Media Update – 16th – 30th November 2012

Attacks on Norfolk prison staff revealed – BBC – 30.11.12
A prison officer was scalded on the face when a kettle of boiling water was thrown at him by an inmate at a Norfolk jail. This was one of 21 staff injury assault reports at Norfolk prisions between January 2011 and October 2012, a Freedom of Information request found.

Redacted, the 425-page FOI response with every page blacked out – The Telegraph – 29.11.12
Council officials have apologised after staff produced a 425-page Freedom of Information response with every page blacked out. The document was put together by staff at Brentwood Council in Essex after they received questions about a multi-million pound deal to build a cinema.

Almost 100 children go missing from Crawley care homes in 24 months – This is Sussex – 29.11.12
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal 98 children disappeared while staying at care homes in Crawley between January 2010 and May 31 this year. Though all the children are believed to have been found safe, concerns have been raised at the potential risks to which they would have been exposed.

Nuclear lobbyists wined and dined senior civil servant, documents show – The Guardian – 28.11.12
Senior civil servants responsible for ensuring the building of the UK’s new fleet of nuclear power stations received hospitality from industry representatives at some of London’s most luxurious restaurants, hotels and private members’ clubs.

Scottish ministers drop royal secrecy plan – BBC – 27.11.12
The Scottish government has dropped contentious plans to keep all communications between ministers and senior Royal Family members a secret. Ministers said the move would bring Scotland into line with the rest of the Uk, but changed their minds in light of concern over the proposals.

Patient killed in oxygen explosion as a second dies in broken lift: Damning dossier reveals NHS failings that caused death – Mail Online – 26.11.12
A shocking list of serious errors at NHS hospitals in Scotland has come to light, following a Freedom of Information request.

Domestic violence accounts for 10% of emergency calls, data shows – The Guardian – 24.11.12
One in 10 emergency calls to police are categorised as domestic violence related, rising in some areas to a fifth of all 999 alerts. The figures, obtained following a freedom of information requests, have prompted fresh demands for a long-term strategy to tackle Britain’s “hidden crime.”

Market Rasen’s seriously ill suffer long waits for help from NHS – Market Rasen Mail – 24.11.12
A Freedom of Information request submitted to East Midlands Ambulance Service revealed 148 people within a 12 mile radius of Market Rasen have had to wait more than half an hour for an ambulance in the past two years – even though they had life threatening conditions.

West Midlands Police officer shot fellow cop in murder investigation – Birmingham Mail – 24.11.12
A member of the highly-trained West Midlands firearms unit accidentally wounded a colleague when his gun went off during a murder raid. The incident was one of four occasions when officers mistakenly fired their weapons in the last two years. The most shocking case – revealed by a Freedom of Information request – happened during a joint operation with Thames Valley Police, who were investigating a murder.

Crowdsourcing improvements to the Freedom of Information Act – The Guardian – 24.11.12
The government has launched an online consultation inviting feedback on the draft code of practice for authorities to follow on the enhanced the right to data under the Freedom of Information Act, which will be brought into force next year.

Three Rivers District Council pay £9m for botched William Penn Leisure Centre redevelopment – Watford Observer – 23.11.12
The bungled construction of a leisure centre has been laid bare in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Campaigner: we could save lives with 20 mph limit – Suffolk Free Press – 23.11.12
A campaigner in Suffolk is urging council bosses to review its speed limits in towns and villages throughout the county, after a Freedom of Information request revealed that almost half of the 326 people killed or seriously injured on Suffolk’s roads last year were in 30mph zones.

NHS cuts back – but not on £500,000 junkets bill – Express – 22.11.12
Health chiefs in Scotland have been criticised for spending more than £500,000 on foreign junkets, at time when savings need to be made. Employees enjoyed taxpayer-funded trips to Miami, Cape Town, Sydney and Kuala Lumpur for courses and conferences, according to details released under Freedom of Information laws.

UKBA alerted over suspected sham civil partnerships – BBC – 22.11.12
Since 2010 registrars have contacted immigration authorities on 49 occasions with suspicions relating to same-sex ceremonies involving foreign nationals, according to figures released following a Freedom of Information Act request.

