Judge rules Wirral Council was right to withhold legal emails discussing Klonowski probe

Judge rules Wirral Council was right to withhold emails from Klonowski probe

Judge rules Wirral Council was right to withhold emails from Klonowski probe

First published in News
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Wirral Globe: Photograph of the Author by , Editor

A JUDGE has ruled Wirral Council was right to prevent the public from seeing legal emails discussing a probe into a high-profile social services scandal.

The ruling came after the council lodged an appeal against an earlier decision by data watchdog the Information Commissioner, which had found there were insufficient grounds for preventing disclosure.

The judge’s report says the tribunal agrees with the local authority.

It reveals the commissioner’s office has subsequently changed tack from its original ruling and also agrees the data, bar one minor item, should remain under wraps.

The judge wrote: “The Commissioner has changed its stance in relation to a large proportion of the withheld information and has conceded that the council is not obliged to make disclosure.”

The issue centres around written discussions between consultant Anna Klonowski and a firm of lawyers she engaged to ensure the published report of her inquiry - triggered by revelations in the Globe in 2008 by whistleblower Martin Morton - was legally sound.

Mr Morton exposed how the Department for Adult Social Services had secretly introduced a so-called “special charging policy” which, over an eight-year period, deducted around £700,000 in excessive rental payments from the bank accounts of 16 disabled residents living in supported housing in Moreton.

Ms Klonowski was commissioned to conduct a major inquiry into the scandal, and evidently believed correspondence between her and legal experts would remain confidential.

But Wirral freedom of information campaigner Paul Cardin submitted an official request for the exchanges of emails, faxes and letters to be placed in the public domain.

However, after a protracted process over 26 months, the tribunal finally has ruled that to do so would be an “actionable breach of confidence.”

Mr Cardin said he wanted the correspondence to be aired as it was his belief it could shed light on a puzzling, three-year-old mystery.

Back in 2011, the Equality and Human Rights Commission found the “special charging policy” amounted to discrimination against disabled people.

A confidential email by the commission's disability committee chairman Mike Smith was published in the Globe.

It stated: "I do not agree with the conclusions drawn by [Wirral] Council's Director of Law that discrimination did not occur because the residents were not overcharged for reasons relating to disability.

"Current discrimination law clearly establishes that motive and intent are irrelevant to this issue.

"The facts are that disabled people were subject to unlawful levels of charging, whether or not the cause was maladministration.

"It is the opinion of the Commission that these concerns should be included in the inquiry in order to identify whether there are other issues or systemic problems that need to be addressed."

However, Mr Smith’s findings never made it into the Klonowski report.

In fact, her review concluded there was no disability discrimination whatsoever.

Mr Cardin said today: “I’m extremely disappointed with the judge’s ruling.

“I see it as a blow against disabled people everywhere.

“The correspondence I requested could be absolutely crucial to this case.

“Within those exchanges, there is a chance that evidence exists to explain how and why the decision by Mike Smith was left out.

“What makes this even harder to swallow is the fact Mr Smith had not asked Klonowski or anybody else to rule again on whether there’d been any disability discrimination.

“He’d decided there patently had been - and had clearly requested that his findings be fed into the investigation.”

Comments (5)

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1:02pm Wed 4 Jun 14

PaulCa says...

Much of the background information to this is described at these links:

http://goo.gl/ZSTnOm


http://goo.gl/d9DbIk


http://goo.gl/FIc2ji
Much of the background information to this is described at these links: http://goo.gl/ZSTnOm http://goo.gl/d9DbIk http://goo.gl/FIc2ji PaulCa
  • Score: 9

4:04pm Wed 4 Jun 14

PaulCa says...

The ruling emphasises, "Likely to cause detriment to DLA or AKA".

It's shocking to see that the court's priorities lay with protecting powerful institutions, rather than standing up for the rights of vulnerable people, whose statutory protector, Wirral Council under portfolio holder, Steve Foulkes, repeatedly breached its own obligations over an 8 year period and plundered nigh on £750,000 from their bank accounts, then bullied, mobbed and dispensed with the whistleblower.
The ruling emphasises, "Likely to cause detriment to DLA or AKA". It's shocking to see that the court's priorities lay with protecting powerful institutions, rather than standing up for the rights of vulnerable people, whose statutory protector, Wirral Council under portfolio holder, Steve Foulkes, repeatedly breached its own obligations over an 8 year period and plundered nigh on £750,000 from their bank accounts, then bullied, mobbed and dispensed with the whistleblower. PaulCa
  • Score: 14

5:49pm Wed 4 Jun 14

Joeblogg85 says...

It's another sad chapter isn't it. What happened to the mantra of openness and transparency?

The past few years at Wirral has been one unholy mess and I wonder when it is all going to end?

I was always taught that everyone makes mistakes in life and when you do, the best thing to do is put your hand up at the earliest chance and apologise.

There is not one person I know professionally or personally who hasn't made a mistake of one kind or another. However, it just seems that no one at Wirral is willing to do this simple thing.

It must be a terrible place to work when you can't trust your own bosses.
It's another sad chapter isn't it. What happened to the mantra of openness and transparency? The past few years at Wirral has been one unholy mess and I wonder when it is all going to end? I was always taught that everyone makes mistakes in life and when you do, the best thing to do is put your hand up at the earliest chance and apologise. There is not one person I know professionally or personally who hasn't made a mistake of one kind or another. However, it just seems that no one at Wirral is willing to do this simple thing. It must be a terrible place to work when you can't trust your own bosses. Joeblogg85
  • Score: 5

7:19pm Wed 4 Jun 14

bigfoot says...

Nothing can be said or added suffice to say
Unbelievable!
Nothing can be said or added suffice to say Unbelievable! bigfoot
  • Score: 6

12:01am Thu 5 Jun 14

djrimmer says...

The judiciary impose one rule of law on the establishment and a different variation when dealing with the man (or woman) in the street. "British justice the best in the world"........b*lloc
ks.
The judiciary impose one rule of law on the establishment and a different variation when dealing with the man (or woman) in the street. "British justice the best in the world"........b*lloc ks. djrimmer
  • Score: 6

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