Ethics, Politics

Freedom of Information – Open Letter to the Lord Chancellor

10 Dec , 2016  

MAGYAR HELSINKI case sets new bar for exemptions to FOIOn International Human Rights Day 2016 ANM hosts an Open Letter from Freedom of Information (FOI) Campaigner Alan Dransfield, to the Lord Chancellor the Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss. This begins ANM’s scrutiny of the use of vexatious process to subvert Human Rights that are deemed necessary in a democracy.

 

 

Chancellor Elizabeth Truss receives Open Letter on Freedom of Information

The Right Hon Elizabeth Truss The Lord Chief Chancellor of the

Freedom of Information Campaigner and social watchdog Alan Dransfield writes open letter to Lord Chancellor

Mr Alan Dransfield – Freedom of Information Campaigner and Social Watchdog

 

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OPEN LETTER

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP
The Lord Chancellor

10th December 2016

Dear Lord Chancellor

Freedom of Information

Over the last six weeks I have provided you with sufficient demonstrable evidence that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) are in meltdown and guilty of fraud and theft of Public Funds to enable you to act.

There is also tangible evidence the ICO have been complicit with rogue Public Authorities to pervert the Course of Justice by the consistent misuse and abuse of section 14/1 of the FOIA 2004, i.e., vexatious exemption. Ditto for section 12(4)(b) of the EIRA 204: Manifestly Unreasonable.

The evidence of complicity between the ICO and Public Authorities seeking to avoid obligations under FOI by consistent misuse and abuse of Section 14/1 vexatious exemption is overwhelming.

My allegations originally stem from personal experience of a lack of transparency, leading to me becoming the UK’s leading Court Authority on vexatious exemption via GIA/3037/2011 Dransfield v ICO, which was upheld in the Court of Appeal under C3/2015/1855 Dransfield v ICO but irrefutable evidence held by me shows the legal errors in the GIA/3037/2011 vexatious decision. “Legal errors” would be too kind, I am of the view Judge Wikeley made his vexatious decision via a perverse mindset.

However there is a plethora of other allegations against the ICO, all of which support my claim that the ICO are in meltdown.

They include:

  1. The ICO Management Team have not released their Register of Interest details, including the Commissioner Miss Denham.
  2. One ICO Senior Manager, Mr Alex Goantis, is the Leader of Stockport Council, which MUST be a conflict of Interest.
  3. ICO officials have claimed overseas travels and other expenses WITHOUT providing receipts for the last decade.
  4. The ICO are in breach of EU Trade laws by not ensuring Tender Contracts for the their Legal Services. They automatically pass over the majority of their Legal Work to KBW, which any fair minded person would assume reflects of a cozy relations between the ICO and KBW Law Firm

Lord Chancellor, this vexatious claptrap MUST stop and the ICO must be held accountable, for both their fiscal remit and their moral obligations. The buck stop at your desk.

My latest case with the ICO is regarding the Olympic Stadium, which I maintain is unsafe and unfit for purpose during a thunderstorm, because it has not been provisioned with Lightning Protection. The ICO claim 12 (5), national security, public safety claptrap.

Things are SO bad at the ICO you could do a lot worse than sacking Elizabeth Denham and replacing her with yours truly Alan M Dransfield.

For your information, action and files

Yours sincerely

Alan M Dransfield
FOI Campaigner and Social Watchdog

 

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EDITORIAL

 

What the FOI?

Mr Dransfield’s long experience as a social watchdog on FOI includes both success and failure in gaining public interest information.

Dransfield's initial success in gaining public interest information was covered in the press

 

Dransfield’s successful appeal, following initial refusal for information about the lack of lightning protection on the Exeter rugby bridge, was subsequently turned over yet again by the above mentioned Judge Wikeley in a further appeal action brought significantly, not by Exeter County Council, but by the ICO itself.

 

“Vexatious” Scape-goating

It’s hard not to notice that the notion of “vexatious” planted in that second appeal has since been extensively used, citing this very case as precedent, to avoid thousands of public enquiries into matters of public safety by creating Mr Dransfield into a ‘vexatious’ scape-goat, a ready peg for public authorities to hang their hat on when they don’t want to answer the question.

Mr Dransfield has served that purpose for them over 3,800 documentable times, and his superior knowledge of lighting protection systems, and Health and Safety regulations, made him an obvious candidate for the projection of a vexatiousness that more properly should be seen as belonging to the ICO itself.

This is especially true in view of the recent ECHR ruling in the case of Magyar Helsinki Bizottsàg v Hungary which has now established the relevance of Article 10 to freedom of information about matters of public interest, with direct implications for the legion instances Mr Dransfield has highlighted of such requests being treated as “vexatious”.

 

UK out of step with Article 10?

The United Kingdom was a nay-saying “intervener” in the landmark Magyar Helsinki Bizottsàg v Hungary case, arguing that there was no such obligation to part with information. From para 6;1 of the UK submission:

“As a matter of interpretation of the language of Article 10.1, and having regard to the object and purpose of that provision, it is plain that the right “to receive … information … without interference contained in Article 10.1 protects the right to receive information from a person who is willing to impart it. Article 10.1 does not provide a general right of access to information of public interest held by public authorities”.

