Wirral Council: It’s time for some answers over Fernbank Farm and filming!

Wirral Council: It’s time for some answers over Fernbank Farm and filming!

Wirral Council: It’s time for some answers over Fernbank Farm and filming!

                                 

Wirral Council v Kane & Woodley Particulars of Claim page 1 of 3 thumbnail

Particulars of Claim Wirral Council v Kane & Woodley Page 1 of 3

Wirral Council v Kane & Woodley Particulars of Claim page 2 of 3 thumbnail

Particulars of Claim Wirral Council v Kane & Woodley Page 2 of 3

Wirral Council v Kane & Woodley Particulars of Claim page 3 of 3 thumbnail

Particulars of Claim Wirral Council v Kane & Woodley Page 3 of 3

Jenmaleo
134 Boundary Road
Bidston
Wirral
CH43 7PH
9th June 2014

Surjit Tour
Monitoring Officer
Wallasey Town Hall
Brighton Street
Wallasey
Wirral
CH44 8ED

Dear Mr. Surjit Tour,

You are designated as the Monitoring Officer for Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council. Section 5(2)(a) and 5(2B) of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 state the following about a legal duty of the Monitoring Officer:

Subject to subsection (2B), it shall be the duty of a relevant authority’s monitoring officer, if it at any time appears to him that any proposal, decision or omission by the authority, by any committee, or sub-committee of the authority, by any person holding any office or employment under the authority or by any joint committee on which the authority are represented constitutes, has given rise to or is likely to or would give rise to—

(a) a contravention by the authority, by any committee, or sub-committee of the authority, by any person holding any office or employment under the authority or by any such joint committee of any enactment or rule of law or of any code of practice made or approved by or under any enactment; or

(b) any such maladministration or injustice as is mentioned in Part III of the Local Government Act 1974 (Local Commissioners) or Part II of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1975 (which makes corresponding provision for Scotland),to prepare a report to the authority with respect to that proposal, decision or omission.

to prepare a report to the authority with respect to that proposal, decision or omission.

(2B) Where a relevant authority are operating executive arrangements, the monitoring officer of the relevant authority shall not make a report under subsection (2) in respect of any proposal, decision or omission unless it is a proposal, decision or omission made otherwise than by or on behalf of the relevant authority’s executive.

On Friday 6th June the Chair of the Licensing Act 2003 subcommitee Councillor Steve Niblock insisted that I stop filming a public meeting of the Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee. The legal adviser to that committee insisted that he was entitled to take this action because of Regulation 25 of the Licensing Act 2003 (Hearings) Regulations 2005. This regulation is below:

Procedure at hearing

25. The authority may require any person attending the hearing who in their opinion is behaving in a disruptive manner to leave the hearing and may—

(a) refuse to permit that person to return, or

(b) permit him to return only on such conditions as the authority may specify,

but such a person may, before the end of the hearing, submit to the authority in writing any information which they would have been entitled to give orally had they not been required to leave.”

“authority” in this context is defined in Regulation 2 as “in relation to a hearing, the relevant licensing authority which has the duty under the Act to hold the hearing which expression includes the licensing committee or licensing sub-committee discharging the function of holding the hearing;”

At no point during the meeting was I asked to leave the room by the Chair or the subcommittee as a whole. Regulation 2 which defines authority makes is clear that persons can only be required to leave if it is the opinion of the whole subcommittee that the person/s are behaving in a disruptive manner. There were two members of the subcommittee Councillor Harry Smith and Councillor John Salter who did not express a view, therefore Regulation 25 was not engaged.

The legal adviser to that committee, Ken Abraham said, “We have rights under the regulations too, which empower them to stop a hearing proceeding if there is an issue about disrupting the meeting and the Chair took the view at that time that because it was clearly indicated that he didn’t want filming that he could have asked you to leave the room but he didn’t.” As you can see from this quote, he refers to the Chair (Councillor Steve Niblock)’s view, not the view of the whole subcommittee. It is unknown whether the other two members of the subcommittee agreed with this view or held a contrary view as they did not state their view during the meeting on this matter.

S. 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998 states “It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right.” and s.3(1) states “So far as it is possible to do so, primary legislation and subordinate legislation must be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the Convention rights.”

