Northern Echo: Readers should write to their MPs

Return to Press Gazette's FoI campaign 

Editor of the Northern Echo Peter Barron is passionate about avoiding limits on the Act and is actively encouraging his readers to speak out.

He said: “We just live in an age where there is central and local government, there is far too much going on to prevent information being released and manipulated.

“I think the Freedom of Information Act is a useful tool for newspapers to try and make sure information that should be in the public domain isn’t brushed under the carpet.

“It’s a weapon in the fight to ensure knowledge and therefore power is disseminated.

“I’ve asked our readers to write to their MPs and let their voices be known and make it clear to them what is at stake.

“It’s incumbent for every editor to do everything they can to bring the threat to the attention of their readers and apply pressure to politicians to make sure what we have is preserved.

“We are pursuing an FoI investigation at the moment which will potentially make a big story.

The nationals followed up the Echo’s original story. It was revealed that North Allerton Young Offenders’ Institution paid £545,000 to an inmate who had tried to commit suicide but was saved by prison officers. “He’s been paid the money as compensation but the Home Office won’t say why. All they will say is they can’t comment on individual cases — but we understand it’s because the institute breached human rights.

“I just think this is more than half a million pounds worth of public money paid out to one offender and people have an absolute right to know what the money was for and why they had to pay it.

“We’re in the middle of an FoI request to demand what the hell it’s about. It’s a valid use of the Act.

“Other stuff we have done through the Act is reveal the cost of the council’s expenses. We found out nearly all of Darlington’s primary school kitchens had failed to meet health and safety standards in the past 18 months, and discovered cracks had been found at Hartlepool nuclear power station.

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