You are currently viewing Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 24/5/2024 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 24/5/2024 – #FOIFriday

We are now just under six weeks out from a general election.

Which means you just about have time to get in a FOI request and get the information back before polling day. Possibly if you think FOI could turn up some information that would be useful for understanding the issues.

In the pre-election period, ministers, civil servants and local government should exercise caution in making announcements or decisions that might have an effect on the election campaign.

However, publishing FOI answers isn’t covered by this, even if the requester is a member of a political party who might use the information for campaigning purposes. So there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get a response within the normal time limits and no extra reason why a request could be refused.

In the meantime, the stories making the news as we head into the campaign.

Weapons in schools

Using data obtained through Freedom of Information requests to police forces in England and Wales, the BBC can also reveal:

  • In the last four academic years, police in the North West of England received 602 reports of primary or secondary pupils carrying or using blades in schools to threaten or attack
  • In Greater Manchester alone, there were 400 reports including 30 involving children under 10
  • Weapons used included a machete, kitchen knives, Stanley knives, pen knives, scissors and screwdrivers
  • One incident, in Lancashire, involved a four-year-old boy
  • On Merseyside, there were 48 serious knife offences including sexual assault and wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. In one case, a teenage boy was chased and attacked with a machete
  • Across England and Wales, 497 children aged under 11 were caught with bladed weapons
  • A further 2,000 incidents involved 12 to 17-year-olds

The true numbers are likely to be significantly higher because only half of the police forces provided the data requested of them by the BBC.

Weapons in parliament

Knives and pepper spray were among weapons seized by police from visitors trying to take them into Parliament last year, it can be revealed.

Around a million people enter the Parliamentary Estate every year as visitors – on top of the thousands of members and staff of the two Houses of Parliament. All visitors must go through airport-style scanners before entering the building to detect any contraband.

Releasing the list under Freedom of Information laws, Scotland Yard said most of the the weapons were found during security screenings. They added: “These visitors are usually foreign nationals having such items in their possession and unknowingly committing an offence in the UK.”

Sent away

Some of Coventry’s most vulnerable children have been moved to care homes hundreds of miles away from where they grew up, the BBC has found. Of the 127 placements in care homes last year, 90 were based outside of the city.

Some children in care require specialist facilities, but the council admits too many children are living far away. A Freedom of Information request by the BBC revealed that last year one child was placed 267 miles (430 km) away from Coventry.

Nor was it a one-off, with data for the past five years showing a similar picture.

Assaults on hospital staff

Assaults on hospital staff in Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust hospitals have more than doubled since 2018/19.

The data – which comes from a freedom of information request submitted to the trust – shows that there was a total of 3,824 assaults in the last financial year, compared to just 1,908 six years ago.

Banned drivers

Bradford district has the highest proportion of disqualified drivers in the UK, new figures reveal. The DVLA data shows that one in every 191 drivers in the district is currently banned from getting behind the wheel.

This compares to an average of one in 431 across the UK. Motorists can be disqualified from driving if they accumulate 12 points or more on their licence, or if they are convicted of a driving offence.

In total, more than 2,000 people in Bradford district are currently disqualified from driving, out of 445,000 licence holders. The data was obtained through a Freedom of Information request by Dayinsure, a motor insurance company.

Poor restaurant hygiene

Asking for the report for an eatery with a bad food hygiene rating is a good way to get more details on why it scored so poorly. And it’s always an FOI worth putting in for notable establishments (celebrity chef, local football club, that takeaway everyone goes to on a night out).

Out of date steak and a packet of ham were behind celebrity chef Gino D’Acampo’s Liverpool restaurant being hit with a poor hygiene rating for a second time.

A little more than a year since environmental health officials took a dim view of cleanliness and food handling at the Old Hall Street venue, the Italian restauranteur’s business is in the bad books again. The findings of Liverpool Council’s inspection – released through a Freedom of Information request – have detailed where the venue fell foul leading to a one out of five rating.

Image by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.