We’ve plumbed the depths of our archives of media stories created using FOI this year and put together this round up of the trends and exceptional stories from 2013.   

Over the summer gagging orders, or compromise agreements if you’re an official, were highlighted.

• The Telegraph first reported on the orders being used to silence 5,000 council employees. 

• Then everyone from the NHS, universities, and the BBC were subject to requests about their gagging.

These were followed by bizarre compensation payments were also a focus of many FOI stories and ranged from the police to schools.

• One police officer was bitten by a flea.

• While children were paid £800,000 after mishaps at school.

The NHS came under fire for bad practice

•The BBC revealed a list of ‘never ever’ events that had happened in hospital trusts.

• In Scotland claims for negligence soared.

More public officials abusing their expenses were exposed. 

• Sir Peter Hendy, the boss of Transport for London, was claiming taxi trips on his account… he also looked like an angry owl. 

• Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond was caught out … more than once. 

Despite not being public authorities football clubs couldn’t even escape from FOI.

• Rats, mice, and mouldy food were all found in Premier League football grounds.

• Manchester United were found to be overestimating their attendances compared to the number of fans they told police were at matches.

Then there’s the best of FOI requests which uncovered something new, or something slightly quirky.

• Scotland’s biggest police force, before they were centralised, had greatly underestimated the number of unsolved murders they hadn’t solved.

• The ‘racist van’ sent 39,000 text messages although these hopefully were not while driving.

• There are 43,000,000 fake pound coins the country at the moment.

• The book MPs are borrowing the most is ‘How To Be An MP’.

• Frustrated Tube commuters lost 15 million hours of their time in just seven months this year, with the Central Line being the worst to travel on.

But there’s plenty of ongoing FOI disputes, in court and with the ICO, seeking to disclose information.

• Battles to get information on controversial free schools have been a common theme through the year. The latest in this ongoing saga is here.

• The York Press have won in court to have files released on Nestle’s takeover of Rowntree.

• Another continuing into 2014 will be the battle to publish Prince Charles’ letters to ministers. Championed by the Guardian. 

It’s been a busy year for Freedom of Information in the press but 2014 promises to be equally interesting with the government set to consult on changes to the Act which could limit its use by the media.

I am a journalist and author. I am a journalist at the UK edition of WIRED magazine. In 2015, my first book Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. My second book Reed Hastings: Building Netflix, was published in March 2020. I created FOI Directory in 2012 and have maintained it in my spare time ever since.