Tens of thousands of the poorest people in Britain risk being made homeless because of the bedroom tax, according to an analysis of councils’ assessments of the welfare cut.
From last month, housing benefit has been reduced to council or housingassociation tenants who ministers claim have more bedrooms than they need.
Data from 107 local authorities shows 86,000 households have been forced to look for one-bedroom homes, of which only 33,000 have become available in the past year. Read more
Randeep Ramesh | The Guardian | 27th May 2013
In Sheffield magistrates court, Mr Zahedi has just been bailed; he only speaks Farsi. He is shaking his head as if a terrible mistake has been made, not by the court, not in the charge, but that his standing in this room at all, in his glass cage, is all the result of a factual error. He blows everybody a kiss in thanks. His bail conditions are that he stay away from a particular person; they can’t curfew him because he’s homeless. Most nights he sleeps behind the police station.
His solicitor, Lucy Hogarth, explains: “It took me and the clerk to persuade the court that they couldn’t remand him in custody, because the trial isn’t going to result in a custodial sentence. But the prosecutor wanted to lock him up.”
Her next client, Mr Oates, is up for benefit fraud, but the Department for Work and Pensions hasn’t sent the paperwork for two days, during which time he’s been held in a cell. “Without me asking,” Hogarth says, “he’d probably still be in there.” Read more
Zoe Williams | The Guardian | 24th May 2013
Nearly 600 homes across Scotland have been blacklisted as being too dangerous for ambulance crews to enter without police protection. The 593 addresses have been pinpointed because of previous attacks or threats on paramedics.
The statistics were obtained by the Conservatives under Freedom of Information legislation. The Scottish government said the figure was a “small proportion” of the country’s 2.5 million homes.
NHS Lothian had the most red flagged addresses, with 162, followed by Greater Glasgow and Clyde with 147, and Fife with 68. The Scottish Ambulance Service confirmed the snapshot for May 2013, which was an increase from the same time in 2012 when 437 addresses were red flagged. Read more
BBC | 26th May 2013
Campaigners fighting on behalf of almost one million Bradford & Bingley investors have fixed their sights on the City regulator.
The Bradford and Bingley Action Group (BBAG) has lodged a Freedom of Information request with the new Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to see whether its predecessor – the Financial Services Authority (FSA) – withheld information from shareholders in the lead up to the bank’s collapse in 2008.
Bradford & Bingley, best known for its bowler hat logo, was heavily exposed to the troubled buy-to-let mortgage market in the lead-up to the financial crisis. The lender ran into difficulties when funding from the wholesale money markets dried up. Read more
Jamie Dunkley & Roger Aitken | The Independent | 26th May 2013
POLICE FORCES have spent nearly £40million on translators for suspects and victims unable to speak English over the past three years, an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has established. The Metropolitan Police paid out £7.1million on interpreters and translators in a single year. The London force listed 97 languages it has paid to translate, including African dialects such as Wolof, Yoruba and Oromo.
Rural constabularies have also spent substantial sums on language services. Thames Valley Police’s bill for translators and interpreters has exceeded £1million in each of the past three years. Forces in Kent, Norfolk and Lincolnshire have at times spent more than £400,000 a year on translation.
Polish, Romanian, Mandarin and Lithuanian are among the languages which police authorities most frequently require interpreters for. The figures – obtained using the Freedom of Information Act – expose one of the hidden costs of years of high migration. Read more
Robert Watts | The Sunday Telegraph | 26th May 2013
The Commons Speaker is facing a storm of criticism after it emerged his children’s nanny lives in a taxpayer-funded apartment in the Houses of Parliament. John Bercow – who earns over £140,000 per year and has backed calls for pay rises for MPs – and his wife Sally have given their nanny the run of the housekeeper’s apartment near their own palatial rooms inside the Palace of Westminster.
The nanny’s accommodation in the Commons is entirely covered by the public purse, including the council tax and utility bills. The arrangement has been described as ‘indefensible’ by a former chairman of the Standards in Public Life committee. The Bercows, who have three young children, have separately acquired a riverside property nearby for £935,000 just four miles away.
