A HOME Office minister was forced to apologise to Parliament for telling MPs that 70 police officers were hurt during a climate change protest, after a Freedom of Information request revealed that most of the injuries were inflicted by insects or the heat.

Vernon Coaker, who is now Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, explained to MPs that he was told 70 police officers received first aid treatment at the event and he “naturally assumed” they had been hurt in direct contact as a result of the protest.

The story, published by The Guardian in 2008, followed a major police presence at the Kingsnorth power station climate camp in Kent that August.

The FOI request by the Liberal Democrats revealed that not a single officer in the £5.9m police operation had been injured by protesters.

The force’s own records showed their first aid staff mostly treated diarrhoea, toothache, cut fingers and “possible bee stings”.

The story is laughable now – and people laughed at the time – but there is a much more serious issue. If it wasn’t for that FOI request, the British public would still believe today that 70 police officers were injured by climate campaigners at a single protest.

It demonstrates the true power of the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr Coaker went on to meet representatives from the Association of Chief Police Officers to discuss what lessons could be learnt from Kingsnorth, while the National Police Improvement Agency carried out an inquiry into the handling of the demonstration.

In 2011, Kent Online revealed that taxpayers had forked out £350,000 to remove two photocopiers from two schools which were closing down. Medway Council was forced to spend the money to cancel photocopier leases with office supply firm NCS Limited. The council had already admitted that the full cost of closing the schools was £500,000 but refused to break the sum down.

Kent Online submitted a Freedom of Information request which revealed that more than half that figure was the cost of removing photocopiers.

It was too late for anything to be done – the council was bound by the contract, but anyone would hope that the revelation would reduce the chances of such binding contracts being signed in the future.

In 2013, Kent businessman Gary Bolton was jailed for seven years for fraudulently selling fake bomb detectors based on novelty golf ball finders.

But an FOI request the following year revealed the Government had accepted thousands of pounds from Bolton to promote his useless devices.

Whitehall documents obtained by The Guardian under the Act showed the Government received at least £5,000 from Bolton in exchange for supplying Royal Engineers to promote the “bomb detectors” at trade fairs in Europe and the Middle East and to secure the backing of the UK’s ambassador to Mexico Giles Paxman, brother of BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman.

The Government denied any knowledge the equipment was useless and said despite its own tests it could not have known the detectors were bogus.

It is another example where the public would be none the wiser if the details had not been released under the Freedom of Information Act.