New code of practice to minimise privacy risks in anonymised data – The Guardian – 21.11.12
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has announced a new data protection code of practice, which advises on how to protect the privacy rights of individuals while dealing with large and complex databases. With the increased use of such databases, especially those containing data on members of the public, comes a heightened risk of breaching the individual’s right to privacy, even when such data is anonymised.

The ICO’s announcement sets out best practice in ensuring anonymised data lives up to its name, ensuring that attempts to identify an individual from a public data-set will prove fruitless.

The code focuses on ensuring that new forms and quantities of data are managed within the legal framework of the Data Protection Act (DPA). In addition to the initial anonymisation process, those holding such data must consider the likelihood of re-identification, the process by which someone in possession of one data-set could combine it with one or more other sources of data to establish an individual’s identity. This is of particular concern for organisations dealing with Freedom of Information Act requests, since such an organisation must decide whether the release of its data would breach the DPA.

The full code is available for reading here

Five wind farm applications a day under the SNP – The Telegraph – 21.11.12
Figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives under the Freedom of Information Act show 5,528 planning applications for wind turbines have been made since May 2007, an average of five per day since Alex Salmond came to power.

SNP criticised over freedom of information attack – BBC – 20.11.12
The SNP has attacked an unnamed individual who submitted a series of freedom of information requests. The party accused the person of wasting public money after making 85 freedom of information requests, at a cost of more than £23,000. In response opposition parties said ministers were in no position to criticise others after having spent £12,000 of taxpayers money in legal expenses to prevent having to reveal whether it had or had not commissioned advice on Scotland’s future EU membership.

Hampshire Police spend £600k on empty Alpha Park office – BBC – 20.11.12
More than £600,000 has been spent by Hampshire Police on a building which has stood empty for four years, a Freedom of Information request by the BBC has revealed. The force bought Alpha Park for £9.2m in 2008 and have spent an extra £638,379 keeping the building running since then.

Lights switched off overnight on five miles of M54 – Shropshire Star – 20.11.12
Lights have been switched off or dimmed on more than 121 miles of motorway, including on a five mile stretch of the M54, according to a response to a Freedom of Information request by drivers’ group the AA. The Highways Agency, which manages motorways, stressed that safety had not been compromised.

Hundreds of paedophiles reoffend while bing monitored – The Telegraph – 20.11.12
Among those convicted of sex crimes against children, 941 have reoffended since they were subject to registration requirements, according to figures obtained under freedom of information laws by NSPCC. Jon Brown, of the children’s charity, said, “Reoffending rates for sex offenders have risen in recent years, but until now we did not know how many of these involved the sexual abuse of children. From now on, we want a separate tab kept on the number of child sex offenders in this country and how many go on to abuse again.” He said better information about paedophiles and reoffending rates would help protect children from abuse.

Identities of MPs’ landlords and agents disclosed despite security concerns – The Guardian – 19.11.12
Records containing the identities of many MPs’ landlords have been published under the Freedom of Information Act, despite claims by some, including John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, that the move could jeopardise the security of those involved. The list of landlords and agents of 320 MPs who claimed rental expenses last month was released by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which said it had withheld some details where an MP or landlord had shown that the information could lead to their address being identified.

See also:
MPs were warned in advance of publication – The Times – 20.11.12
A group of 51 MPs succeeded in keeping their landlords’ names secret after arguing that publication could pose a security risk. Among those who won the right for their landlord’s name to be redacted were Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, John Denham, a former labour minister, and Nadine Dorries, the Tory MP currently appearing on a television reality show. It transpired that MPs were given several weeks notice that their landlords’ details would be published, giving them time to terminate any embarrassing arrangements.
No arrests in 85% of South Yorskshire fuel thefts – BBC – 19.11.12
Figures show 85% of fuel thefts from petrol stations in South Yorshire remain unsolved. Action was taken against offenders in just 1,458 of 10,027 cases between 2007 and 2011. The figures were released by police after the BBC made a Freedom of Information request.