The Convention Right in question is article 10 which is below:

ARTICLE 10

Freedom of expression

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority
and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and
are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for
the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”

Bearing the above in mind and your previous email of the 2nd April 2013 in which you stated “Furthermore, there no ban on filming” I would ask you to exercise your duty as Monitoring Officer to prepare a report about the above matter.

There is also another matter which I wish to draw to your attention, which may place a duty on you to write a further report about a different matter. I am sure you are aware of Wirral Council’s successful attempt to gain a possession order for the land known as Fernbank Farm in Moreton.

Section 3 of Wirral Council’s Particulars of Claim stated “On 13th July 2012 the First and Second Defendants were served with a notice in the prescribed form persuant to section 25 of the Landlord and Tenant Act the effect of which notifies them as Tenants of the intention to bring the tenancy to an end on 31st May 2013 but that the Council had no objection in the meantime to creating a new lease on certain terms.” and Section 8 of the Particulars of Claim stated “As a result the tenancy has been terminated in accordance with the law and the Claimant is therefore entitled to possession.”

At the fast track trial on 13th February 2014, Wirral Council’s expert witness David Dickinson stated (under oath) that he had been instructed by a manager not to renew the lease. In answer to District Judge Woodburn’s question to David Dickinson that his instructions were contrary to the terms of the notice, Mr Dickinson answered that his instructions were contrary to the notice. In answer to another question Mr Dickinson answered that he had been told not to engage in discussions with the tenants between November 2012 and May 2013.

Regulation 3 of The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, Part 2 (Notices) Regulations 2004 prescribe which type of form should be used. Wirral Council used form 1 and the prescribed purpose for form 1 is defined in Schedule 1 as “Ending a tenancy to which Part 2 of the Act applies, where the landlord is not opposed to the grant of a new tenancy (notice under section 25 of the Act).”

Based on David Dickinson’s testimony under oath, Wirral Council had decided not to renew the tenancy therefore form 2 should have been used, the prescribed purpose for form 2 is defined in Schedule 1 as “Ending a tenancy to which Part 2 of the Act applies, where—

(a)the landlord is opposed to the grant of a new tenancy (notice under section 25 of the Act); and
(b)the tenant is not entitled under the 1967 Act to buy the freehold or an extended lease..”

Clearly either a number of assertions (as outlined above) made in the particulars of claim are incorrect and Mr. Dickinson was telling the truth about Wirral Council’s decision not to renew the lease or alternatively what was outlined in the particulars of claim was correct and Mr. Dickinson was not telling the truth under oath. I am sure you will understand that the possibility of either scenario is concerning.

Therefore bearing in mind the above I would request that you write a further report on this matter which is your legal duty as Monitoring Officer. In order to aid you in this, I do know that following a complaint made by one of the tenant’s spouses that a long multi-page letter was sent to him about this and other related matters.

If a report (or reports) have already been written by yourself (or others on your behalf) I would appreciate being sent a copy. If a report (or reports) on these matters are in the process of being written by someone either at Wirral Council or an external third party I would appreciate being told who they are and by what date their report is expected to be completed.

If you feel a report (or reports) on the above matters are not necessary, I would appreciate hearing from you your reasons as to why. I intend to publish any such reply I receive either from yourself (or others on your behalf) as I feel that both these matters are of concern to large numbers of citizens on the Wirral and need to be resolved.

Yours sincerely,

John Brace

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Wirral Council takes the view that its rights matter more than Wirral citizen’s human rights

Wirral Council takes the view that its rights matter more than Wirral citizen’s human rights

Wirral Council takes the view that its rights matter more than Wirral citizen’s human rights

                                    

Following Friday’s blog post Wirral Council councillors ban filming at public meeting to decide on alcohol licence for Michaels of Moreton shop, there have been some reactions to what happened.

Councillor Stuart Kelly writes:

Indeed they have Councillor Kelly. As long ago as February 2011, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Bob O’Neill MP wrote to all Council Leaders and Monitoring Officers. He states in his letter “It is essential to a healthy democracy that citizens everywhere are able to feel that their council welcomes them to observe local decision-making and through modern media tools keep others informed as to what their council is doing.” and “the mainstream media also needs to be free to provide stronger local accountability by being able to film and record in meetings without obstruction”. He goes on to write “I want to encourage all councils to take a welcoming approach to those who want to bring local news stories to a wide audience. The public should rightly expect that elected representatives who have put themselves up for public office be prepared for their decisions to be as transparent as possible and welcome a direct line of communication to their electorate.”