Previously the couple said that their nanny was ‘live-in’. But according to details released after a freedom of information request, it now transpires that she lives in a separate flat consisting of one bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and a living room. Read more
Gerri Peev | The Daily Mail | 28th May 2013
SOUTH Yorkshire Police’s chief constable was keen to avoid questions about Sir Norman Bettison after the Hillsborough report, a previously secret email shows. The two men worked together at West Yorkshire Police before David Crompton left to head the South Yorkshire force.
They were in touch over Hillsborough before last year’s damning report, which revealed Mr Bettison’s role in the aftermath of the 1989 disaster. The day before the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, Mr Crompton and Mr Bettison swapped emails.
Mr Crompton, 49, told the then-West Yorkshire chief constable he did not expect a “direct focus” on him. But the HIP report, which exposed a police cover-up, did feature Sir Norman’s role – and led to calls for him to resign. And today we can reveal Mr Crompton was reluctant to answer questions over Mr Bettison, 57, after the details emerged. Read more
Jonathon Corke | The Daily Star | 28th May 2013
Just six per cent of army uniforms were made in Britain last year under manufacturing contracts worth £5million while £75million worth of production was outsourced to India, China and Eastern Europe.
Struggling defence companies in the UK have been forced to lay off staff and open factories overseas in a drive to cut costs or risk losing contracts.
Senior Tory MP Patrick Mercer – a former Army colonel and former security spokesman – claimed there was a security risk involved with making the kit abroad and said ‘every soldier should have a uniform made in Britain’. The staggering figures were released by the Ministry of Defence under a Freedom of Information Act request by Mail Online. Read more
Rob Cooper | The Daily Mail | 27th May 2013
LITTER louts drop enough rubbish at the side of Scotland’s railways and roads every year to fill 112 skips – or two Olympic-sized swimming pools. Figures released through Freedom of Information show 1,800 tonnes of refuse are collected each year, ranging from old furniture, washing machines and televisions, to food packaging, paper and cans.
The cost of the clean-up operation is about £60,000 a month. Last month, almost 4,000 hours were spent clearing litter from motorways in Glasgow and surrounding area.
Transport minister Keith Brown urged people to dispose of their rubbish responsibly. He said: “Scotland is a wonderful country and its natural beauty is a key factor in attracting tourists. Read more
Claire Gardner | The Scotsman | 25th May 2013
THEFTS of catalytic converters ripped from vehicles across Nottingham soared by over 300 per cent in 2011-2012, a Freedom of Information request by the Post has revealed. Figures in 2013 have also already overtaken total offences in 2009.
The crimes represent just under 20 per cent of all recorded metal theft offences in 2012. The data shows an increase of 256 offences over the 87 reported incidents in 2011. It is the also the highest recorded number of catalytic converter thefts over the past five years.
Police say intelligence shows that the crimes being carried out mostly by organised gangs. Catalytic converters, devices used to reduce output of toxic chemicals, are being targeted for the valuable elements they contain. Platinum and rhodium from converters can fetch hundreds of pounds on the black market. Read more
Tom Norton | The Nottingham Post | 24th May 2013
They were among hundreds of bizarre calls to firefighters in Courier Country — including a cat that got its head stuck in a TV. A freedom of information request has revealed a series of strange animal emergencies such as a Perth iguana that got stranded on a roof and a dog that trapped its head between railings in Dundee’s Whitfield area.
Some of the more distressing calls included a dog impaled on a fence in Aberargie, a dolphin that got into difficulty at Moncrieffe Island and a horse that had to be put down after falling into a well in Auchterarder.
