obama’s CIA assassination program. That FOIA request seeks nothing sensitive, but rather only the most basic and benign information about the “targeted killing” program: such as ”the putative legal basis for carrying out targeted killings; any restrictions on those who may be targeted; any civilian casualties; any geographic limits on the program; the number of targeted killings that the agency has carried out.”
Everyone in the world knows that the CIA has a targeted killing program whereby it uses drones to bomb and shoot missiles at those it wants dead, including US citizens. This is all openly discussed in every media outlet. Read more.Glenn Greenwald | The Guardian | 14th February 2013
Snoop cops axed: 18 officers leave force after checking up lovers and friends on police database
Cops have been nicked using police records to snoop on family and friends 62 times. Four were sacked and 14 resigned after the breaches.
They were caught carrying out private checks on partners, relatives and friends, as well as altering their own records, and passing data to third parties.
A spokesman for the Information Commissioner’s Office, responsible for enforcing the Data Protection Act, said: “It is important officers do not abuse this access and only use information for their policing duties.
The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, show that South Wales Police had 28 breaches in 2011-12. Read more.
Adam Aspinall | The Mirror | 15th Feb 2012
Prince’s charity lobbied government to water down homeopathy criticism
Homeopathy, which involves the use of remedies so heavily diluted with water that they no longer contain any active substance, is “rubbish”, said chief medical officer Sally Davies in January to the House of Commons science and technology committee. She added that she was “perpetually surprised” that homeopathy was available in some places on the NHS.
Lobbying by opponents, and the response from DH officials who did not want to take on Prince Charles’s now defunct Foundation for Integrated Medicine and other supporters of homeopathy, is revealed in correspondence from the department discussing the new guidance. It was released under the Freedom of Information Act to Prof David Colquhoun of University College London, a Fellow of the Royal Society and prominent science blogger. Read more.
Sarah Boseley | The Guardian | 13th February 2013
Somewhere, somehow, the work to end violence against women lost momentum. Despite the improvements made over decades in tackling domestic and sexual violence, the scale of the problem remains shocking. Repeat violence is worryingly high, and there is a risk that we are taking progress for granted when much more could and should be done.
New freedom of information data from police forces reveals that up to a third of domestic incidents recorded by the police are “repeat” incidents, that is the same victims calling for protection from the same perpetrators. Time and again, opportunities to intervene and protect families are missed.
In the run up to Valentine’s Day on 14 February – the focus of the international campaign One Billion Rising to end violence against women – there is more every one of us could do to reduce the insidious, dangerous violence that still haunts too many women’s lives. Read more.
Yvette Cooper | The Guardian | 5th February 2013
The current year has so far seen 1,054 cases, compared to 712 in 2011/12. The just released figures for Q3 show a record number of new cases (424) for a quarter.The number of new data protection enforcement cases taken on by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2012/13 has surged by almost 50% compared to the whole of the previous year – with three months still to go, it has emerged.
Potential reasons for the rises include the introduction in the NHS of routine reporting of all data security breaches to the ICO. Previously only serious breaches, involving particularly sensitive data or a high number of individuals, were reported.
Another factor in the growth in the ICO’s caseload could be the impact of monetary penalties, with organisations aware that the watchdog looks favourably on those that self-report breaches rather than try to hide them. Read more.
Local Government Lawyer | 5th February 2013
The Official Information Act will be extended to cover some aspects of how the courts work, but the Government has ignored calls for it to also cover Parliament.
It is also set to bring in new grounds for blocking the release of commercial information in response to recommendations from the Law Commission.
Justice Minister Judith Collins yesterday said the Government planned to press ahead with some of its key recommendations.
These included extending the freedom of information law to the administrative functions of the courts, including information about expenditure, resources and statistical information about cases. Read more.
Vernon Small | Stuff.co.nz | 5th February 2013
It rejected an attempt by the education secretary to limit any information only to successful applicants, saying that the programme, which establishes state-funded schools free of local authority control, involved substantial public funds and significant changes to the way the education service in England was controlled, managed and delivered.
The transparency of the process and its openness to public debate were “of concern to communities” across the country, the tribunal ruled. The British Humanist Association (BHA), main player in a series of Freedom of Information requests on the issue, wanting to know the religious affiliation of applicants, said the decision was “a victory for transparency and democracy”, although it was not clear on Tuesday whether Gove will appeal for a second time. The Department for Education (DfE) said: “Ministers are currently considering the ICO’s decision, and will respond in due course.” Read more.
James Meikle | The Guardian | 15th January 2013
The British government has been facilitating talks between a range of mining and investment companies and the Eritrean government, whose human rights record is castigated in a Human Rights Watch report that says companies rushing to exploit Eritrea‘s rich resources risk involvement with widespread exploitation of forced labour by the regime.
Details of those who attended a roundtable meeting organised by the Foreign Office during a visit by officials from Eritrea, one of the world’s poorest and most repressive countries, were released under the Freedom of Information Act.