In the same letter, the Information Commissioner’s Office stated “In the context of photographing or filming meetings, whilst genuine concerns about being filmed should not be dismissed, the nature of the activity being filmed – elected representatives acting in the public sphere – should weigh heavily against personal objections.” Yet at Wirral Council this advice last Friday was not followed!

Former councillor Ian Lewis states on his new blog “We know most councillors have faces made for radio but their bizarre behaviour at this meeting, over a licensing application in Moreton, sets a new (low) standard”.

So why is Councillor Steve Niblock from the Chair making a unilateral decision about filming on behalf of the three person Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee? Regulation 25 referred to by Ken Abraham states “authority” (which is defined in Regulation 2 as meaning the whole subcommittee) expressing an opinion on disruption, not the Chair unilaterally expressing his opinion and expecting Regulation 25 to apply.

After the public were excluded from the Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee meeting on Friday, I had a talk with the legal adviser to the committee Ken Abraham about my concerns about it and that the public hadn’t been excluded properly from the meeting. This was a conversation in a corridor at the Town Hall in front of my wife, so I don’t think there can be any expectation of privacy!

KEN ABRAHAM (legal adviser to the Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee)
Can I speak to you after?

JOHN BRACE
I’ve had a chance to have a chat to the objector what it was about and he doesn’t have any objections to me filming. Will there be any problems with me filming the decision?

KEN ABRAHAM
Well it would be useful to find out why you’re filming.

JOHN BRACE
OK.

KEN ABRAHAM
because this is obviously you know, it’s a public Council meeting as in a public Council meeting, this is a what’s known as a public hearing, but there are people who attend who are obviously not aware that they’re going to be filmed so and…

JOHN BRACE
My point about filming, I’ll answer your question about why and then talk a bit about filming. The reason why is because there are people that can’t make it to these meetings, whether they’re at work during the day or

KEN ABRAHAM
People can have a look at the minutes.

JOHN BRACE
Yes, but the minutes aren’t published immediately.

KEN ABRAHAM
but then you could edit the filming.

JOHN BRACE
Err, clearly I could but I don’t. Anyway,

KEN ABRAHAM
The issue is that when you were asked to stop filming the other week, you still continued filming.

JOHN BRACE
No, sorry the other week when I was asked to stop filming I did and then we went out and came back in and it wasn’t clear then as to whether that carried on or not.

KEN ABRAHAM
The stopping filming?

JOHN BRACE
Yeah, because if you remember the other week, the meeting started, they were asked the question about objecting to filming. One person said yes, then we were all asked to go out, then we all came back in again and it wasn’t clear as you’ve said it’s not clear when we came back in again.

To be honest I did say things there but he [Councillor Steve Niblock] didn’t want me to speak anyway, so it’s hardly a valid reason.

KEN ABRAHAM
Well it’s not a public meeting, (at this point I link to Regulation 14 (which states it’s to take place in public), link to 100A and 100E of the Local Government Act 1972 which state otherwise to Ken’s assertion that it isn’t a public meeting. In fact earlier in the conversation he stated it was a public meeting.)

KEN ABRAHAM
and you’re not a representative or the, I I I if you want to talk in more detail I can.

JOHN BRACE
I do want to

KEN ABRAHAM
but I just need to, we’re still in the hearing,

JOHN BRACE
I just want to speak to you in more detail.

KEN ABRAHAM
Maybe if we do that after?

JOHN BRACE
The other very brief point I want to make, the first thing is any decision that a public authority makes has, due to the Human Rights Act 1998 to be compatible with the Convention on Human Rights so one of those rights is regarding freedom of expression and regarding the Article 10 right to freedom of expression there has to be a specific power the Council has in law to stop filming and it has to be for one or more of

KEN ABRAHAM
Yes, I hear you. You’re quoting the law, I know the law. We have rights under the regulations too, which empower them to stop a hearing proceeding if there is an issue about disrupting the meeting and the Chair took the view at that time that because it was clearly indicated that he didn’t want filming that he could have asked you to leave the room but he didn’t. As a filming condition to remain, to put the camera off.