Data was requested from all eight of Scotland’s former fire services to cover the last five years, however only three responded with results. Since 2008 there have been almost 139 calls to animal-related incidents in Tayside compared with around 670 in Strathclyde since recording mechanisms changed there in 2009. Read more
Graeme Bletcher | The Courier | 27th May 2013
The number of physical attacks by pupils on teachers in Bassetlaw has dramatically reduced in the past year, according to new figures. Data obtained through the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act shows there were zero recorded incidents between 2012-13 – compared to three in 2011-12 and 13 in 2010-11.
According to Notts County Council, the recorded attacks happened at Portland and Valley in Worksop and Elizabethan and Retford Oaks over the past three years. Of the total number of physical attacks, three resulted in exclusion, six pupils were verbally reprimanded and three cases put down to special educational needs.
There were no verbal attacks recorded over the same period. Katy Williams, director of business services at Outwood Grange Academies Trust, which governs Portland and Valley, said the data was a clear indicator of Outwood’s approach to discipline. Read more
Worksop Guardian | 25th May 2013
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama is facing demands in court to reveal more about the U.S. drone program, despite his speech addressing it on Thursday and his government’s acknowledgement a day earlier that four Americans have died in drone strikes.
Civil liberties advocates, news organizations and the families of those who died have brought lawsuits in New York, Washington and Oakland, California, challenging the government’s refusal to provide information.
Now that the drone program’s existence has at last been confirmed, government lawyers on Wednesday indicated they would abandon their previous arguments, which did not confirm or deny the drone program. In the case in Oakland, they said they would give a new response to the Freedom of Information Act request filed by the First Amendment Coalition within 30 days. Read more
David Ingram | The Chicago Tribune | 23rd May 2013
The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative advocacy group, has sued the Environmental Protection Agency seeking an explanation of why it has been denied waivers of fees for provision of documents while environmental groups almost always got waivers. Just more evidence EPA is becoming a law unto itself.
Christopher Horner of CEI used a Freedom of Information Act request to examine document requests over about 15 months. His own requests for waivers were denied 14 out of 15 times; requests from environmental groups were granted 75 of 82 times.
Every time Horner appealed (he didn’t say how many times that was) his request was granted. EPA’s inspector general says he will look into the accusation; the acting EPA administrator, Robert Perciasepe, says EPA’s policy is not to discriminate in waivers and anyway, documents increasingly are provided in electronic form, which incurs no fee. Read more
The Boston Herald | 26th May 2013
The oft-criticised freedom of information act (offentlighedslov) proposal received another blow yesterday when the Copenhagen City Council approved a proposal from Enhedslisten (EL) aimed at maintaining transparency at the council level.
EL’s proposal is based on a principle that citizens and the media should enjoy the highest amount of transparency possible when attempting to gain insight into council policymaking.
“The City Council must, as much as possible, work towards transparency and openness in our administration and I am really pleased with this law,” Rikke Lauritzen, an EL spokesperson, told Berlingske newspaper. Read more
The Copenhagen Post | 24th May 2013
Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the sentence of 13 and a half months in prison that an Istanbul magistrate’s court passed yesterday on Turkish-Armenian journalist Sevan Nişanyan for posting “insulting” comments about Mohammed in his blog.
“Nisanyan’s jail sentence is a grave violation of freedom of information and sends a threatening message to fellow journalists and bloggers that is unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It should be overturned on appeal. Suppression of comments critical of Islam has no place in a secular country such as Turkey.”
“We have often hailed the gradual weakening of Turkey’s Kemalist – secularist, nationalist and militarist – taboos but democracy will not benefit if they are replaced by a new religious censorship.” Read more
Reporters Without Borders | 24th May 2013
The Central Bank was warned about potential design and copyright problems before it issued the flawed €10 James Joyce commemorative silver coin last month.
Department of Finance officials alerted the Central Bank on at least two occasions about the possibility of difficulties with the James Joyce estate over copyright and design. The details are contained in documents obtained by RTÉ News under Freedom of Information.
