Further to the story OnTheWight reported last month when the Mayor of Brading Town Council threatened to call police because a member of the public filming the event refused to move to the press table, there’s been some developments.
A solicitor’s letter (seen online by OnTheWight) threatening legal action has been issued to a Brading resident on behalf of Brading Town Council (BTC).
Christopher Offer has been attending BTC meetings for many years and recently discovered anyone can film those meetings under the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations Act 2014.
“Disruptive” and “vexatious”
The letter, sent on behalf of the BTC – accuses Mr Offer of “being disruptive” (because he refused to move from the front row of the public seating to the press table at the side of the room at the beginning of the November meeting).
Mr Offer is also accused of “seeking to intimidate the clerk and members of the council”, and that his continuing behaviour could be “defined as harassment and is a criminal offence”.
Furthermore, he is accused of being “vexatious” and of “disrupting the legitimate work of the Council” due to requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act.
Refused permission to film at school
Following the November meeting (when the Mayor threatened to call the police) it was announced the December meeting would be held in the local primary school instead of the usual town hall location (after school hours, from 7pm). Mr Offer was informed by the BTC’s clerk that he would not be able to film in the school.
The reason he was given was:
“There are items of children’s work, and photographs of students on the walls of the hall, and their policy is that no filming, even of Nativity plays or concerts, is permitted by parents or carers, due to the vulnerability of certain children.”
After a couple of back and forth emails with the BTC clerk (which OnTheWight has seen), in which Mr Offer stated his right to film the meeting, he suddenly received the threatening letter from Leatherhead solicitors, Wellers Hedleys – something known as a ‘Letter before action’.
No comment from BTC
OnTheWight contacted the BTC’s two clerks and Mayor this morning with a number of questions. After asking what our deadline was, the Town Clerk, Linda Allen, then replied telling OnTheWight,
“As I have said before, Councillors must discuss any comments to the media, and I have to publicise meetings 3 days in advance to inform the public – so no – we are unable to comment as you do not allow us sufficient time to respond.”
OnTheWight contacted the BTC Mayor and clerks last month (6th November) in relation to Mr Offer and was given a similar reply. We were also told that a reply would be sought, but are still waiting, almost a month later.
Date and location of meeting changed
The date and venue for the December BTC meeting has now been changed and will be held on Wednesday 6th December at St Mary’s Church Hall, Brading.
The meeting is open to all members of the public and perhaps we’ll hear our questions being discussed and answered at that meeting.
If you missed Mr Offer’s previous recordings of the BTC meetings, you can watch them below.
Image: © Chris Offer