Town council threaten to call police during filming of meeting

When a resident filming the latest town council meeting refused to move from the front row of the public seating because he is hard of hearing and sometimes needs to lip read, the Mayor threatened to call the police. Watch the video of events unfolding.

brading tc meeting

Last week’s Brading Town Council meeting came to an abrupt halt, when councillors voted in favour of suspending the meeting just minutes after it had begun.

Brading resident, Chris Offer, has been attending the Town Council meetings for over eight years and recently discovered he was permitted, by law, to be able to film the meetings as a member of the public.

Mayor: “Please move”
However, last week’s meeting was suspended after Mr Offer refused to move to the press table at the side of the room from the front row of the public seating, where he explained he’d sat for many years due to a difficulty with his hearing.

The Mayor said to him,

“Please move to that table, because then you are not in the way of councillors listening and actually having eye contact with people in the forum.”

Mr Offer: “Don’t be silly”
Mr Offer replied that he was not obstructing the view any more than another member of the public, adding, “so please don’t be silly”.

Deputy mayor, Cllr Richard Whiting, appeared to take offence to the use of the word ‘silly’ saying, “Er that’s not the right word to use please, silly,” and also asked Mr Offer to move.

Cllr Whiting went on to ask whether Mr Offer had public liability insurance and suggested he had “no duty of care to the people around him”, adding “I’m sure members of the public would deserve that to be done”.

He went on to suggest that if he was in charge he’d cancel the meeting.

Threat to “telephone the police”
The Mayor then goes on to read out the rules on filming and claimed Mr Offer was obstructing the meeting. After he refused again to move, the Mayor then went on to ask him to leave the meeting, saying,

“Or we will, as Brading Town Council, telephone the police and get you removed.”

Then adding under her breath, “very silly”, presumably deemed OK to use in this context, as there was no objection from Cllr Whiting.

Cllr Bonsey: “Feeling intimidated”
Cllr Steven Bonsey then suggested the town council suspend the meeting, because,

“There’s not point starting if we’re in the position of feeling intimidated.”

It’s not clear from the video below where the intimidation was coming from.

Take care not to ‘infend’
The council then voted to suspend the meeting, but not before the deputy mayor introduced us to a new word.

He said,

“A member of the public has not offended, may have offended, but ‘infended’ the other people, members of the public, that they can’t have their meeting and I think that’s a terrible situation to be in.”

Mr Offer filmed the incident from his small camcorder that was placed on a mono-rod held in front of his chest.

You can watch the five minute incident here:

Obstructions and red herrings
Earlier today, Chris told OnTheWight,

“It is my sincere belief that BTC simply do not want their meetings to be video-recorded and are putting up any number of obstructions and red-herrings to try to prevent it.

“A good example being the question from Cllr. Whiting about public liability insurance! BTC seem to have completely missed the point that I am continuing to attend meetings, as I have done for eight years, as a member of the public.

“They seem to think that I have somehow been transformed overnight into a representative of the media! The only difference now is that I now bring and use a small domestic camcorder with an auxiliary microphone mounted on top, as I am entirely entitled to do.

“People behind me will see exactly the same view of my back that they have for eight years and the only view that is obstructed from the front is of my chest. There is no ‘twiddling of knobs’ etc., as alleged by the Mayor.”

OnTheWight contacted the mayor and the clerk of Brading town council earlier today, but at time of publishing had not received a response. As always, this will be added later if received.

Mr Offer has also shared his recording of the previous month’s meeting, which readers or Brading residents might be interested in.

Image: © Chris Offer

Monday, 6th November, 2017 6:52pm

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Filed under: Brading, 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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9 Comments on "Town council threaten to call police during filming of meeting"

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bbrown

Just goes to show how small minded some people can be, Mr Offer was well within his rights to film the meeting and I applaud him for standing his ground and actually taking the time to attend these meetings.

greatergood

How dare those public servants try and stop someone exercising their rights, when is the next meeting?
I have a bodycam that will not obscure a thing, maybe everyone should turn up with camera next time!

honestjohn

Such a shame that what has always been a friendly Town meeting should have come to this. Why should they (the council) feel “intimidated” having their meeting recorded within the law. It gives others who do not wish to attend meetings a chance to see how their Town is run.

eddo

And these people are Better ! than those prior having been born in Brading I shall not be broadcasting that fact ashamed to say the least well done Mr Offer.

johnb

I have a suggestion. Brading Town Council consider undertaking their own recording of all their meetings and post these on their website as a public record. This would avoid any perceived need by residents to record the meetings and a repeat of the unnecessary disruption and disquiet that this seems to have caused.

Simon Perry

To your first point johnb: To become as accessible as possible Ventnor Town council agreed to audio record their town council meeting close to ten years ago. It looks like their ‘Audio Recording Policy’ was adopted a couple of years later (2010) [PDF]. I’m not sure if they still record the meetings – Will seek to find out.

electrickery
It would clearly be unacceptable if very attendee got out their camcorders and “monosticks”, but Brading Council’s reaction is way over the top. They are, of course, merely echoing IWC’s attitude in aiming for the least possible visibility (and thereby risk of scrutiny). Why not just ask Mr Offer to continue to record, since he is clearly keen and presumably knows where usefully to point his lens… Read more »
Fred Karno
Big mistake for a Chairman to threaten to call the Police in this sort of situation. (a) They probably won’t turn up, and (b) even if they do, the Police don’t want to do anything about anything nowadays. Best thing the Chair can do in this kind of situation, (and I speak from personal experience of doing this as a former Mayor), is for the Chair to… Read more »
sam salt

I wonder what Mr Offer got out of his behaviour at the Town Council meeting. It was not as though he was being asked to stop filming. It appears he was being given his own “recording space”. I sincerely hope that he is happy with the outcome of his refusal to move.