The coin sold out within two days of being issued on 11 April, despite carrying on its front an error in a quotation from Joyce’s most famous work, Ulysses, alongside an image of the author that was not approved by his estate. Read more
The Irish Times | 24th May 2013
Warfare may be an awful thing, but it has a habit of accelerating health technology in ways that are helpful to everyone. For example, in World War II the Allies made significant medical advances in vital areas such as developing antibiotic drugs — which the Germans didn’t possess — and performing lifesaving blood transfusions.
Now, however, the military is developing an alarming new interest in the human body and brain. It wants to create armies of mutant soldiers, equipped with unstoppable physical and mental powers.
Within 30 years, according to newly released Ministry of Defence papers, British soldiers should be able to lift huge weights, run at high speeds over extreme distances, have infra-red night vision built into their brains, and even be capable of transmitting thoughts by electronically aided telepathy. Read more
John Naish | The Daily Mail | 30th April 2013
Manchester council is to be investigated over claims they take too long to respond to Freedom of Information requests. Town hall bosses will be monitored by officials from the Wilmslow-based Information Commissioner’s Office this quarter after a ‘significant number of complaints’ were received over their inability to respond within the statutory time limit.
By law, the council has to provide a response to an FOI request within 20 working days. Anybody can submit a request although in certain circumstances officials can refuse to release certain details.
The council will be monitored until June 30 and failure to show signs of improvement within that period may result in enforcement action. Read more
Andrew Stuart | Manchester Evening News | 30th April 2013
YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—President Serzh Sarkisian’s staff has allocated some 500 million drams ($1.2 million) in grants to three dozen non-governmental organizations that have generally avoided publicizing their activities purportedly including human rights advocacy.
The Yerevan-based Center for Freedom of Information has obtained detailed information about the funding, provided from 2010-2012, from the Armenian Finance Ministry. The latter had to make it available in accordance with Armenia’s freedom of information legislation.
Hardly any of the 31 recipients of the presidential grants has been covered by the Armenian media to date. The government data shows that many of them were founded and registered with the Justice Ministry shortly before receiving state funding. Read more
Asbarez Post | 29th April 2013
A generation of genetically-modified ‘X-Men’ superhumans could be among us by 2045, a Ministry of Defence think tank has said.
Advancements in gene technology could help humans gain mutant powers such as the likes of Wolverine, Cyclops and Storm in the popular comic book and movie series, it has been reported.
The MoD’s Development Concepts and Doctrine Centre warn however that ‘genetic inequality’ could result from advancements in biology being unequally shared across society.
The centre met last summer for a two-day summit, featuring experts from government, industry and universities. The details have been released following a Freedom of Information request by The Sun. Read more.
James Rush | Daily Mail | 25th February 2013
Papers published on Hackney Council’s website have inadvertently revealed the personal data of a number of residents, an investigation by the Hackney Citizen has found.
Among the personal details discovered were the names, addresses, email addresses and mobile phone numbers of more than thirty residents who had been in touch with the council recently about licensing decisions.
The data featured in documents which had been partially redacted, but redaction had not always been done correctly, allowing personal details to be accessed by anyone who viewed the papers. Read more.
Philip Nye | Hackney Citizen | 25th February
Fifteen Sri Lankan nationals have claimed they were tortured and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment after they were forcibly removed to the country by the UK Border Agency, the Home Office has said.
In a freedom of information (FoI) request, the Home Office revealed that between the end of the island’s civil war in 2009 and September 2012, 15 failed asylum seekers managed to escape back to Britain after being removed by the agency, the UKBA. They subsequently won refugee status after giving evidence to officials saying they were tortured in Sri Lanka.
Kulasegaram Geetharthanan, a solicitor in the UK, said that one of his clients, understood to be one of the 15 mentioned in the FoI statement, had been gang raped and tortured by Sri Lankan security services after being forcibly removed to the capital, Colombo, on a specially chartered UKBA flight in 2011. Read more.
Shiv Malik | The Guardian | 12th February 2013
The Ministry of Defence has disclosed for the first time the five Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) systems used in the conflicts and the number that have perished due to pilot error, technical faults or the undesirability of retrieving them from hostile areas.