JOHN BRACE
Yes, which I did.

KEN ABRAHAM
The licensing regulations are very clear and specific on that point.

JOHN BRACE
Unfortunately the licensing regulations don’t say anything about filming as such.

KEN ABRAHAM
but it talks about, it talks about the, this is why I can’t have a, I can have a discussion but not

JOHN BRACE
The other thing I wanted to say, let me say something. When the public were sent out,

KEN ABRAHAM
Yes.

JOHN BRACE
The law regarding public exclusion, I’m talking about the Local Government Act 1972, states there has to be a resolution and under the terms of [Wirral Council’s] constitution a resolution has to be proposed, seconded and voted on. That didn’t happen.

KEN ABRAHAM
This is a licensing hearing under the hearing regulations,

JOHN BRACE
Yes, but even in the regulations, the licensing regulations, it says they have to consider the public interest in favour of the public [staying] against excluding the public and they didn’t have a discussion about that.

KEN ABRAHAM
There was, there was representations by the Chair, by the individuals attending the meeting and those representations were taken on board. I’ve got to go off.

JOHN BRACE
but you understand my point about the filming issue and the point about the..

KEN ABRAHAM
Well people are entitled to object to that,

JOHN BRACE
and I pointed out I wasn’t filming that side

KEN ABRAHAM
It doesn’t matter, you’re still taking, you’re recording what individuals were saying

JOHN BRACE
Yes.

KEN ABRAHAM
and people can object to that if they’re members of the public.

JOHN BRACE
To be honest, I could just write it down

KEN ABRAHAM
exactly

JOHN BRACE
and type it up

KEN ABRAHAM
exactly, exactly. You could write it up, but at least you know, you know and that’s something that if you’re going to attend regularly, you know, the public needs to be and if it causes disruption at the hearing then we’re quite entitled to say, oh

JOHN BRACE
and can I say there’s also the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations which are going through Parliament and come into effect in a few weeks time.

KEN ABRAHAM
We’re not talking about councillors, we’re talking about members of the public.

JOHN BRACE
but we’re talking about public meetings here, not a public meeting of the full Council. In a few weeks time those regulations will come into effect and they actually prevent the Council from preventing filming at public meetings. They’re in draft form at the moment if you want to look at them.

KEN ABRAHAM
Yeah, well you don’t have to tell me word for word. The regulations are clear on the issue. It gives the Members the leeway to stop if there is a meeting that’s being filmed and the meeting could be disrupted or the hearing could be disrupted, they are entitled to take a view.

JOHN BRACE
Could you show me a copy of the particular regulation or ..

KEN ABRAHAM
Regulation 25,

JOHN BRACE
Regulation 25

KEN ABRAHAM
Licensing [Act 2003] Hearing Regulations [2005], alright and you can actually read the rule, end of story.

JOHN BRACE
OK, but it’s also a public meeting and we have a statutory right to be there.

KEN ABRAHAM
and you have the statutory right to be excluded.

JOHN BRACE
and the thing is right, if I was excluded and asked to leave, I could leave the camera running and leave.

KEN ABRAHAM
No, no, they have the right to exclude you, but the issue has if you’re going to attend these hearings, then members of the public must be aware of that, because they are not aware that you’re doing their filming and we don’t know what’s going to be done when it’s put on the website.

JOHN BRACE
And in fact if I’d answered the question about what the purpose of the filming, but the Chair wouldn’t let me answer it. When I explained it to him he said he had no objection.

KEN ABRAHAM
I said we’d have a discussion, that’s it. We’re not allowing you to have a discussion during

JOHN BRACE
But we’re having one!

KEN ABRAHAM
We’re not having one. Are you aware of the purpose of this discussion? You’re shouting at me!

JOHN BRACE
I’m not!

KEN ABRAHAM
The view that I’m going to take with you isn’t going to change. They tried to make a view on the hearing regulations and you know the people are members of the public and are going to object for whatever reason errm, Members are entitled under the regulations to take a view.

JOHN BRACE
Well actually we disagree on that.

KEN ABRAHAM
Well we’ll agree to disagree then.

