Middleton Guardian uses FoI to expose Council

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The Middleton and North Manchester Guardian revealed in 2005 that Rochdale Council spent £120,000 blocking the full reporting of how around 20 children were taken from their homes because of suspected abuse.

In 1990 the children were taken from six families and put into care by Rochdale Council, which believed their parents had subjected them to satanic rituals.

The weekly paper made two separate requests under the FoI Act and discovered the council spent £82,000 in 1991 on injunctions, and £38,000 was spent in 2004 when it tried to conceal the names of the social workers involved.

The BBC worked with the Guardian in lobbying for the release of the information, which formed the basis of a documentary, When Satan Came to Town.

But even though he used the act to good effect, Guardian editor Gerry Sammon said it does not go far enough.

“We didn’t get as much as we hoped for. The council claimed that a lot of the information was no longer available, which is a common complaint,” he said.

“What we got out of it showed that the council was willing to put up rate-payers’ money to keep these things secret. There are things to do with this case that we will never know. “It’s essential that we keep the Act. As far as local newspapers go, the council is the main body for news, and despite open door policies we won’t know what goes on unless we use the Act.”

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