Tom Wall has won a freedom of information battle in a war that journalists should not have to fight

Tom Wall's legal victory over the Ministry of Justice and the Information Commissioner is as worrying as it is remarkable.

As he said himself: "It's almost as if [the legislation] was set up to put off all but the most determined journalists.

"There was a time that it was taken as read that details of people's convictions were available to the press. 

"Now, you have to fight the government and its Information Commissioner to get hold of them. That takes time, energy and money."

Wall told me after the tribunal's verdict was published: "It is troubling that is has taken me so long to obtain this information. It should have been freely available to the press.

"Many journalists would have been forced to give up long ago. I'm lucky I have generous and supportive colleagues who allowed me to pursue this story to the very end.

"But how many other good leads have been abandoned by hard-pressed reporters and campaigners without the time to challenge Britain's culture of unthinking official secrecy?"

Indeed. I am sure I'm not the only one disturbed by this case.

When the Freedom of Information Act was first introduced, I told people on my training courses: "This law will cut both ways. It will give us access to some information, but it will also enable the government to withhold other material. The FOIA is actually a tool that will restrict the freedom of the press."

This is exactly what's happened. We now have to fight for material that used to be ours by right. Wall had the tenacity to do so. Not many other journalists – or their employers – would bother.

The information he sought should have been 'out there' in the first place. He has achieved a great victory in a war we shouldn't have to fight.

Cleland Thom is author of the Election legal guide for journalists

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