FOI Friday: Guns on the street, refunds for poor teaching, crimes in the town hall … and the hairbrush seized by cops

1. Guns off the streets

Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Sunday Mercury in Birmingham reported on the number of guns which police had taken off the streets in the past three years – some 9,000.

2. Drugs cases involving youngsters in hospitals

Sticking with the Sunday Mercury, it reported this week on a child under one who was admitted to hospital in Birmingham suffering from an overdose of a Class A drug. Four children, in total, have been admitted to hospital for ‘drug abuse’ medical problems.

3. Refunds for poor teaching

Here’s one that could run and run, from an FOI-able body most people won’t have heard of. The Mail on Sunday used FOI to find out how many students had demanded refunds because they felt the uni teaching they received wasn’t up to scratch. The body which decides these cases is the Office of the independent Adjudicator, which saw the number of claims rise when tuition fees went up. Finding out how many complaints against each university would be the next logical step.

4. Mobile phones found in prisons

The Aberdeen Press and Journal reports on 1,600 mobile phones being confiscatated from prisoners in Scottish prisons, prompting fears they continuing to run illegal operations from behind bars. The Ministry of Justice holds these figures.

5. Crimes committed in public buildings

Remember the FOI request about the number of crimes committed in police stations? Asking the same thing of council buildings yields results too – as the Leicester Mercury proved this week:

A thief stole a purse from a staff member’s handbag at County Hall before going on a £10,000 spending spree with the credit cards inside.

The purse was taken in March in one of a series of recorded thefts from council premises in Leicestershire.

Incidents recorded during the past three years range from a missing packet of biscuits to £35,000 of lead ripped from the roof of De Montfort Hall.

The total cost of the items taken from the city and county councils is more than £120,000.

6. Failing teachers allowed to keep on teaching

The Times Educational Supplement went on a nationwide FOI spree to find out how many teachers had been disciplined for not being up to scratch:

Nationally, more than 3,200 teachers have gone through official competency procedures over the same period, figures collated for the first time reveal.

This resulted in 273 teachers being fired or accepting severance pay and leaving, but in 72 local authorities there are no records of any teachers being removed from their posts.

Teachers also received more than £2.3 million in severance payouts and compromise agreements during the same five year period, the TES claimed.

Darlington had the highest figure, paying out £196,400, while Warrington, Suffolk, Cumbria, Cornwall, Manchester and Worcestershire each paid out more than £100,000, it said.

7. The things cops seize

Air freshener, a hair brush,  a budgie: Just three of the things police in South Wales have seized during raids in their area.

The South Wales Evening Post reports that:

The police have built up an Aladdin’s Cave of weird and wonderful objects taken from properties in Carmarthenshire and Powys during 570 search warrants this year — including 27 birds, 39 dogs, 147 DVDs, a hairbrush and six wooden planks.

Other more serious objects taken by officers include two samurai swords, a host of drug paraphernalia and firearms, nine computer hard-drives, 28 laptops, five syringes and 5,800 cigarettes. Officers also found 357 cannabis plants.

8. Forced adoptions

Quite a frightening statistic: 770 children have been subject to forced adoptions in Wales in the last five years. The Western Mail used FOI to find out how many councils have pushed on with forced adoptions – where they over-ride the opinion of parents, normally in the best interests of the child.

9. Government cuts = nurse assaults?

An interesting line from the North West Evening Mail, which, like many newspapers, has approached local hospitals for details of ‘serious untowards incidents’ in the hospital. These can range from unexpected deaths to attacks on staff, and it is the latter on which the Mail focuses. Unison, in a response to the article, suggests the number of SUIs will increase as cuts bite.

10. An interesting sideline for the police

Think that policeman stood next to a vehicle that’s been in a crash or breakdown is there to help? Not always. Metro reports on an FOI which revealed the amount police forces make from tipping off recovery firms to collect vehicles, which ultimately insurance companies have to pay for. For West Midlands alone, the tip fees run into more than £200k a year.

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