Thursday 22nd June 2017,
North Yorks Enquirer

ERYC: Bully, Bluff, Bluster & Buckley (Solicitors)

ERYC: Bully, Bluff, Bluster & Buckley (Solicitors)

  • an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, commenting on the rising tide of desperation flowing thorough East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

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Readers will by now be aware that a shitstorm is brewing at East Riding of Yorkshire Council following fraud and corruption allegations published by Cottingham developer Mr Peter ROBINSON:

The third of these three articles included a Press Statement on behalf of the Independent Group at ERYC, signed off by the group Secretary, Councillor Ros JUMP and published on Andy STRANGWAY’s private blog (see below).

Within an hour or so of publication, this Press Statement drew the most astonishing response from ERYC Head of Legal & Democratic Services, Mathew BUCKLEY:

Please note that Mathew BUCKLEY’s email carries no stricture of confidentiality – so he can really have nothing to say about his email being shared widely amongst interested observers. Act in haste, repent at leisure.

Leaving aside (for the moment) the total disregard evinced by Mathew BUCKLEY for Councillor JUMP’s (and Andy STRANGEWAY’s) ‘qualified’ rights under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998;

Article 10 Freedom of expression

1 Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2 The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

let us examine again Mathew BUCKLEY’s intimidatory attempt at veiled threat and censorship:

“I have to advise you both that I consider that you need to take this posting down. I will be taking advice as to whether these comments could be seen as actionable and if they are you will both as author of the statement and publisher of the statement be potential defendants. I do not wish you to be placed in the position of having action taken against you and so I need to give you this advice.”

“I do not wish you to be placed in the position . . .” – not much, he doesn’t!

Mathew BUCKLEY is the Head of Legal & Democratic Services. Why would a man elevated to such high station (and matching salary) need to seek advice elsewhere? Who will be paying for that advice? Presumably, ERYC – which is to say the public – who are already paying BUCKLEY for his much-vaunted legal ‘expertise’.

And what exactly does BUCKLEY think “could be seen as actionable”?

Let us remind ourselves of the actual wording of the Press Statement:

PRESS STATEMENT

“Recent allegations by a retired property developer in Cottingham have raised serious doubts about the integrity of the planning system in East Riding, citing collusion over many years between councillors and senior employees in response to bribes from developers. However, these serious allegations are being brushed aside within County Hall as the normal outcry from a customer whose plan failed to gain approval.

The official dismissal of each and every allegation without even a basic enquiry, combined with outright refusal even to investigate, fuels the suspicion of collusion and cover-up. Every councillor is therefore under public suspicion of criminal activity, as is every officer of the planning department and every local developer.

As councillors we have a duty to restore confidence in the system and clear the names of the innocent. East Riding of Yorkshire Council cannot possibly investigate the people and businesses outside the council who are implicated in this matter, and the matter cannot simply be dismissed by a council bureaucrat as ‘sour grapes’.

If there really is nothing to hide, and hopefully that is the case, we should all support and welcome an independent investigation by an appropriate authority. If we do not do the right thing we will be rightly perceived as champions of corruption.”

Councillor Ros Jump, Secretary, ERYC Independent Group

– ENDS –

So Mathew BUCKLEY is concerned that Councillors JUMP [Ind.] and STRANGEWAY [Ind.] may have published something ‘actionable’ – i.e. libellous – is he?

Wait a minute . . .

1) The Press Statement makes clear that allegations have been poublished not by Councillors JUMP [Ind.] and STRANGEWAY [Ind.] but by “a retired property developer in Cottingham”.

2) The Press Statement names no-one. Who does BUCKLEY imagines may wish to take an action against  Councillors JUMP [Ind.] and STRANGEWAY [Ind.]? Someone, perhaps, with a guilty conscience?

3) Allegations which are true cannot, by definition, be libellous. Is BUCKLEY attempting to assert that the allegations are not true? Since there has been no investigation, how could he know that?

In my opinion – and there is no prohibition against me forming and holding an opinion “and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority” – Mathew BUCKLEY is protesting far, far, far too much.

It makes me wonder whether or not Mathew BUCKLEY has any kind of personal interest in the allegations.

In my opinion, Mathew BUCKLEY’s knee-jerk email to Councillors JUMP [Ind.] and STRANGEWAY [Ind.] runs the risk of creating the impression that the allegations are indeed true – and, from the perspective of those implicated, must therefore be immediately buried at all costs. In other words, a cover-up.

I have been publishing my opinion for some years now – and certainly long before I ever encountered the name Mathew BUCKLEY – that local authorities seem to be incapable of appointing legal Officers whose competence merits the huge salaries accorded to them.

Frankly, I have yet to encounter a local authority legal Officer (with the exception of Barry KHAN, at NYCC) whom I would entrust with the conveyancing of a rabbit-hutch – with or without the appropriate Planning Consent.

This chap BUCKLEY takes the biscuit.

Naturally, I offered Mathew BUCKLEY his ‘right of reply’ prior to submitting this article for publication.

Naturally, he has not responded.

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