The figures highlight the military’s increasing reliance on technologies that are regarded as a way of minimising risks to frontline troops. Officials say the UAVs have operated for thousands of hours on sensitive operations.
The MoD released details of the UAV incidents under the Freedom of Information Act, conceding that their operations were “viewed by some as contentious and there is therefore strong public interest in being as open and transparent as possible” about their use. Read more. Read more.
Nick Hopkins | The Guardian | 12th February 2013
The work, by veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn, is a step-by-step guide on how to placate constituents, advance one’s career, claim expenses and fend off an inquisitive press. It was borrowed 19 times last year from the Commons library, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show – more than any other title.
It offers tips on how to ‘doughnut’ – or surround a speaker in Parliament in order to create the impression on television that the session is well-attended – and how to prevent a political career from derailing a marriage.
Chapter titles include “How to convince voters that the MP never stops working”, “How to dilute boredom”, “How to Climb the Greasy Pole” and “How to write an Abusive Letter”. Read more.
Matthew Holehouse | The Telegraph | 12th February 2013
What a rip-toff: Taxpayers spend £500m to send top Government’s officials kids to posh public schools
Taxpayers have forked out £500million in just three years to send top Government officials’ children to posh public schools such as Eton.
A Mirror investigation can today reveal the highly paid civil servants are getting a £26,000-a-year perk towards Britain’s most expensive education.
Just last year alone, the Foreign Office splashed out £27million for 717 children of diplomats.
The Ministry of Defence and Department for International Development are also spending tens of millions of pounds on the extravagant freebie.
[The Mirror’s] revelations – which can be disclosed after a year-long Freedom of Information fight was won this week – come as thousands of families have their child benefit payments slashed. Read more.
Steve Myall | The Mirror | 10th November 2012
Deadly weapons find at Commons
COPS guarding the Houses of Parliament have seized a huge arsenal of deadly weapons from visitors, The Sun can reveal.
Police have confiscated fake firearms, hundreds of knives and even swords at security checkpoints.
The shocking haul exposes cops’ daily battle to keep MPs and peers safe — and raises fears that a modern-day Guy Fawkes will one day beat the system. Our Freedom of Information requests reveal officers found 433 knives in the past three years as visitors passed metal detectors and X-ray scanners.
They also confiscated three fake guns, a knuckle-duster, a catapult, three telescopic batons, a cosh and a meat cleaver. This year’s haul includes a sabre and a sword. Read more.
Craig Woodhouse | The Sun | 11th November 2012
Scotland: A compelling case for transparency on radiation risk
The slow drip of worrying news about the radioactive contamination at Dalgety Bay does nothing for the people of Fife but engender fear.
Today’s revelations in the Sunday Herald that Government scientists have discovered a near-doubling in the incidence of cancers among people living near the contaminated zone will inevitably cause disquiet locally.
With concern, though, comes frustration – and the people of Fife, indeed Scotland at large, have every right to be angry with the Ministry of Defence. If it wasn’t for this newspaper pursuing the truth about the level of radioactive contamination under Freedom of Information legislation, the public would still have no knowledge of local cancer rates. It is better to know the truth, however potentially unpalatable, than to remain ignorant of possible health risks. Read more.
Herald Scotland | 11th November 2012
The private litter firm dishing out 700 fines a week: Company pockets £1.6m from town hall deals
A private company is raking in cash by fining more than 100 people a day for dropping litter, according to a report.
Members of the public are being treated as ‘cash cows’ by over-zealous litter patrols who work for a firm that has signed lucrative commission-only contracts with councils, say critics.
At least 12 local authorities have employed one business, Xfor, to issue on-the-spot fines. It keeps at least £35 from each £75 penalty notice its staff hand out.
Freedom of Information requests show that the company, run by ex-Armed Forces personnel, has pocketed £1.6million of the money it has raised from tickets handed out by 51 members of staff. Read more.
