FoI Act reveals prison secret

The Journal in Newcastle received information from the Home Office
in just two hours using the Freedom of Information Act, despite being
told by a press officer that it was a commercial secret.

Reporter
Hayley Beattie was following a tip that Durham Prison was employing
prisoners to open mail marked ‘return to sender’ – some of which
contained cheques and customers’ bank details.

The Home Office confirmed the story but would not name the contractor working with the prison, so Beattie applied under FoI.

She
said: “To begin with [the press officer] refused to even give me the
name of the information officer, but I discussed this with the newsdesk
and we knew we had a strong case.”

Brian Aitken, The Journal’s
editor, has invested in training for all staff on using FoI. He said:
“I want my reporters to use FoI as a normal part of their working day.
It’s not just about big investigations, it’s about opening doors on
running stories.”

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