MP calles for tighter controls on Tasers – Cambridge News – 19.11.12
Cambridge MP Julian Huppert has called for stricter controls on Tasers after figures obtained under freedom of information request reveal Cambridgeshire police shot 34 suspects in the chest with the weapons.

SNP accused of cover-up over funding for Sick Kids hospital – Edinburgh Evening News – 19.11.12
Finance arrangements for Edinburgh’s new Sick Kids hospital obscure the true cost to NHS, it has been claimed. Although the business case for the project has been published under Freedom of Information powers, all the key figures have been redacted, leading one MSP to claim the public were being kept in the dark on whether the SNP’s chosen funding method, using private finance, was best value for money. Private finance initiative expert, Mark Hellowell, a lecturer at Edinburgh University, said ministers were refusing to release the business case to try to hide what he claimed was the failure to deliver cheaper schemes.

Rise in number of teachers off work with stress – The York Press – 19.11.12
The number of teachers off work with stress in York and North Yorkshire has risen sharply in the past five years, according to figures released by City of York Council under the Freedom of Information Act.

Metal theft rises on West Midlands motorways – BBC – 19.11.12
Nearly 150 metal theft incidents happened on West Midlands motorways in a year, the Highways Agency said. There were 149 incidents in the region in 2011-12, compared with seven in the previous year, a BBC Inside Out Freedom of Information request revealed.

Internet porn and the rape suspects aged TEN: new fear for young after 24 police forces arrest under-13’s for sex crimes in a year – Mail Online – 18.11.12
Figures obtained by the Daily Mail under a freedom of information request reveal that 24 police forces arrested children as young as ten for suspected rape in the past year while seven detained at least one ten year old. The figures are said to highlight growing concern over the influence of internet pornography on impressionable young minds.

Spanish ships have entered Gibraltar waters 178 times in last year – The Telegraph – 18.11.12
Spanish state vessels illegally entered the disputed waters around Gibraltar 178 times in the last year. Of the 42 formal written complaints to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2008, half were submitted in the last 12 months. Figures released following Freedom of Information requests by the Press Association show the number of unlawful incursions into British Gibraltar waters in the year to end of October 2012 was far higher than in previous years.

Children held in police cells under Mental Health Act – BBC – 18.11.12
Children as young as 11 were held in police cells in England and Wales in 2011 because police officers thought they were mentally ill. There were 347 such detentions, some for more than 24 hours. The Mental Health Act allows police to take anyone they suspect of being mentally ill in “need of care or control” to a safe place for assessment. Children detained by police had not necessarily committed any crimes. The Department for Health said it was developing better procedures to ensure young people get appropriate care. The Association of Chief Police Officers says, in some parts of the UK, cells are the only option.

Interviewed about this disclosure on The World This Weekend the health minister, Norman Lamb twice said he was grateful that this issue had been brought to his attention. Listen to the interview here (starts 16 mins in).
Creative Scotland comes clean of £300k funding for film flop – Herald Scotland – 18.11.12
National arts agency, Creative Scotland, has been forced to accept it made a mistake in funding the film Love Bite, which flopped at the box office. The agency had initially tried to blame its predecessor, Scottish Screen, by claiming that investment was committed prior to the establishment of Creative Scotland. However, a freedom of information request revealed this to be untrue.

Number of children missing in London up by a third – London Evening Standard – 16.11.12
The number of children going missing in London has shot up by more than one third in three years, according to statistics obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Revealed: How much you forked out for high-paid council chief’s rail, taxi and hotel bills – Boston Standard – 16.11.12
The man hired as financial troubleshooter by Boston Borough Council claimed more than £16,000 in rail, taxi and hotel expenses in a year.

Footpaths are in danger due to cutbacks – Birmingham Post – 16.11.12
The Ramblers Association has launched a campaign after research based on freedom of information requests identified cuts to councils to rights-of-way departments. The Association fears that such departments may be seen as easy targets for cuts because the public may not notice funding has been withdrawn for some years.

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