Finally I include an email of Surjit Tour sent to me last year.

from: Tour, Surjit
to: john.brace@gmail.com
cc: stephengerrard@wirral.gov.uk
date: 2 April 2013 16:08
subject: RE: filming of public meetings
mailed-by: wirral.gov.uk

Dear Mr Brace

I am on annual leave until 15 April. I am somewhat surprised by your email and letter given that I have asked you a number of times to meet me to discuss this issue.

Furthermore, there no ban on filming as you and another have been filming a number of committee meetings.

I would suggest that no proceedings are issued until I have had the opportunity to respond. I therefore request an extension of time to 30 April.

I await your response.

Please can you also include Stephen Gerrard in any further response.

Yours sincerely

Surjit Tour

Sent from my HTC Touch Pro 2 on Vodafone

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So it seems two of Wirral Council’s legal team have different views on the filming issue.

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Wirral Council councillors ban filming at public meeting to decide on alcohol licence for Michaels of Moreton shop

Wirral Council councillors ban filming at public meeting to decide on alcohol licence for Michaels of Moreton shop

Wirral Council councillors ban filming at public meeting to decide on alcohol licence for Michaels of Moreton shop

                                 

Here is a transcript of what happened today at the Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee meeting. The video of it is below the transcript. Didn’t Councillor Phil Davies state once that the Labour administration was “open and transparent” or has their policy changed on such things?

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK
Can I ask that people make sure that their mobile phones are switched off? It’s very important. I’ll also advise you that there’s not a fire drill today so if the alarm does go off, the fire exit is there and march through to the car park over there.

OK, my name is Councillor Steve Niblock, I’m Chair of the Subcommittee this morning. Either side are my councillor colleagues who will be making the decision regards the application. As a preliminary matter, you will be aware that a member of the public is filming these proceedings and I’m going to ask all those present whether they are happy with that to continue and if they are not then the filming will have to stop. So it’s entirely a matter for yourselves as to whether or not these proceedings are filmed. Are you happy? You’re happy.

UNKNOWN
I’m happy.

UNKNOWN 2
Can I ask the purpose of the filming please?

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK:
I have no idea.

KEN ABRAHAM (legal advisor to the subcommittee)
If you have got a question to be raised probably we could bring Mr Brace in?

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK
I wasn’t going to bring a member of the public in to the proceedings, that they’re not really here as part of the committee and the proceedings. They’re on camera and I have no idea whether actually I can bring them into the committee proceedings of the subcommittee you know as you should know I struggle with that.

KEN ABRAHAM (legal advisor to the subcommittee)
I appreciate that Chair, ok.

UNKNOWN 2
If I don’t know the purpose of it, I’m quite unhappy for filming.

KEN ABRAHAM (legal advisor to the subcommittee)
I accept that.

JOHN BRACE
Shall I answer his question as to how?

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK
Sorry?

JOHN BRACE
Shall I answer his question as to how?

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK
No!

JOHN BRACE
OK.

COUNCILLOR HARRY SMITH
So we’ve said it like that.

UNKNOWN 3
Could you repeat the question?

UNKNOWN 2
Are you happy for the proceedings to be filmed?

UNKNOWN 3
Yes.

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK
Can I ask you to stop filming?

JOHN BRACE
I’m not actually filming that side, so I’m just…

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK
Well I’m sorry but I’m asking you to stop!

JOHN BRACE
I want to ask.

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK
There’s been no discretion

JOHN BRACE
I know.

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK
for somebody, excuse me, there’s been an objection, I am asking you to stop filming!

JOHN BRACE
Can I just ask you what your legal power is to stop filming?

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK
No I’m sorry. I have asked you, you need to stop filming. That means stop now!

JOHN BRACE
OK.

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK
Stop now!

