Tribunal date set for 16th June 2016 over Wirral Council FOI request; but who’s being gagged?
Edited on 1st June 2016 as the time of hearing has changed.
Firstly a few brief declaration of interests, I’m the Appellant in case EA/2016/0033 before the First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights). The other respondents are Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council and the Information Commissioner (also called the Information Commissioners Office (ICO)). The letter also refers to case EA/2016/0054 which is another First-Tier Tribunal case I’m the Appellant in involving ICO and the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. Oh and if anyone doesn’t know already I’m married to the Leonora referred to.
I need to point something out first. As a hearing date has been set the case is classed as "active", therefore although it’s only a Tribunal, all the rules about contempt of court apply.
As such I will probably be not accepting comments on this post (yes you can still leave one (it won’t be automatically published without my approval) and it’s rare I do this). Although feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to have a discussion about this without leaving a comment.
There is a loophole, however in the legal restrictions about active cases (which also apply to cases considered by the First-Tier Tribunal) in that Contempt of Court Act 1981, s.5 states, "A publication made as or as part of a discussion in good faith of public affairs or other matters of general public interest is not to be treated as a contempt of court under the strict liability rule if the risk of impediment or prejudice to particular legal proceedings is merely incidental to the discussion."
I’ve made an assessment that this piece falls within the scope of that (although there will probably be concerns in some quarters that I’m publishing this at all).
The hearing for case EA/2016/0033 is to be heard on 16th June 2016* starting at 10.15 am. (However in my limited experience most cases hardly ever start at their scheduled time due to various reasons such as deliberate overlisting). It will be held at The Employment Tribunal, 3rd Floor, Civil & Family Court, 35 Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX. Reception should state on the day which court room will be used (or there may be a list of cases and court room numbers up on the wall). The reference in the letter to a hearing date not yet being set is referring to EA/2016/0054.
*Rarely hearing dates are changed, if the date or time should change I will write a further blog post about the new date.
Attached to this post and viewable above is a letter received today from the Tribunal. Leonora and I have a long-standing reciprocal agreement to act as each other’s McKenzie Friend. After all when you’re taking on large, powerful tax payer funded interests with deep pockets it makes sense to have some help.
If the Tribunal was a court, then I’m sure at the start whoever was presiding over the case (as has happened in the past) would explain to Leonora that she’s not a party or a representative so she doesn’t have a right of audience.
However Tribunals appear to be an area in which although in many aspects they will replicate the court system which has to work within a framework of a mix of rules (the Civil Procedure Rules/Criminal Procedure Rules) and legislation, this matter doesn’t seem to be as black and white.
Of course, I’m not the sort to turn to my wife and say, "you will not be allowed to speak", as it would seem very bossy and not at all in the tradition of the press standing up for freedom of speech.
Interestingly, this letter isn’t in the form of a case management order, but the opinion of a Clerk to the Tribunal.
However it will no doubt cause some amusement to Wirral Council that one of the pair of Braces can apparently be gagged (well apart from whispering in my ear and scribbling according to the letter) and they haven’t had to pay out lots of taxpayer money to a solicitor to draw up a gagging order contract of questionable legality to do it!
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