Ian Drury | Daily Mail | 12th November 2012
Gwent Police pays £200,000 to informants
THE bill for paying informants by Gwent Police over the last five years was nearly £200,000, it has been revealed.
The force paid £193,760 for information, contributing to a total of almost £900,000 across the Welsh police forces.
The revelation comes after Freedom of Information requests by Plaid Cymru. Figures show that the top force for paying informants is the South Wales Police Force, paying out £530,755. Read more.
South Wales Argus | 12th November 2012
UK spent millions training security forces from oppressive regimes
The UK government has spent millions of pounds on training military, police and security personnel from oppressive regimes that have arms embargoes in place, the Guardian has learned.
In information revealed in a freedom of information response from the Ministry of Defence a total of £75,406 has been spent on providing 44-week courses at the elite Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for Sudanese and Congolese forces. Other support includes military logistics, advanced command and staff courses, strategic intelligence and evaluating challenges to state sovereignty
Diane Taylor and David Smith | The Guardian | 25th September 2012
Three people are shot every day with Tasers
Three people are shot every day by police armed with 50,000-volt Taser stun guns, figures revealed last night.
The potentially deadly devices were deployed in almost 4,500 confrontations last year, more than ever before.
The latest figures were revealed in a series of requests to every force across England and Wales under the Freedom of Information Act.
Chris Greenwood and Jack Doyle | Daily Mail | 24th September 2012
Riot failures at Broadmoor: Bosses tried to play down four-hour rampage at home of some of Britain’s most notorious criminals
Broadmoor bosses have admitted the ageing hospital’s “physical structures failed” in a night of violence.
Trust officials tried to play down a four-hour rampage on a ward, home to some of Britain’s most notorious criminals.
They referred to the incident last year as merely a “disturbance”.
But a letter in response to a Freedom of Information Act made by the Mirror reveals for the first time the 149-year-old mental health unit’s “physical structures failed” last August 30.
Andrew Gregory | The Mirror | 5th September 2012
Release of council staff emails about failed merger project sparks Breckland Council review of openness procedures
Emails revealing a council’s apparent reluctance to reveal how much a failed money-saving project cost it have prompted a review of its commitment to openness.
The exchanges between Breckland Council officers about an EDP request for information about the proposed merger of senior staff with Yarmouth Borough Council were released following a second Freedom of Information Act request.
The project, which Breckland Council said would save its taxpayers £100,000 a year, was dropped after Labour councillors opposed to the scheme won control of Yarmouth in May.
Breckland Council said it had complied with its legal obligations to release information, but admitted “in some of the emails our attitude to FoI requests comes across as negative and reluctant”.
Martin George | EDP24 | Tuesday 25 September 2012
MoD procurement might escape taxpayer FoI scrutiny
Plans to privatise a Ministry of Defence body that spends billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money could restrict the public’s ability to ask questions about how their money is spent, Publicservice.co.uk understands. And Labour has said the move could allow the government to avoid “difficult” questions.
The revelation comes amid growing concerns that bodies across the public sector are escaping their obligations under the Freedom of Information Act as they are merged and re-organised by the government.
Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), set to spend £150bn over the next 10 years as the MoD’s procurement arm, could become a government owned contractor operated (GOCO) entity under proposals announced by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond. A final decision is expected this year.
Mathew D’Arcy | Public Service.Co.Uk | 23rd July 2012
Confusion and secrecy over sale of former RAF Coltishall to Norfolk County Council.
Site owner the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) confirmed to the EDP on Friday that contracts had not yet been exchanged for the former Battle of Britain fighter base, which closed in 2006.
But both a leading county councillor behind the bid and a spokesman for nearby residents opposed to the sale say an NCC officer clearly stated at an inaugural meeting of the Community Liaison Reference Group – set up to brief interested parties and help them shape plans – that the exchange had taken place.
However, an NCC press release issued after the July 12 meeting qualified that announcement, claiming that there had been “an initial” exchange of contracts.