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Public meetings for Wirral Council, Merseytravel and a HoC select committee on how much Chief Officers are paid

Public meetings for Wirral Council, Merseytravel and a HoC select committee on how much Chief Officers are paid

Public meetings for Wirral Council, Merseytravel and a HoC select committee on how much Chief Officers are paid

                                                  

Below is a list of upcoming public meetings & other matters involving local government happening this week. Most are local, but the House of Common’s Communities and Local Government Select Committee on Chief Officer’s pay in local government should be available to watch live on Parliament’s website.
=======================================================================================================
Date:Monday 2nd June 2014
Time: 7.00pm
Public Body/Committee: Wirral Council
Venue: Floral Pavilion, Marine Promenade, New Brighton, Wirral, Merseyside, CH45 2JS

Type of meeting (Annual Meeting of the Council Part 1)
Agenda
1. Declarations of Interest
2. Civic Mayor’s Announcements
3. Election of Civic Mayor 2014/15 (the Cabinet’s recommendation is Cllr Steve Foulkes)
4. Appoint a Deputy Civic Mayor 2014/15 (the Cabinet’s recommendation is Cllr Les Rowlands)
5. Adjournment to 6.15pm on Monday 9th June 2014

=======================================================================================================

Date: Wednesday 4th June 2014
Time: 2.00pm
Public Body/Committee: Merseytravel Committee of Liverpool City Region Combined Authority
Venue: Authority Chamber, Merseytravel Offices, No 1. Mann Island, Liverpool, L3 1BP
Agenda & reports
1. Apologies for Absence
2. Declarations of Interest
3. Minutes of the last meeting
4. High Speed 2 Action Plan June 2014 Update
5. Rail Devolution Update
6. Liverpool City Region: Long Term Rail Strategy

=======================================================================================================

Date: Wednesday 4th June 2014
Time: 4:15pm
Public Body/Committee: Communities and Local Government Select Committee/House of Commons
Venue: The Thatcher Room, Portcullis House
Subject: Local Government Chief Officers’ remuneration
Witnesses: Graham Farrant, Chief Executive of Thurrock Council and London Borough of Barking & Dagenham and Maggie Rae, Corporate Director, Wiltshire Council; Mike Cooke, Chief Executive, London Borough of Camden, Councillor Sarah Hayward, Leader, London Borough of Camden, Paul Martin, Chief Executive, London Borough of Wandsworth and Councillor Ravi Govindia, Leader, London Borough of Wandsworth; Martin Tucker, Joint Managing Partner, Gatenby Sanderson and Peter Smith, Director, Hay Group

=======================================================================================================

Date: Thursday 5th June 2014
Time: 10am
Venue: Birkenhead County Court, 76 Hamilton St, Birkenhead CH41 5EN
Irving -v- Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council (Fast Track Trial)
Case number: 3YQ53624
*Note sometimes parties reach an out of court settlement before a trial in which case the trial doesn’t go ahead.

=======================================================================================================

Date: Friday 6th June 2014
Time: 10.00am
Public Body/Committee: Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee of Wirral Council
Agenda and reports
1. Appointment of Chair
2. Declarations of Interest
3. Application for a Premises Licence – Michaels of Moreton
4. Any other business

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Martins (389 Upton Road) ask for an alcohol licence; the Merseyside Police Sergeant insists video of a public meeting is erased

Martins (389 Upton Road) ask for an alcohol licence;the @MerseyPolice Sgt insists video of a public meeting is erased

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Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee 8th May 2014 Martins 389 Upton Road, Noctorum (Martin McColl Limited) Councillor Mike Sullivan (Labour), Councillor Steve Niblock (Chair, Labour), Councillor Mike Hornby (Conservative)
Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee (Wirral Council) (Wallasey Town Hall, Committee Room 3) 8th May 2014 Martins, 389 Upton Road, Noctorum (Martin McColl Limited) Councillor Mike Sullivan (Labour), Councillor Steve Niblock (Chair, Labour), Councillor Mike Hornby (Conservative)

Martins (389 Upton Road) ask for an alcohol licence; the Merseyside Police Sergeant insists video of a public meeting is erased

                         

Sometimes public meetings take such a bizarre turn, I couldn’t do justice to what happened at them without providing a transcript. However you first need to know a little about this “public meeting”. As detailed in the published report a application for a licence (from Martin McColl Limited) to sell alcohol at a newsagents at Martins, 389 Upton Road, Noctorum (which is in Claughton ward although it is across the road from Bidston & St James ward and very near Upton ward) had been received by Wirral Council. Martins don’t currently sell alcohol and the shop is run as a newsagents/grocery store.

The application was to sell alcohol from 6am to 11pm (seven days a week) for consumption off the premises. There had been a representation from a local business and a petition signed by ninety-four people against the application being granted. Both the petition and representation related to existing problems with youths in the area of the newsagents.