They included representatives from Scottish International Investment Ltd, Investec, Frontier Markets Fund Managers, Copper Tree Capital, Plaza Holdings Ltd and the shipping company Nectar Group Limited. Read more.
Ben Quinn | The Guardian | 15th January 2013
Scottish ministers drop royal secrecy plan
The Scottish government has dropped contentious plans to keep all communications between ministers and senior Royal Family members a secret.
Ministers said the move would bring Scotland into line with the rest of the UK, but changed their minds in light of concern over the proposals.
It was brought forward under planned reforms to freedom of information legislation.
Ministers made the decision after “careful consideration” of objections. Read more.
BBC | 27th November 2012
A further two workers have been disciplined following inappropriate behaviour on sites like Twitter and Facebook, the broadcaster has disclosed under a Freedom of Information request.
The “unusual” move comes as the broadcaster imposed an informal ban on its staff for tweeting about the BBC’s “problems”.
Acting director of news Fran Unsworth sent an internal email earlier this month saying it would be helpful if “some of our problems were not played out publicly across the social media and in the pages of the national press”. Read more.
Louisa Peacock | The Telegraph | 27th November 2012
A COUNCIL which last year dealt with over 1,000 Freedom of Information requests has drawn up proposals to deal with them quicker.
In 2005-06 Kirklees Council handled 284 requests under the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations which covers requests relating pollution and health and safety.
By 2010-11 this had risen to 876 and last year it hit 1,137.
Last year 962 (85 per cent) of requests were responded to within 20 working days, which is in line with the minimum standard required by the Information Commissioner’s Office, which enforces compliance with the law. Read more.
The Yorkshire Post | 27th November 2012
An FOI request reveals O2 has attracted more data protection complaints in one year than Google and Sony combined
Major British operator O2 attracted more complaints relating to data protection over the last year than any other public or private organisation in the UK, whilst the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) received more than any government body.
The figures, revealed when TechWeekEurope made a freedom of information (FOI) request to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), showed the watchdog received 48 complaints about O2′s data protection between 28 August 2011 and the same date this year.
The ICO looked at complaints surrounding “disclosure of data” and “security”, both of which it said related to data protection issues and information breaches in particular. Read more.
Tom Brewster | Tech Week | 23rd October 2012
There was some good news for the taxpayer yesterday as the Government announced the London Olympics and Paralympics will come in at least £377million under budget.
In its final budget report of the Games, the Government now forecasts the overall cost at £8.921billion, down from a budget of £9.298billion.
However, there remain misgivings over the fact the Government gave the London 2012 Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games nearly £1billion – more than a third of its operating budget – when Locog is a private company and therefore not subject to scrutiny through freedom of information requests. Read more.
Jacquelin Magnay | The Telegraph | 23rd October 2012
In 2010, China’s Ministry of Health announced controversial new national standards for raw milk.
After the new standard was announced, an individual lodged a Freedom of Information request with the ministry seeking access to the minutes of the meetings at which this new standard were agreed to. The ministry refused the individual’s request and he then decided to take the Ministry of Health to court. At a recent hearing of the case, the court announced that the Ministry of Health would have to once again reply to the request before a specified date. Read more.
The Economic Observer | 23rd October 2012
When it’s late and you want a pick-me-up, a hyper-caffeinated energy drink might appeal more than an espresso. But their makers face a serious setback, as the United States’ Food and Drug Agency (FDA) is investigating links between Monster, which contains three times more caffeine than an 8-ounce can of Red Bull, and the deaths of five people in the last year.
Reports were released under the Freedom of Information Act after the mother of one Maryland teenager filed a lawsuit against Monster, alleging that her daughter died after drinking two large cans of the hyper-caffeinated beverage. The official autopsy said the cause of death was “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity”.
Monster denies any blame, saying the company has sold 8 billion energy drinks over the past 16 years, with no proof tying them to any fatalities. Energy drinks are currently allowed higher levels of caffeine as they are sold as dietary supplements, not sodas. Read more.
The Independent | 23rd October 2012
Your suitcase has been tagged and whisked away for a TSA security check before being loaded onto a plane en route to your final destination. How safe are the belongings inside? The TSA has fired nearly 400 employees for allegedly stealing from travelers, and for the first time, the agency is revealing the airports where those fired employees worked.
Newly released figures provided to ABC News by the TSA in response to a Freedom of Information Act request show that, unsurprisingly, many of the country’s busiest airports also rank at the top for TSA employees fired for theft.
Sixteen of the top 20 airports for theft firings are also in the top 20 airports in terms of passengers passing through. Read more.
Megan Chuchmach | ABC News | 23rd October 2012
Councils Accused of Spying on Citizens
Powers designed to combat terrorism and serious are being used by local authorities to spy on their citizens, according to a report from campaign group Big Brother Watch.
Details obtained from 345 local authorities across the UK under the Freedom of Information Act showed they conducted operations under the Regulation of Investigatory Power Act (Ripa) on 9,607 occasions between 2008 and 2011 – more than 8 a day.
