The Hon. Mr Justice Nicol asked to agree to 4 further witnesses (Miss Vanessa Paradis, Miss Winona Ryder, Mr David Killackey and Miss Kate James) in Johnny Depp/The Sun Newspaper libel case

The Hon. Mr Justice Nicol asked to agree to 4 further witnesses (Miss Vanessa Paradis, Miss Winona Ryder, Mr David Killackey and Miss Kate James) in Johnny Depp/The Sun Newspaper libel case

The Hon. Mr Justice Nicol asked to agree to 4 further witnesses (Miss Vanessa Paradis, Miss Winona Ryder, Mr David Killackey and Miss Kate James) in Johnny Depp/The Sun Newspaper libel case

                                               

By John Brace (Editor)
and
Leonora Brace (Co-Editor)

Royal Courts of Justice, London, UK (resized). Picture credit sjiong, made available under the CC BY-SA 2.0 licence
Royal Courts of Justice, London, UK (resized). Picture credit sjiong, made available under the CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.

Please note that comments are turned off due to the ongoing nature of this case.

Thanks to Autumn on Venus for pointing out this application notice hearing was taking place.

Updated 18.5.2020 – The decision on this was handed down on the 18th May 2020 and can be read at [2020] EWHC 1237 (QB).
Continue reading “The Hon. Mr Justice Nicol asked to agree to 4 further witnesses (Miss Vanessa Paradis, Miss Winona Ryder, Mr David Killackey and Miss Kate James) in Johnny Depp/The Sun Newspaper libel case”

Employment Tribunal Day 6 of 10: Cross-examination of Surjit Tour (Part 2)

Employment Tribunal Day 6 of 10: Cross-examination of Surjit Tour (Part 2)

Employment Tribunal Day 6 of 10: Cross-examination of Surjit Tour (Part 2)

                                

Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer (Wirral Council)) at the Coordinating Committee held on 15th June 2016
Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer (Wirral Council)) at the Coordinating Committee held on 15th June 2016

This is a report of an Employment Tribunal hearing I attended, the matter had already been part heard and this was day 6 of 10. As far as I know there are no reporting restrictions. Brief details are below followed by the first part of a report based on my notes.

Venue: Tribunal Room 2, Third Floor, Liverpool Civil and Family Court Hearing Centre, 35 Vernon Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L2 2BX

Case reference: 2400718/16

Appellant: Mrs A. Mountney

Respondent: Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Employment Judge: Judge Robinson

Tribunal Members:
Mr AG Barker
Mrs JE Williams

Clerk: Lynne Quilty

Date: 6.2.2017

Time: 10.00 am


The following is a contemporaneous account of day 6 and continues from Employment Tribunal Day 6 of 10: Cross-examination of Surjit Tour (Part 1).

Mr Mountney referred Mr Tour to page 642 and asked him what was his response to number 6?

EJ Robinson asked to let him known of the provenance of the letter to Alison Mountney dated 12th January and asked for a paragraph?

Mr Mountney referred to answer eight with the response at the bottom. In elections, he referred to the appointment of staff above counter staff. He referred to ability and a named member of staff.

Surjit Tour stated he was incorrect, that staff were required after polls closed at the counting centres on the counting tables. This was a change to counting staff. Moving to the requirement for management approval, he pointed out the named member of staff was a poll clerk.

EJ Robinson asked who was responsible for the appointment of polling clerks? Surjit Tour replied that the appointment of polling clerks was the responsibility of Alison Mountney.

EJ Robinson said that at 10 o’clock the polls close and a poll clerk would be sat at the tables in the polling station?

Surjit Tour answered that a poll clerk would be supervised by a presiding officer, but there would be one or two poll clerks at each polling station.

Mr Mountney said he accepted it for what it is and asked a further question of Mr Tour. Mr Tour answered that if there was an issue with a member of staff employed it was not within the discretion of Alison Mountney and that the responsibility for suitability rested with Kate Robinson.

Mr Mountney asked Mr Tour a question about Kate Robinson to which Mr Tour answered that he didn’t recall Kate Robinson coming to him regarding that individual.

Mr Mountney referred Mr Tour to paragraph 29 of his witness statement and said as it was important he would go back to the first line. A whistleblowing concern had been made in 2015, Mrs Robinson says she told Mr Tour but Mr Tour says he can’t remember. He asked a question of Mr Tour around being made aware by Mrs Robinson.

Mr Tour said he didn’t recall being made aware of the issue at the time, but it had been made clearer in 2015.