Merseyside Police were also objecting to the application on the basis of a current problem with antisocial behaviour in the area of the newsagents and the likelihood that this would increase if the licence was granted. Another ground of objection from Merseyside Police was that they didn’t feel that the applicant had sufficiently demonstrated how crime and disorder would be prevented at the premises in the future should the licence be granted.

Unusually a representation had also been received from Wirral Council’s Environmental Health department which related to the prevention of crime and disorder and public safety.

The meeting was supposed to start at 2pm, although it didn’t. The councillors and council officers were in the room at 2pm, but they seem to insist on having a long talk with each other before the meeting officially starts. For some peculiar reason (which is different to all other public meetings held at Wallasey Town Hall) they insist everybody comes in at once and won’t even allow you in the room five minutes a few minutes before the meeting starts (which is necessary to set up a tripod and turn a camera on in time for the meeting to start). I’ve asked a Wirral Council officer why, they just state because of the regulations. There’s nothing in the regulations that states everyone has to go into a public meeting at once, in fact the regulations just state the hearing has to be held in public (subject to Regulation 14(2)).

Anyway after what was a long time of waiting of about fifteen minutes everyone was asked to come in (which takes a few minutes in itself as there was me, Leonora, two petitioners, Sgt Barrigan (Merseyside Police), the applicant’s representative, the “area manager” and a Wirral Council officer working in Environmental Health). The meeting started and here is a transcript. Officially the first two items are appointment of Chair and declarations of interest.

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK (Chair)
I’m Councillor Steve Niblock and I’m the Chair of the Subcommittee this afternoon as are my councillor colleagues who will be determining the application. Could I first ask that all mobile phones are switched off or turned to silent please? Thank you and also before we open it’s not the planned fire drill so if the alarm does go off go out of those doors, turn right immediately and assemble in the car park over the road, ok?

There is an issue that has been raised a number of times within the Council with regards to filming of committee meetings and therefore I need to ask all those present if they consent to being filmed and if not errm, the reasons where they do not wish to be filmed and then it’s up to the Committee to make a decision with regards to that particular recommendation.

So, the issue being round if we could introduce ourselves, and then we could deal with that ..

MARGARET O’DONNELL
Chair, sorry to interrupt, just I think the film is running now, so that might defeat the purpose.

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK (Chair)
OK, is it possible to pause that film?

JOHN BRACE
OK.

END OF TRANSCRIPT OF PART ONE

The applicant’s representative raised an objection to the meeting being filmed and said he was at the meeting with the Area Manager. He said he had not been told about the filming issue before the meeting and had not received instructions on this from his client.

Sergeant Barrigan of Merseyside Police said he had no objections to the meeting being filmed. The Wirral Council officer from environmental health said he had no objections to being filmed. The petitioners said they had no objection to being filmed.

The Chair asked Merseyside Police, the petitioners, the Wirral Council officer from Environmental Health and the public to leave whilst the councillors received advice from their legal adviser on the filming issue.

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Everyone waited outside in the corridor. Margaret O’Donnell came out and spoke with the applicant’s representative out of earshot. After talking with Margaret O’Donnell the applicant’s representative talked with Sergeant Barrigan about police officers wearing cameras. Sergeant Barrigan said in the corridor that he didn’t wear a camera or body armour as both pieces of kit would slow him down if he was chasing after a suspect and put him at a disadvantage.

Eventually after a long period of time Merseyside Police, the petitioners, the Wirral Council officer from Environmental Health and the public were invited back in to Committee Room 3.
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COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK (Chair)
Once the errm the Committee has decided whether or not to make this meeting in camera.

EITHER APPLICANT’S REPRESENTATIVE OR AREA MANAGER
There are two issues that cause me concern in relation to the errm, to the errm, to the errm, filming, not knowing what would happen to the film afterwards. Personally there is a matter which is referred to in two of the representations, more than one, errm, which is, errm, in two of the representations, which is currently I think it’s a matter before the courts in relation to those two issues affecting business. I’m not sure what questions you want to ask, in relation to that, but it’s not a matter that I have confidence on. Others the potential for prejudice if widely reported it could prejudice of that matter.

