Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 21/1/22 – #FOIFriday

Actually on a Friday this week.

And with a reminder that you don’t always need an FOI to get the information you want. Sometimes knowing what is published can make finding what you need much quicker.

Bad drivers getting away with it

While asking for too much information in your request can be a quick way to a Section 12 refusal, sometimes asking for small amounts of information about related topics can add more detail to your investigation.

This seems to be the case for the FOIs related to a Panorama documentary looking at road deaths. The coverage appears to highlight two different lines for issues adding to road safety concerns – out of action speed cameras and a lack of traffic cops.

Either of these are likely to be a talking point – where, when and how drivers get fined for doing things they’re not supposed on the road, or in this case avoid fines, always seems a popular topic.

Super speeding drivers

If you’re going to look at drivers doing things they shouldn’t, sometimes it’s worth highlighting the worst ones, as this Essex Live story does.

As well as asking for the fastest overall clocked by a police force (and it’s a good idea to ask what road they were on), it can also be worthwhile asking for the fastest ones by speed limit – so not just 150mph on a motorway, but 50mph in a 20mph zone.

Short but expensive bus lane

Continuing on this theme – the perils of driving in bus lanes (even if they are only about the size of a double decker bus)

Lack of lollipops

Are lollipop men and women still a regular sight in your area, helping children cross the road on their way to school? Or have their numbers dwindled in recent years.

An FOI by the regional MSP has found the number employed in South Ayrshire has declined by almost half over the past 10 years, according to a report in the Daily Record. She fears tight council budgets will mean even fewer.

Sexual misconduct in universities

According to STV, nearly 400 accusations of sexual impropriety have been made to Scottish universities in the past five years – with reports made against both students and staff.

The reports have led to 22 exclusions, five suspensions, two dismissals of staff and 46 warnings or cautions.

Increasing waits for council homes

The cost of living crisis, along with any continuing fallout end of the ending of pandemic measures stopping evictions, may see more people struggling with rent and seeking homelessness help, and potentially social housing.

In East Ayrshire, they may be facing lengthening waits, according to this report from the Cumnock Chronicle. This is a situation that may well be being repeated across the country, not least because the increasing reliance on temporary accommodation in recent years suggests councils struggling for permanent homes.

Attacks on teachers

There’s quite a bit of detail in this report by Black Country Live looking at the number of attacks on teachers, as it also gives information about what kinds of injuries have been suffered as a result.

It also looks like an example of using FOI to follow up other stories – a survey of teachers on the violence they suffer, and a court report about a parent’s attack on a teacher – with local detail or more depth.

Prosecutions falling

Prosecutions and convictions for child sexual abuse have fallen by around half in four years, research by a children’s charity suggests. The research, reported in the Coventry Telegraph, uses FOI to get the number of prosecutions and convictions from the MoJ.

However, this information may be more easily available – it’s a case of weighing up having more up to date information against having to wait for an FOI response to come back. For this one, the CPS regularly publishes similar information as part of its Violence against Women and Girls report (although the data is only up to 2018/19), while the MoJ itself publishes information on prosecutions and convictions on a quarterly basis, with more detail (including for individual offences and police force areas) once a year.

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