According to the study, local authorities have used the act on 550 occasions to try to catch fly-tippers and for other purposes. Suffolk County council was said to have used Ripa to investigate the sale of a puppy, while Stockton borough council examines a fraudulent escort agency and the movement of pigs.
Ines Burckhardt | Financial Times | August 22 2012
ICO disputes Freedom of Information Act findings on cookie reporting
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has dismissed claims that it is unprepared when it comes to investigating cookie compliance failures.
As detailed by SC Magazine, a Freedom of Information (FoI) request submitted by PC Pro found that 320 websites have been reported to the ICO through its online submission tool, but none of those sites have been investigated.
The ICO claimed that this was due to it not having a team in place to investigate, despite the laws being announced in May 2011 and enforced a year later.
Dan Raywood | SC Magazine | August 21 2012
Army of snitches: HMRC hands out more than £1m to Britons who shopped tax dodgers during financial crisis
Super-snitches have pocketed more than £1 million for helping catch tax-dodgers since the banking crisis began in 2008, it was revealed today. Huge taxpayer-funded ‘bounty payments’ of up to £100,000 have been handed out by HM Revenue & Customs to try to clamp down on evasion.
Cash rewards given to members of the public rose by more than a fifth in the last year, probably because more people were trying to avoid the 50p rate of income tax, experts say.
And the Government says that disgruntled spouses, family members, neighbours or colleagues are among the people who successfully snitched.
Martin Robinson | Daily Mail | 31st of July
Exclusive Report: Shocking statistics of crime among the under 12s
ITV Westcountry News can reveal the number of very young people in our region becoming involved in crime. Using the Freedom of Information Act we’ve collated figures from police forces across the South West that show how many children aged 12 or under have been arrested and later charged with commiting an offence over the past two years.
Since 2010 746 children in the region aged 12 or under have been arrested and 156 of them were later charged. Some of the crimes were serious, ranging from rape, GBH, indecent assault, arson and possession of a firearm.
Claire Manning | ITV news | 31st of July
Ministers veto Iraq minutes release
The government has used a ministerial veto to prevent the publication of the minutes from Cabinet meetings held just before the war in Iraq.
Information commissioner Christopher Graham released a decision notice asking the government to publish the minutes due to the “significant public interest” involved. He has said he is “disappointed” the government has chosen to continue Labour’s secrecy over the lead up to the military action in 2003.
“His view is that the significant public interest in this matter justified an exception to the general rule that such information should not be disclosed before the usual due date for the release of Cabinet material,” an ICO spokesperson said.
Georgie Keat | politics.co.uk | 31st of July
Is George Osborne’s energy stance influenced by Lord Howell, Greenpeace asks
Greenpeace has submitted Freedom of Information Act questions in a bid to discover how many times Lord Howell has met the Chancellor and discussed energy questions. Lord Howell is the father of George Osborne’s wife, Frances.
Lord Howell is a foreign office minister with responsibility for international energy issues in the Lords, but it is his role as president of the British Institute of Energy Economics that is exercising Greenpeace.
The Institute has Shell, BP and BG Group as corporate members, while the Energy Department is one of its eight sponsors.
Roland Gribben | The Telegraph | July 30th 2012
Ten per cent of East Lancashire police have second income
ALMOST 10 per cent of serving police officers in East Lancashire have a second income.
At least 81 officers in Eastern and Pennine divisions of Lancashire Constabulary have a second business interest.
In Eastern division, which covers Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley, 37 officers have declared a second income to bosses.
Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Lancashire Telegraph shows more than 300 officers in Lancashire have two incomes. The highest ranking officers to register a second income are three Chief Superintendents.
Vanessa Carnall | Lancashire Telegraph | July 30th 2012
ICO power to stop FOI dodgers ‘some way off’
Christopher Graham, the information commissioner, has said that implementation of the justice committee’s recommendation for his office to have more time to prosecute people who destroy data requested under freedom of information (FOI) is “still some way off”.
Although it is an offence to destroy information so as to avoid responding to an FOI request, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) currently has only six months in which to prosecute an individual.
Under current law, the six months runs from when the offence was committed, not from when the ICO receives a complaint.
The Register | July 30th 2012
Bolton’s plague of rats
BOLTON has one of the worst records for rat problems in the country.
The council was called out to almost 5,000 pest problems last year.
And figures obtained by the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) under the Freedom Of Information Act put Bolton 10th worst for the number of rat problems tackled out of 314 English local authorities between April 2010 and April, 2011.
The Bolton News | July 30th 2012
Welsh councils spent £1m in a year to publish their own newspapers
WELSH councils spent £1m a year on publishing their own newspapers, it emerged yesterday.
Data released under the Freedom of Information Act, showed at least 15 councils used taxpayers’ cash last year to produce and deliver their own newspaper.
Cardiff Council spent £331,000 in 2011-2012 on 13 editions of its taxpayer-funded “Capital Times”.
Tom Bodden | Wales Online | July 31st 2012