Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 12/5/2023 – #FOIFriday

Public bodies that don’t answer Freedom of Information requests on time are under scrutiny. The ICO, this week, issued an official ‘enforcement notice’ to Shropshire Council for failing to answer requests within 20 working days.

The council told the ICO it had a plan to clear its backlog by the end of March. However, it still had 143 unanswered requests at the end of April, the oldest of which dates back to April 2021.

This is the second time the ICO has issued an enforcement notice for this in recent months. Lambeth Council was issued a similar on in March. Previously, the ICO had seemed extremely reluctant to take any action on slow-responding public bodies.

Machete crime

Machetes are being used in a crime every hour on average – a record high and six times more than eight years ago – according to the Mirror. Latest figures from police forces in England and Wales show machetes are being used in almost 700 offences every month.

But the true total is even higher as the nation’s largest force, the Metropolitan Police, failed to provide stats, saying it would take staff too long to compile. A survey of police forces found machetes were involved in 1,335 crime incidents in two months at the end of last year.

Road rage

West Midlands Police recorded more than 2,000 road rage-related incidents over a two-year period. And these are just incidents which required police involvement, according to Birmingham Live.

A total of 183 cases were logged by police as ‘assault by without injury – common assault and battery’ as drivers came to blows. Another 11 cases were recorded as malicious wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm and 28 others as assault with intent to cause serious harm. Weapons were also pulled out from cars, with 38 cases involving threats with a knife or other offensive weapon.

Hoax calls

More than 10,000 prank calls were made to Lancashire police in 2021 with that figure rising in 2022. Data obtained through Freedom of Information requests to every police force in the UK revealed that in 2020-2021, police in Lancashire received 10,028 hoax calls, rising to 11,227 in 2022.

This equated to more than 30 prank calls a day to the force; in England, police received an average of 266 prank calls per day, the Lancashire Telegraph reports.

Dog-on-dog attacks

Fatal dog-on-dog attacks would be made a specific criminal offence under a new law being proposed by a Tory MP. Southend West MP Anna Firth, who is Sir David Amess’s successor, is introducing a private members’ bill in a bid to amend the Animal Welfare Act, the Express reports.

Dog-on-dog attacks are currently only a specific criminal offence if the dog attacked is an assistance or service dog, but not pets. Dog-on-dog attacks in the UK have risen by 700 percent from 1,700 to 11,559 between 2016 and 2021, according to Freedom of Information data from 28 police forces.

Monument maintenance

Got some monuments in your area? It might be worth asking about the condition, maintenance and repairs for them.

A sculpture which cost £180,000 and was damaged earlier this year had not been inspected since 2020, Caerphilly Observer can reveal. Rhymney’s Twisted Chimney, which was installed by Caerphilly County Borough Council in 2011, is now in need of repair after it was damaged in a bout of bad weather in March.

Caerphilly Observer submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Caerphilly County Borough Council to find out what maintenance and checks the sculpture has received in the last 12 years. It turns out the structure has not been inspected since October 2020.

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