Mr Mountney referred to the whistleblowing report and the reports starting at page 649.

Mr Tour asked for a page number? Mr Mountney referred to page 761. Mr Moore suggested it was 771. Mr Mountney confirmed it was 771.

Mr Mountney referred to the bottom of page 770, at the bottom of the page, 3rd line, P1, he asked if Mr Tour agreed to which Mr Tour answered yes.

EJ Robinson interrupted and said it was his fault but asked for a more explicit reference.

Mr Mountney stated page 770, 6.4.9, third line, P1. He stated that it was here that he never dismissed the integrity of the election was an issue. P2 never refers to him and asked how come is says that?

Mr Tour said he did not recall. Mr Mountney coming to Kate Robinson, he asked a further question to which Mr Tour replied Kate Robinson. Mr Mountney asked wouldn’t Mr Tour know?

Mr Tour answered referring to an incident, canvassing and how steps were taken.

Mr Mountney referred to 6.4.5 and at P2, some time after, people agreed Kate Robinson had made a verbal report to P1 about an alleged canvassing fraud, was Mr Tour told?

Mr Tour referred in his answer to internal audit and how the canvassing book had gone to the individual known as P1.

Mr Mountney asked if a report was made? Mr Tour said that he didn’t recall the conversation with Kate Robinson, but that individual therefore says Kate Robinson. Mr Tour answered that he didn’t recall, going on to refer to Bradfield and a canvassing issue.

Mr Mountney asked a question about fraud to which Surjit Tour answered yes. Mr Mountney asked if it was involving public money and he was a solicitor? Mr Tour answered yes. Mr Mountney referred to Mr Tour’s witness statement and matters concerning a polling clerk, he noted these were not issues that concerned fraud and asked a question.

Mr Tour answered that he had seen the context dealing with the issues and that the issues had been addressed. He referred to Mrs Bradfield, he was not belittling the issues, but there were other matters on his mind and his attention and focus had been on those things, he expected it would be dealt with by a manager.

Mr Mountney said he agreed it was, he couldn’t remember where but did it not state Kate Robinson was lying. Therefore it was raised, but Mr Tour had said it was not issue of concern to him. It was not a matter he would expect to be unresolved and pointed out that Mr Tour was the Borough Solicitor.

Mr Tour explained that at the time there was a governance report by Anna Klonowski in early September, the organisation was in turmoil and there were governance issues. In the grand scheme matters prevailing were important, but his attention and focus was on other issues.

Mr Mountney referring to those other issues, said that these election issues might affect the integrity of the elections.

Mr Tour said he was not aware the integrity of the elections was called into question. The issue of Bradfield was how the canvass was conducted as an example.

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What was in the 11 A4 page witness statement of Surjit Tour (Wirral Council) about a Freedom of Information request for the minutes of a meeting of the Headteachers’ and Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee (EA/2016/0033)?

What was in the 11 A4 page witness statement of Surjit Tour (Wirral Council) about a Freedom of Information request for the minutes of a meeting of the Headteachers’ and Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee (EA/2016/0033)?

                                             

At the outset I will make four declarations of interests.

1) I am the Appellant in this case (EA/2016/0033).
2) My wife was my McKenzie Friend in case EA/2016/0033.
3) I made the original Freedom of Information request on the 29th March 2013.
4) I am referred to by name (Mr. Brace) in paragraphs 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 14 and 15 of the witness statement of Surjit Tour.
5) My profession ("local press") is referred to in paragraph 27.

This continues from two earlier blog posts headlined What were the 6 A4 pages of partially redacted minutes of a Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee meeting and the name of a LGA Associate Tutor that Wirral Council disclosed voluntarily in response to a First Tier-Tribunal (General Regulatory chamber) hearing (case number EA/2016/0033) about a Freedom of Information request first made in March 2013? and What was in the 5 A4 page witness statement of Andrew Roberts (Wirral Council) about a Freedom of Information request for the minutes of a meeting of the Headteachers’ and Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee (EA/2016/0033)?.

Line breaks are indicated by a double horizontal line break. A picture of Surjit Tour at a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Coordinating Committee from the 15th June 2016 is below so people reading know who I’m referring to. I have included his signature, typed name and handwritten date at the end of the witness statement as an image.

Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer (Wirral Council)) at the Coordinating Committee held on 15th June 2016
Surjit Tour (Monitoring Officer (Wirral Council)) at the Coordinating Committee held on 15th June 2016

Continue reading “What was in the 11 A4 page witness statement of Surjit Tour (Wirral Council) about a Freedom of Information request for the minutes of a meeting of the Headteachers’ and Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee (EA/2016/0033)?”

What was in the 5 A4 page witness statement of Andrew Roberts (Wirral Council) about a Freedom of Information request for the minutes of a meeting of the Headteachers’ and Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee (EA/2016/0033)?

What was in the 5 A4 page witness statement of Andrew Roberts (Wirral Council) about a Freedom of Information request for the minutes of a meeting of the Headteachers’ and Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee (EA/2016/0033)?

                                             

At the outset I will make four declarations of interests.

1) I am the Appellant in this case (EA/2016/0033).
2) My wife was my McKenzie Friend in case EA/2016/0033.
3) I made the original Freedom of Information request on the 29th March 2013.
4) I am referred to by name (Mr. Brace) in paragraphs 1, 4 and 5 of the witness statement of Andrew Roberts.

This continues from an earlier blog post headlined What were the 6 A4 pages of partially redacted minutes of a Headteachers’/Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee meeting and the name of a LGA Associate Tutor that Wirral Council disclosed voluntarily in response to a First Tier-Tribunal (General Regulatory chamber) hearing (case number EA/2016/0033) about a Freedom of Information request first made in March 2013?.

Line breaks are indicated by a double horizontal line break. A picture of Andrew Roberts at a meeting of Wirral Council’s Schools Forum from the 3rd December 2014 is below so people reading know who I’m referring to. I have included his signature at the end of the witness statement as an image.

I have added a links from his witness statement below to decision notice FS50596346 referred to in paragraph 1 of his witness statement as this has been published on ICO’s website. I also link to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 also referred to in paragraph 1.

Where paragraphs cross over multiple page I have added the paragraph number on the second page to preserve formatting and to aid with comprehension.

The witness statement of Andrew Roberts was sent to me by post to the incorrect address (Wirral Council decided to delete the road and property number) for service (recorded signed for mail) by Wirral Council on 31st May 2016. It was received by myself on the 2nd June 2016.

Andrew Roberts at a public meeting of Wirral Council's Schools Forum 3rd December 2014
Andrew Roberts at a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Schools Forum 3rd December 2014

Continue reading “What was in the 5 A4 page witness statement of Andrew Roberts (Wirral Council) about a Freedom of Information request for the minutes of a meeting of the Headteachers’ and Teachers’ Joint Consultative Committee (EA/2016/0033)?”

Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit brands some whistleblowing as “Mickey Mouse” & “complete nonsense”

Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit brands some whistleblowing as “Mickey Mouse” & “complete nonsense”

Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit brands some whistleblowing as “Mickey Mouse” & “complete nonsense”

                                                                 

ED 26/11/14 15:16 – Following a complaint from Merseytravel received on the 26th November 2014, the word “some” has been added to the headline for the purposes of clarity.

Declaration of Interest: The author of this piece was years ago involved as the Claimant in litigation against Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority (defendant) and Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive (defendant) that started and concluded in 2007 in the Birkenhead County Court. This was after first raising his concerns internally with its former Chief Executive Neil Scales and former Chair of Merseytravel Cllr Dowd. At this stage the matter could have been easily settled for £15 but Merseytravel chose at that stage not to.

Merseytravel’s legal costs in the matter were estimated at £thousands (which Merseytravel paid themselves and would have had to pay whether they won or lost). The increased legal costs of Merseytravel were partly because of what happened as detailed below.

During the case Merseytravel’s barrister (in my opinion a barrister is indeed slight overkill for a £15 claim in the small claims track in the county court, but I know now it’s common practice in the public sector to do this) had to (rather embarrassingly) ask for the permission from both the Claimant (myself) and the Birkenhead County Court to withdraw the first signed witness statement of their expert witness (a Merseytravel employee) after I pointed out a factual inaccuracy in their witness statement (that the witness (a Merseytravel employee) had indeed signed a statement of truth for).

Merseytravel also sought (initially but later changed their mind on that) in 2008 to withhold documents referred to from the Claimant that were referred to in their defence. If I remember correctly a Merseytravel employee stated to me at the time that such documents (which were details of their charging policy for lost Solo and Trio passes) were not for the public.

The final judgement in the case (by agreement by both Merseytravel and myself) was later modified by the Birkenhead County Court due to a factual error made by the Judge who had not taken into account an earlier application in the case and chosen to ignore me pointing this out to him at the time of the hearing.

