Why is Registrar Worth asking this blog to unpublish Wirral Council’s Grounds of Appeal about keeping the Hoylake Golf Resort contract secret?
I declare an interest in this piece below as the person who made the original information request. I have completely obscured the names and partially obscured the email address of the solicitors for the other parties (ICO and Wirral Council) dealing with this matter.
The case referred to below has since ended in a consent order (which has been sent out to the two parties ICO and Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council). I however have not yet seen the final consent order.
Below is a copy of an email received on the 15th January 2018. Although not explicitly stated, I think it refers to this story published on the 9th September 2017. The two day public hearing scheduled for the 13th and 14th February 2018 referred to in my response was cancelled on the 12th February 2018 and replaced with a 15 minute telephone conference on the 14th February 2018.
It’s also not lost on me that Wirral Council (a party in this matter) made a similar request to unpublish matters published on this blog involving the Open Golf Championship in Hoylake in July 2014.
from: GRC <firstname.lastname@example.org>
to: “email@example.com” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
date: 15 January 2018 at 12:15
subject: RE: EA/2017/0191 Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council vs Information Commissioner
security: messagelabs.com did not encrypt this message
I understand that you have published on the internet Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council’s grounds of appeal. You did not, and do not, have the Tribunal’s permission to so do. Please immediately take the document down from the internet and do not publish it again without having the prior permission of this Tribunal.
Mrs R Worth
Registrar, General Regulatory Chamber
Mrs Sharda Mistry
General Regulatory Chamber (GRC)| HMCTS | PO Box 9300 | Leicester | LE1 8DJ
Tel 0116 249 4201
Fax: 0870 7395836
I am not authorised to bind my Department contractually, nor to make representations or other statements which may bind the Department in any way via electronic means.
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Below is my response.
from: John Brace <email@example.com>
to: GRC <firstname.lastname@example.org>
cc: “*****************” <************@wirral.gov.uk>,
“Sonia Taylor” <************@ico.org.uk>,
“Judge Peter Lane” <email@example.com>
date: 6 February 2018 at 08:01
subject: Re: EA/2017/0191 Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council vs Information Commissioner
Dear Registrar R Worth (and others),
Thank you for your email dated 15th January 2018.
I have carefully considered your suggestion, but for the reasons below regretfully have to decline to do as you wish.
For the purposes of doubt, I am interpreting your message as applying to what is published at this address https://johnbrace.com/2017/09/09/what-are-the-21-paragraphs-of-reasons-why-wirral-council-opposes-release-of-the-hoylake-golf-resort-contract/ .
As you can see if you visit that page the date of publication is 9th September 2017.
At that time no hearing date had been set, so therefore the matter was not considered “active”.
To alter/change publication as a hearing date has now been set and the matter is “active” as you suggest, would potentially place me in breach of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.
Although the First-tier Tribunal does have powers to issue an order preventing publication or may give a direction prohibiting disclosure, the Registrar has previously argued the opposite in a case management note (later modified by the President) dated 20th July 2016 in EA/2016/0054 (and I quote):-
“1. Mr Brace attempts to control what the Tribunal and parties do with the DVD … This is not permissible. He has provided it for the purposes of an appeal in this Tribunal, therefore the Tribunal’s rules apply and a party can use it for the purposes of the appeal.
2. Mr Brace should note that the Tribunal has power to grant permission for documents that are referred to in open court but not read in full to be shown to a person who applies to see them (e.g. a journalist) 1;… Mr Brace is not able, in my view, to retain over the footage the sort of control that he seems to seek…. The Tribunal will not revert to Mr Brace about any “future queries about re-use or licensing” as he requests. The Tribunal will follow the law.”
Lastly, it has been pointed out to me that The First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal (Composition of Tribunal) Order 2008 requires in the First-tier Tribunal’s decision making for the First-tier Tribunal to make decisions in accordance with regard to the Senior President of Tribunal’s decision on who makes what decision.
In paragraph 16, it makes it clear that “Any other decision, including striking out a case under rule 8, making an order by consent under rule 37 or giving directions under rule 5 of the 2009 Rules (whether or not at a hearing), must be made by one judge.”
Therefore as neither legally valid directions or an order have been issued regarding publication by a Judge and if the hearing goes ahead on the 13th/14th of this month, plus as I am not a party in this matter (therefore there is no general duty on me to cooperate with the First-tier Tribunal in this matter), the decision has been made by someone independently of me that the existing publication of Wirral Council’s grounds of appeal (which was itself shared with myself by the First-tier Tribunal) should not be changed.
I hope that makes my position as clear as I can possibly do so. I have copied in all parties in EA/2017/0191 to prevent any misunderstandings that may arise.
Finally (although this decision is not binding on the First-tier Tribunal) I draw its attention to  EWHC 575 (TCC) also attached, which rules that because Particulars of Claim can be provided to third parties without a judicial decision that even the Particulars of Claim in a dispute over a contract for new trains worth around £460 million are not “confidential”.
I realise the Civil Procedure Rules are however slightly different to the Tribunal Procedural Rules, however this hopefully set out my position with regards to publication of the Appellant’s grounds of appeal before this matter was active.
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