FOI Friday: 10 things we’ve learnt this week thanks to the Freedom of Information Act

1. Anti-social behaviour in the library

There was a time when it was the contents of some books which caused most offence in libraries. Apparently that’s not the case now in Lincolnshire, when indecent exposure, public urination

2. Dog attacks

The Southport Visiter reports on the number of dog attacks in Southport – based on figures it got from the local hospital for the last three years. 1000 dog-related injuries in three years seems a worrying trend for an area like Southport.

3. Botched operations

Did you know FOI could be used to find out some details about botched operations? It seems it can – and this story from the Ipswich Star appears to be proof of that. It oroved a story about a testicle operation resulting in a man becoming infertile using FOI. An open door to finding out how many operations go wrong?

4. Flytipped streets

Back in the days when the FOI Act was novelty we weren’t used to, one of the most common FOI requests was to ask which streets had seen the most parking tickets issued. The Croydon Advertiser this week applied that theory to fly tipping – the results make for a good story.

5. Criminal taxi drivers

The number of taxi drivers with criminal convictions in the West Midlands was revealed by the BBC in January – along with what they were convicted for. Now the Derby Evening Telegraph has done the same for its city in the East Midlands, though Derby Council didn’t want to say what those people had been convicted for. Nothing like protecting criminals, eh?

6. Cannabis factory finds

Cannabis factory stories always do well in the regional press – and seem quite common too. But two finds a day in the West Midlands? That seems rather high, but that’s the figure the Express and Star in Wolverhampton was given by West Midlands Police.

7. Sex offenders on the run

The Comet newspaper calls its circulation area ‘Comet Country.’ In Comet country, it has learnt, there are sex offenders whose whereabouts are unknown. This information came from an FOI request which asked how many sex offenders registered in the area were on the run.

8. Violence in the classroom

Police forces often reject FOI requests asking for the number of crimes reported in schools on the grounds that they can only search their databases for keywords, so a search for ‘school’ would also bring up many crimes committed on roads with the school in them and so on. But what if you narrowed it down to certain types of crime, such as violent crimes? That’s what the Reading Post did – and it got an answer too.

9. Mobile phone laws

There’s nothing like using FOI to find out if one of New Labour’s many new laws are being upheld. That’s what the Oldham Advertiser did by asking about mobile phone while driving offences.

10. Trigger happy police?

The Southern Daily Echo reports on a ten-fold increase in the use of taser guns by police. Admittedly, the previous base figure was just one – but perhaps this figure is higher elsewhere in the country?

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