Town council issues legal threat to resident

A Brading resident is told via solicitor’s letter – sent on behalf of the Town Council – that his actions are “disruptive”, “vexatious” and could be “defined as harassment” and “a criminal offence”.

btc clerk and mayor - from chris offer video

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.

Previous recordings
If you missed Mr Offer’s previous recordings of the BTC meetings, you can watch them below.

Image: © Chris Offer

Monday, 4th December, 2017 1:13pm

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Filed under: Brading, Island-wide, Isle of Wight News, Top story

Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.

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10 Comments on "Town council issues legal threat to resident"

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profoundlife

Silly sods. Crowd fund it if you need to, Christopher Offer, and I’ll stump up some. Terrible that taxpayers money can be used for nonsense like this.

Caconym

Who fancies rocking up that that meeting packing a video camera, then?

And the next meeting, and the next, and so on until the silly sods of Brading Town Council grow themselves a bit of common sense.

YJC
What is this Town Council worried about? If they are honest, transparent and have nothing to hide why should it bother them to have the meeting videoed? If they really are against it, and can legally object then there is nothing to stop anyone recording the meeting – verbally only. Many Council’s do this themselves and have it available for download by the public. The fact that… Read more »
Fred Karno

This is real Toytown stuff, Brading Town Council are not doing themselves any favours at all. Best thing the Clerks can now do is to seek some sensible advice and try to de-escalate the matter asap. If this rather silly matter is allowed to progress, the Brading council tax payers will see their money wasted on paying for litigation and solicitors bills.

calderjon

Complete disgrace. These people should be ashamed of themselves. Whoever sanctioned this threat is certainly not fit to be part of any council.

I do not believe it

‘Suruk’ has the answer. Let’s all turn up at the next meeting with iPhones and iPads and record this pathetic puffed-up pile of plebs!

elinesterado
Presumably the people of Brading will in some way be paying for this solicitor’s letter, but what an absurd state of affairs that an action of no real consequence, one which would have best been ignored, descended – there is no other word – into a meaningless trial of strength between our Town Councillors and a member of the public. Sadly the Town Councillors proved quite incapable… Read more »
Steve Goodman

What do BTC do when not busy bullying the burghers of Brading and avoiding the answering of awkward questions?

dumbledor

Has anyone actually watched these videos? It’s like watching paint dry… No wonder local government is populated with weirdos and social missfits. No sane person would want to be involved.

Mark L Francis

This is a local council meeting for local people. There’s nothing for you here…