The second errm, is that, one, arising from that I have assumed that on were there any questions regarding security at this, these particular premises err as a result of that other issue which we believe err will address some of the concerns that were expressed, hopefully all those concerns that were expressed by Environmental Health and again that going into the public domain it would potentially defeat the the the security element so on that basis you will adjudicate the matter based on our concern that that could leak into the wider public domain. So for those two reasons around, I would prefer not to do it. Obviously it’s a determination for the Committee to decide on the regulations on what would be the overall regulation that would cover the matter. I would prefer that the matter wasn’t recorded and reported externally.

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK (Chair)
OK, Sergeant Barrigan, do you have any other objections or a view errm with regard to this matter being an exempt item?

SERGEANT BARRIGAN (Merseyside Police)
I think the point Mr Grant makes in relation to the potential sub judice issue is valid, although it’s not a prosecution errm that is being conducted by Merseyside Police. Errm, the other issue in relation to security I think is more valid. The enforcement action that is being conducted by Environmental Health resulted out from some issues in relation to security that is not subject to the representations and some proposals from Mr. Grant and his guys and I don’t think it’s appropriate that that information goes into the public domain because it could muck things up in the future errm and on reflection taking that into consideration I would request that the Committee hold it in camera.

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK (Chair)
OK?

Mr ???? (Environmental Health)
We’ve established that.

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK (Chair)
OK, that’s closed, now there there’s no one else objecting? I’m going to ask for another adjournment now.

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Merseyside Police, the petitioners, the Wirral Council officer from Environmental Health and the public left to the corridor leaving the three councillors with some Wirral Council officers. After a long wait, people were invited back in (for the third time!).
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When everyone returned, the Chair Councillor Steve Niblock said that they had heard representations from the applicant and Merseyside Police and were excluding the public (see regulation 14(2) from the rest of the subcommittee meeting due to court proceedings.

For the purposes of this decision (see regulation 14(3) Sergeant Barrigan, the petitioners, the applicant’s representative and the area manager are all classed as “members of the public” and should have left. However they didn’t. Leonora and I proceeded to the door only to find my way blocked by Sergeant Barrigan insisting that before I left (since the redesign of Wallasey Town Hall Committee Room 3 has only one way in and out) that I delete the video footage on my camera of the public meeting! I deleted the second clip but refused to delete the first. Sergeant Barrigan wouldn’t let us leave until he got the ok from Councillor Steve Niblock that this was alright! I wonder if after we left Sergeant Barrigan (as is recommended) made a note of this conversation (conducted loud enough that everyone in the room could hear) in his notebook and if so what he put in these notes! A transcript of the second deleted video clip is above. This is a letter from 2010 Andrew Trotter, Chief Constable of the ACPO Advisory Group. I will quote from the relevant parts:

“There have been a number of recent instances highlighted in the press where officers have detained photographers and deleted images from their cameras. I seek your support in reminding your officers and staff that they should not prevent anyone from taking photographs in public. This applies equally to members of the media and public seeking to record images, who do not need a permit to photograph or film in public places. ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officer’s) guidance is as follows:

  • There are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place. Therefore members of the public and press should not be prevented from doing so.
  • We need to cooperate with the media and amateur photographers. They play a vital role as their images help us identify criminals.
  • We must acknowledge that citizen journalism is a feature of modern life and police officers are now photographed and filmed more than ever.
  • Unnecessarily restricting photography, whether for the casual tourist or professional is unacceptable and it undermines public confidence in the police service.
  • Once an image has been recorded, the police have no power to delete or confiscate it without a court order.

If you require further guidance please refer to the ACPO website or contact my Staff Officer Robin Edwards at robin.edwards@btp.pnn.police.uk.”

I know this ACPO guidance was agreed at a national level, but does anybody know of any locally agreed policy of Merseyside Police that applies to the situation of being instructed by a police officer to delete video footage from a camera without a court order? Should I keep a copy of Andrew Trotter’s letter on me for future meetings and will politicians just use the reason of excluding the public from a public meeting to circumvent the regulations in the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 (which will have the force of law at some point in the next few weeks) which place a legal requirement on local councils to permit filming at their public meetings?

I am reminded of rule 1 of the National Union of Journalists Code of Conduct which states “A journalist:

1. At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed.”

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