Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 22/7/22 – #FOIFriday

You can’t FOI the Queen, but there’s plenty of other public bodies you can send freedom of information requests to in search of stories. You could even try using it to prove God is annoyed about public transport timetables.

Unsuitable homes

Children in care are being illegally placed in unregulated homes in England, including on narrowboats and in caravans, BBC News reports.

Among them, a 12-year-old boy was placed at a campsite for weeks, more than 100 miles from his siblings and school. Such placements were banned for under-16s, but there are concerns exemptions for holidays are being exploited.

In total, the BBC received responses from 141 local authorities in England to Freedom of Information requests. More than 50 admitted placing at least 120 children in unregulated homes. 

Unsafe homes

Just 56 private landlords have been blacklisted and placed on the government’s rogue landlord register more than four years on from its launch, Metro has revealed. The worst offending individual on the register has four convictions and banning orders.

Out of 333 local authorities in England, only 23 have submitted entries to register landlords and property agents found to have wrongly treated their tenants. To date, 99 offences – an average of just 25 a year – have been recorded.

Domestic abuse

A mum who suffered two miscarriages at the hands of violent ex-partners is calling for tougher laws on assaults that lead to pregnancy loss.

Nicola Murray, 44, was shocked to discover that Police Scotland had received more than 7000 reports of domestic abuse in the last five years where pregnant women were involved, the Daily Record reports.

Nicola, who obtained the figures through a Freedom of Information request, said: “I used to naively believe that this only happened to me, but these figures show how many pregnant women are in domestic abuse situations.”


Voyeurs are getting away with “upskirting” offences in Scotland with few cases making it to court, the Daily Record reports. Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur MSP highlighted how only five per cent of cases reach court as the incidences of men using their mobile phones to film up under women’s skirts continue to rise.

A freedom of information request revealed that while 547 upskirting crimes were reported to the police in 2021-22, just 29 of them were subsequently reported to the Crown Office. The Lib Dems previously revealed that between the law being introduced in 2010 and 2018, it had led to an average of 3.5 prosecutions and 3.2 convictions per year.

A similar law was introduced in April 2019 in England and Wales, which may or may not be having a similar impact.

Calls for help

It’s not just 999 (and ambulances) that are struggling with demand, the non-emergency health advice line 111 is also being inundated with calls.

NHS 24, which operates the 111 non-emergency number in Scotland, “still cannot cope” with demand, Scottish Labour warned as figures showed nearly one in four calls has gone unanswered. A freedom of information request from the party shows, of the 785,456 calls made to NHS 24 in the past five months, 180,940 (23 per cent) were abandoned, the Daily Record reports. The unanswered call rate was more than a quarter in March (27.5 per cent) and June (27 per cent).

The average waiting time to contact the service was just over 22 minutes in June – up nearly five minutes on January’s 17.5 minutes.

Psychologist waits

Ron Gunn, the chairman of the Caithness Health Action Team, said the issue of long waiting lists for mental health help needs to be addressed, the Northern Times reports, after a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by Peter Todd from Thurso revealed a total of 2,460 on the waiting list at the end of last month.

The figures, which exclude those from community mental health teams, show there were 1164 people waiting to see a psychologist in Inverness and Loch Ness with 319 in the Black Isle and mid Ross, 235 in Fort William and Lochaber, 221 in Nairn, Aviemore, Badenoch and Strathspey, 202 in Caithness, 189 in Sutherland and east Ross and 130 in Skye and West Ross.

Mr Gunn said: “These figures are alarming and are too high.The shortage of health professionals during the pandemic may have exacerbated the situation but it needs to be looked at. Face-to-face appointments are required in these circumstances.”

Arresting behaviour

SEVEN out of ten cops in Britain’s biggest police force failed to make a single arrest in a whole year, The Sun has revealed. And just seven per cent of the Met’s 32,493 officers nicked five or more suspects.

In response to a request under Freedom of Information laws, the Met revealed 22,753 of its officers — 70.02 per cent — had not made arrests between April 1 2021 and March 31 this year. They were among a total of 30,265 with less than five collars during the 12 months — 93.1 per cent of Met officers.

Council jollies

Dudley Council spent nearly £300,000 on three lavish trips to the French Riviera in the middle of a cost of living crisis – but two of the trips didn’t even take place. The costs were incurred after Dudley Council sent nine representatives including its £176,000-a-year chief executive, to a major property conference on the French Riviera meant to attract investors to the borough, according to Halesowen News.

Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier (MIPIM), is the world’s biggest property conference, with investors, agents, bankers, and landlords from all over the world. Other councils are likely to have sent representatives to it at some point, so may be worth asking.

Sailing into stormy waters

A Scottish island church has blamed the “wrath of God” for the high number of ferry cancellations in the period since sabbath sailings were introduced 13 years ago. The Press and Journal has reported that The Free Church of Scotland’s North Uist and Grimsay Presbytery obtained statistics of ferry cancellations via a freedom of information request which showed that breakdowns had increased since July 2009.

Clerk to the presbytery, Rev David Blunt, said the cancellation figures exemplified “God’s displeasure” over the breach of the fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it Holy”.

Blunt also said that the FOI revealed that harsh weather conditions had contributed to the cancellations since the introduction of Sunday services. In the six years preceding the change, only three mechanical failures were reported. This was followed by six failures in just 3 months after the Sunday service started.

While the limited figures here don’t really show whether the service has got less reliable since adding Sunday crossings (let alone whether God is trying to prevent the sailings), it does show if you have a transport company that is subject to FOI, you can use requests to see how reliable services are.

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