Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Audit Commission Wastes £3,500 on Legal Threat Against NCCLols

Yes I got a steamy legal letter (poor quality scan I'm sorry but readable) from the Audit Commission who were unhappy about my criticism of the District Auditor here and here. A subsequent FoI request revealed that this cost them £3,500.

£3,500. Three. Thousand. And. Five. Hundred. Pounds. Three... you get the picture. That's public money handed over to a private firm of solicitors for... well for what exactly?

You see the letter seems to go off on a kind of litigation intimidation bingo session. I'm first told that I'm guilty of harassing the District Auditor (!!!!!), then told that, if I'm lucky I might have done a bit of defamation and malicious falsehood as well. Apparently, I've been "vicious, vexatious and highly derogatory" and I'm said to have caused her "alarm and distress".

Oh for fucks sake.

I've generally given the accusations short shrift, pointing out that a public figure such as the District Auditor should normally be expected to have a thicker skin and that the PR effects of pursuing such a claim may not be that desirable and could include a syndrome known as the 'Streisand Effect'.

What is alarming here is that the Audit Commission appears to be funding a legal action for one of its individual employees and I'm really not sure that is lawful. There has been caselaw around local councils taking libel actions out and generally speaking they can't and I can't see any reason why that should be any different for a body like the Audit Commission. It is apparently possible for a council to fund an action one of its employees is taking but this depends on the reading of a certain piece of legislation specific to councils, not relevant to the Commission. So, all told, this looks a bit dodgy.

What's more, if the Commission is unhappy that I have expressed suspicion that they aren't as robust with Nottingham City Council as they should be (a suggestion I have made with evidence, see above linked posts and this one concerning the difference between the treatment of Leicester's HB service and NCC's) and that things are a bit cosy between them then might I suggest that threatening to sue a blogger whose raison d'etre is to write critically about Nottingham City Council is probably not the best way to dispel such suspicions.

1 comment:

Ghomez said...

I totally agree with your post. Hope you don't mind me copying the format of the letter you were sent to write a pre-action letter to NCC. I'm in kangeroo court at the end of the month facing accusations of harrassment against them - after I phoned them for 3 days chasing my childs contact. They recently stole and they plan to sell to adoption agency.