FOI Friday: Children at risk, data lost in the post, unsolved murders and the not-so-smart motorways

FOIFRIDAYLOGOCriminals avoid jail despite dozens of crimes < Get WestLondon

Criminals in London are escaping jail sentences for serious crimes, despite dozens of previous convictions for similar offences.

A burglar in London was not given a custodial sentence at a court appearance in June 2014, despite 33 previous burglary offences and 58 total previous convictions, making them the most prolific burglar in the region to avoid jail for an offence last year.

Another criminal who avoided jail for drug offences last year had 26 previous drug convictions, as part of a total 37 previous convictions, according to figures released following a Freedom of Information Act request to the Ministry of Justice.

The not-so-smart motorways < Wolverhampton Express and Star

The fourth lane of the M6 was shut to Midlands motorists on more than 70 days last year because of technology faults, it has emerged.

The extra lane opens up at busy times to ease congestion between junctions eight at West Bromwich and 10a at Essington.

But from January 1 to December 31 there were 74 days where it was out of action, ranging from up to nine hours to less than a minute.

The figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show there were 141 technology faults reported, with the most being in May.

Community service on the up  < Edinburgh Evening News

The number of community service orders dished out by courts in Edinburgh has doubled in the last two years, with crooks carrying out almost 84,000 hours of unpaid work last year alone – the equivalent of nine and a half years.

But official figures revealed almost half of all payback orders – handed out as an alternative to prison – are never completed, landing many offenders back in court if they fail to explain themselves.

Edinburgh City Council has spent more than £7 million in the last three years carrying out and supervising the orders, but a spokeswoman today insisted the majority of the cost – which is pumped into staffing and tools – would be covered by a government justice grant.

Figures obtained by the News through a Freedom of Information request show 839 unpaid work orders were handed out by city courts in 2014, compared to just 420 two years earlier.

How well used is Clare’s Law? < Northern Echo

MORE than 500 potential victims have requested information about a partner’s suspected violent past since Clare’s Law was launched in the region a year ago.

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests made to four police forces revealed 547 applications have been made under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.

The initiative, which allows police to disclose information about a potentially abusive partner before the relationship ends in tragedy, was extended across forces in England and Wales last Spring following the death of Clare Wood.

Rising number of children on protection lists < BBC

The number of protection plans to try to keep children and unborn babies safe from abuse has increased dramatically in Plymouth in five years, the BBC has found.

In 2010, 405 children were subject to a child protection plan compared to 545 in 2014 – a rise of 35%, the biggest increase in south-west England.

The plans are designed to protect the most vulnerable children.

Plymouth City Council said the rise was due to “heightened public awareness”.

Children at risk of sexual exploitation < Northern Echo

THE region’s police were at the centre of a child abuse reporting row last night after a Northern Echo investigation revealed almost 400 youngsters are feared to be at risk of being groomed for sex.

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests sent by The Northern Echo to every local authority in the North-East showed that there are 384 known vulnerable youngsters under 16.

Are stalker laws working? < WalesOnline

Almost 250 people in Wales have reported suspected stalkers to police under new laws to tackle the crime – but little more than a third of alleged offenders have been charged.

Since legislation creating new offences of stalking and stalking involving a fear of violence came into force in November 2012, Wales’ four police forces have received 246 allegations of stalking.

But only 93 people have been charged, a freedom of information request has revealed, with the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) piloting new measures to increase the number of those brought before the courts to face allegations.

Last year alone, 142 people in Wales contacted the nation’s four police forces concerned they were being stalked, with 46 being charged.

The cost of empty council houses < Northampton Chronicle and Echo

More than £1 million has been lost on empty council houses in less than a year, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

According to figures up to February this year – week 46 of the financial year – Northampton Borough Council had lost out on £1,026,262.54 in void properties.

Broken down, the figures showed an average loss of £22,000 to £25,000 per week since last April. The request also revealed that almost the same total – £1,341,654 – was lost in tenants’ rent arrears up to February.

Lincoln’s unsolved murders < The Lincolnite

The violent murders of nine people in Lincolnshire remain unsolved – with the oldest incident dating back to 1979.

Historically, in terms of the number of homicide cases in the county, the force says it is rare for a murder to remain unsolved, however, despite multiple arrests, the nine cryptic deaths linger in officers’ files.

According to information received through a Freedom of Information Request by The Lincolnite, the following notorious murder cases have not been closed

Data lost in the post < Derby Telegraph

DERBY children’s personal details have been lost and posted to the wrong address this year by city council staff.

But the authority says staff training has raised awareness of data protection issues, reducing the chances of the same thing happening in the future.

The Derby Telegraph reported in January that a leaked council e-mail revealed mistakes were being made with people’s personal information, including medical records.

In it, senior councillor Baggy Shanker warned staff there had been “too many” information security incidents at the authority.

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