The puzzle comes as the MoJ has refused, for a second time, to disclose details surrounding the sale of the 600-acre base following a Freedom of Information Act (FoI) request from the EDP.
Alex Hurrell | EDP | 23 July 2012
Fury as taxpayers fork out £1m a year for fire chiefs’ posh cars
FIRE bosses are driving around in a fleet of luxury cars costing taxpayers almost £1million a year.
Commanders of Scotland’s cash-strapped fire services zoom about in sport versions of Audis, Lexus, Mercedes and BMWs.
They also drive top-of-the-range 4x4s thanks to a perk of the job.
Last night, they were slammed by furious firefighters who are facing multi-million-pound cuts when Scotland’s eight brigades merge next year.
The bumper bill for about 200 commanders’ motors was exposed by a Freedom of Information Act request.
Janice Burns | Daily Record | July 23rd 2012
Abolition of councils on agenda for Irish Cabinet
PROPOSALS to abolish a number of town councils and reform freedom of information legislation are among the issues to be brought to Cabinet tomorrow, the last meeting before the summer break.
About 25 councils out of 80 are at risk of abolition because of their limited range of functions. Town councillors receive an annual payment of €16,700 and any cuts will also have an impact on council staff.
Local government reform proposals by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan are on the list for Cabinet, but senior Government sources have described it as a “long agenda” for the last meeting until September.
Marie O’Halloran and Martin Wall | Irish Times | 23rd July 2012
Prime Minister Tony Blair was briefed on the UK’s files about UFO sightings in 1998, newly declassified MoD documents have revealed.
Writer Nick Redfern urged him to “consider making available for public scrutiny all of the many and varied UFO reports compiled by the government”.
The request came as the government began to implement Freedom of Information (FOI requests).
BBC | July 12th 2012
Alex Salmond told to reveal if he took legal advice on EU
Alex Salmond has been ordered to reveal if he has received legal advice on whether an independent Scotland could join the European Union.
Scotland’s Information Commissioner ruled that Scottish ministers were wrong to impose the equivalent of a super-injunction by refusing to say whether they had such advice.
In a detailed judgment, Rosemary Agnew said the Scottish Government had broken Freedom of Information (FoI) laws and gave it six weeks to confirm or deny the existence of the material.
Ian Swanson | The Scotsman | July 12th 2012
Disabled children four times more likely to be victim of violence: study
One in 20 children has a moderate or severe disability and a British study has found they a quarter of them have been attacked physically, sexually, abused emotionally or neglected.
A team from John Moores University in Liverpool examined 17 studies including a total of 18,000 children aged over two from Britain, America, Sweden, Finaland, Spain and Israel.
Last month a Freedom of Information request revealed that disability hate crimes have doubled since the financial crisis began in 2008.
Rebecca Smith | The Telegraph | July 12th 2012
The events leading up to the suicide of Adolph Hitler’s deputy Rudolph Hess were reconsidered today after freedom of information request forced the disclosure of a British Military Police file, the Daily Mail reports.
In 1987, Hess was found hanged by an electrical cable in the fortified compound in Berlin he was imprisoned following his 1946 conviction at Nuremberg.
The verdict of the Special Investigations Branch of the British Military Police is that Hess committed suicide and no others were involved. However, historians are now claiming that these new files released under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) cast doubt on the official version of events.
The report contains the text of Hess’s suicide note, in which, according to an English translation, he claimed he was writing ‘a few minutes before my death’. Hess’s son, however, has stated that the note refers to a period in 1969 when Hess had a perforated ulcer in the duodenum and feared he could die.
Peter Padfield, the historian whose freedom of information request led to the report’s release, believes the note was planted on Hess’s body, adding “’The ‘suicide note’ appended to the report is surely bogus. For instance, passing his regrets to Freiberg – he had done this some 20 years before when his wife and son visited him for the first time in Spandau. And there is no mention of his grandchildren.
“[The note] was forged. That doesn’t mean he was murdered, but it does suggest they were trying to cover something up”.