Although the judge at the final hearing agreed with me that Merseytravel had discriminated against me three times because of a protected characteristic, the court accepted Merseytrave’s reliance on a statutory defence that discrimination on these three times was justified due to a “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” because of decisions by politicians.

The four councillors from Wirral Council at the time on Merseytravel (the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority) were:

Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour)
former Cllr Denis Knowles (Labour at the time but switched to the Conservatives)

It is perhaps to be noted that as is relevant to how politicians and those in the public sector relate towards protected minorities (and this point here is obviously to do with attitudes towards a different protected minority) that Denis Knowles in 2012 later faced a Wirral Council Standards Hearing Panel hearing based on a complaint of Denis Knowles after a comment he left on Facebook about members of the LGBT community who were members of the Labour Party. He was suspended at the time from the Conservative Party.

former Cllr Jacqueline McKelvie (Conservative)
Cllr Dave Mitchell (Lib Dem)

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

A councillor asks a question about Merseytravel's whistleblowing policy at a public meeting of its Audit and Governance SubCommittee 24th November 2014
A councillor asks a question about Merseytravel’s whistleblowing policy at a public meeting of its Audit and Governance SubCommittee 24th November 2014

Cllr Steve Foulkes (Vice-Chair of Merseytravel’s Audit and Governance Sub-Committee) now part of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority sent his apologies to a public meeting to discuss Merseytravel’s whistleblowing policy and was not present.

Officers of Merseytravel were asking councillors for their comments on a draft whistleblowing policy which included such priceless paragraphs as:

“10.2 If you do take the matter outside Merseytravel, you should ensure that you do not disclose confidential information acquired during your employment unless it falls within the qualifying criteria for protected disclosures. Premature or inaccurate media exposure or adverse publicity may cause needless reputational damage, impede a proper investigation or cause unnecessary distress to individuals.”

I will translate those two sentences in the draft policy into what my interpretation of the intention behind it is and probably in much clearer English:

“10.2 If you rat on us to the press, not only will we [Merseytravel] start spinning to the press and refer to any damaging press report as “inaccurate”, we’ll go after you (despite what the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 c.23 states as we’re more bothered with our reputation and making sure that we control the flow of information about our organisation to both to the public and politicians.”

The references made during the public meeting itself to a hypothetical whistleblower as “Mickey Mouse” (whether made in jest or not) speaks volumes about cultural attitudes that still persist at Merseytravel.

However bearing in mind my unusually long declaration of interest made at the start of this piece, I had better not let how dysfunctional Merseytravel was in 2007 influence my reporting of it in 2014 as the Merseytravel politicians of 2014 are keen to put its somewhat chequered past behind it.

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Merseytravel’s (now part of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s) Audit and Governance Subcommittee public meeting of the 24th November 2014

The whistleblowing item (item 7) starts at 31m 48s into the meeting and can be watched above. The report and draft policy can be read on Merseytravel’s website.

Councillor Fulham at the meeting asked, “Thanks Chair. Errm, I appreciate that on page 48 of the agenda and at 7.4 in the policy, errm it says that this part of the that I’m looking at, I’ve found somewhere I’m looking at says this policy applies even if after investigation, disclosure is found to be incorrect or unfounded and there are statutory protections which the policy acknowledges for people who errm make a protected disclosure, that’s found out too. Well at the end of the process is found out not to be errm founded but it might be a reasonably held disclosure.

But what worries me is on page 46, where it says policy statement, under errm in chapter 4 “we will investigate all genuine and reasonable concerns”, but the way I would approach things, you can’t make an assessment whether it’s genuine or reasonable until you’ve investigated it? So it kind of precludes the investigation. So errm, why is that there?”

Stephanie Donaldson, Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit answered “OK, you’re absolutely right in so far as how can you tell that anything’s genuine or legitimate until you investigate it, so realistically everything will be investigated to a point.

However if something was found to be errm you know complete nonsense for want of a better word then that investigation would cease. We wouldn’t pursue investigating something which is you know completely unfounded or false then, but you’re right that there is the legislation requires that as long as it’s in the public interest it should still be investigated and that’s what the changes to the policy would fly at.

I suppose the purpose of that one in the policy statement and I will take some advice through you Chair from legal, is that errm, that if we received a complete nonsense of an allegation and it’s clearly complete nonsense from Mickey Mouse for example that we would not investigate that, there are bounda