Pursuit of terrorists is ‘like an old fashioned tiger hunt’, said British general
A Freedom of information disclosure by the Ministry of Defence has revealed that a general’s choice of words provoked protest from colleagues, reports the Independent.
In 1989, when the British military was accused of operating a shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland, Army Commander Lieutenant John Waters compared shooting terrorists to “an old fashioned tiger hunt”. He wrote: “The way that the standard units and the specialist units should work together to get success can be compared with an old-fashioned tiger hunt”. And added: “The most experienced hunters are placed in what is judged to be the very best position from which to get a shot.”
General Charles Guthrie, now a peer, complained “the references in the letter to tiger hunting and killing are ill-advised”. General Guthrie asked his colleague to moderate his language. He wrote, in August 1989: “My main worry is that, whatever caveats are attached to the documents, their contents will leak out in a way which will cause embarrassment to you, the Army Department and Ministers. Bitter experience suggests that such quotable phrases become so widely discussed that they are almost bound to reach unauthorised ears sooner or later.”
The Labour MP Paul Flynn said: “I am all in favour of letting sleeping dogs lie, but this type of leadership is much worse than I had ever expected.”
NHS writes off thousands owed by treated visitors
The NHS has written off thousands of pounds owed by foreign nationals to the NHS for treatment in Wales, FoIA has revealed.
Almost £200,000 is owed between 2008 and 2011. In this period health boards have written off more than £185,000 of unpaid fees. The figures were obtained under FoIA by the Welsh Conservatives and reveal that the amount unpaid has risen sharply as health boards struggle to collect the costs of emergency and routine treatment.
A Welsh government spokesman said: “All visitors to Wales requiring NHS treatment are assessed as to their eligibility for free NHS treatment. All treatment received in an accident and emergency department is free to all… We are looking at what further measures can be introduced to support NHS organisations recover costs.”
The Ministry of Defence has come under heavy criticism after a Freedom of Information request exposed a list of 13 Scottish sites contaminated with potentially lethal radiation.
Fife’s Dalgety Bay, Moray’s RAF Kinloss, Argyll’s RAF Machrihanish base and the former Defence Aviation Repair Agency factory near Perth are the latest military sites left with “historic radium problems”, The Express on Sunday reports.
The Express states that most contamination is caused by radium sulphate paint, used in military equipment such as aircraft instrument panels to aid night visibility. Despite their environmental and health hazard, planes were buried as scrap while in other instances the material was dispersed as ash after incineration.
Last October Mike Weir MP, the SNP’s UK environment spokesman, had asked Defence Minister Andrew Robathan for a list of all locations where radium had been buried, to no avail.
After the recent FoIA revelations the Angus MP criticised the MoD, The Herald reported. The MP said: “The behaviour of the Ministry of Defence has been evasive and shifty. We need total transparency.”
The Express also mentions that the Scottish Sunday Express has already revealed that experts plan to investigative at least two more hotspots, including one next to a primary school, in Wishaw, Lanarkshire.
Scottish public CCTV cameras double over recent years
Figures obtained after Freedom of Information requests submitted by the Scotsman reveal Scotland as one of the most “surveillance-heavy” countries in the world, spending up to £8m to maintain them per year. The newspaper reports that there are currently 3,115 operating CCTV cameras across the country, while in 2003 there were 1,269.
New Scottish law brings more than 60 stalkers to court
More than 60 stalkers have been convicted in the first year of Scotland’s anti-stalking legislation, the Scotsman reports. The figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show more than 400 complaints against stalkers have been investigated by the police.
Number of drivers using mobile phones while on the wheel is rising
Freedom of Information requests submitted by Swiftcover.com, a motoring insurer, have revealed the number of drivers fined for using their mobiles while driving has risen to a new high, The Sunday Times reports. Figures released by 41 of 43 police authorities in England and Wales reveal the number of offenders who received a £60 fine and three penalty points in the 12 months to the end of August last year was 171,223, more than 4,000 above 2006’s record number.