This point of view matches Mr Dransfield’s experience and observation of the UKs outlook on FOI, and indeed, the very same lawyers from law firm KBW who receive a starkly disproportionate amount of ICO business domestically according to Mr Dransfield’s research, and who have argued against his requests for information relating to public health and safety, were the lawyers appearing in Strasburg to put forward the above point of view.

Some of these same lawyers are also now taking a high profile role in seeking to close down parliamentary scrutiny of Article 50 in Brexit.

 

Human Rights Obligations

Mr Dransfield’s Open Letter, appropriately published on International Human Rights Day, is a request to return to sanity regarding transparency of public interest information, as the ECHR ruling by the Grand Chamber at 15 votes to 2 that there is indeed an obligation under Article 10 to provide information to those wishing to impart it widely in the public interest. From the Strasburg Observers case summary:

 

It is nonsense to suggest that the public have no interest in the lack of lightning protection on a sports stadium or bridge, or in other failures to adhere to Health & Safety Directive rules for providing safe public spaces for education, work and relaxation, all matters on which Mr Dransfield has sought, and been refused, information.

The Grand Chamber further decided by 15:2 to clarify matters about the threshold:

 

The Information Commissioner’s Office 

These Human Rights obligations, conflicts of interest, as well as transparency and compliance in procurement practises of HM Government and it’s agencies should be of great interest the new Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, especially as they appear to concur with remarks she made herself at an event marking 250 years of freedom of information held at the Free Word Centre, London on 8th December 2016:

  • “Freedom of Information is only valuable if the information is created in the first place. And if it [sic] properly retained..There can be no gaps and no missing pieces if the institutional memories we create are to be tangible.”
  • “Health services, justice agencies, educational establishments all provide public services and their legal structure, which is irrelevant to the public, should not exempt them from the need for transparency. So the challenge is transparency in outsourcing and my solution is simple. We should extend the right to know about public services so that it is independent of the service provider”

Unfortunately, since her commencement as Commissioner in the summer, Mr Dransfield has tried to address with the Commissioner the inappropriate use of 14.1 “vexatious” to bat away questions of public interest, resulting in his extensive scapegoating, now confirmed by the recent ECHR ruling as unlawful.

At the time of publishing he has received no response.

 

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Should citizens have access to public interest information, whether or not departments want to part with it?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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25 Responses

  1. Alan M Dransfield says:

    It is inconceivable that the ICO should not publish their Register of Interests. They are imposing huge fines on Public Authorities whom make similar errors. This Dransfield vexatious BS is at best, a tool to assist the passage of fraud and theft of public funds and at worst, a tool to pervert the course of justice. I suggest the latter.

  2. John Rudkin says:

    May I wish Mr Dransfield every success in his pursuit of the issues surrounding the use of the “GIA/3037/2011 Dransfield v ICO”. The use of this exemption has been over used; as I understand it now, since the case this year which is highlighted there is now no longer any way that it can stand up to anything but a denial of fundamental human rights. Those agents of the Public sector who have come to rely on its use is simply a lazy, shows a disrespect for lawful and and concerned individuals. Sadly my one simple FOI request too, the subject of which was a local council enquiry. The reason for the denied request was the subject of interest of a public enquiry and sought to access the financial costs of a project funded by ERDF. The records, which should remain fully accessible (as a requirement of the funders) may well contain a financial irregularity to the value of £100k from the ERDF purse. IMHO the unreasonable application of “GIA/3037/2011 Dransfield v ICO” has totally denied access. This was a scandalous but simplistic action by the Council concerned, and it was supported at appeal by the ICO. What is going on? Why is this, now disproven use of a disrespected action being allowed to continue to protect potentially criminal or certainly disputable defences?

  3. Alan M Dransfield says:

    Unfortunately John the Dransfield case is now being used as a get out of jail free card to prevent Joe Public getting public Information.

  4. ANM says:

    Thanks for your comment John and information and the blatant situation re FOI does make the whole human rights conversation in the U.K. look like puff semantics doesn’t it.

  5. Tim Turner says:

    The vast majority of FOI requests in the UK are answered without recourse to the vexatious provisions, despite Mr Dransfield’s exaggerations. I have made hundreds of FOI requests over the years and I have never been refused as vexatious. Mr Dransfield’s engagements with the new Commissioner include describing her as a ‘useless cow’ on Twitter a few weeks before sending this letter was published. Whatever the flaws in Denham’s approach, it is not difficult to imagine why she chooses to ignore him.

  6. ANM says:

    Thanks for your comment. And yet thousands also have Dransfield’s name on them. Those are the requests at issue here, not your personal ones, although I’d be interested to know in what capacity you’ve submitted hundreds of them. 🙂

    It’s a truism of Bullying 101 that you provoke a target until they react and then point the finger. Mr Dransfield’s colourful language perhaps reflects the insult of having your name unreasonably scape-goated for half a decade – and it’s not a suitable point to hang a serious discussion of freedom of information on in my opinion.

  7. Tim Turner says:

    I’ve submitted 100s of FOI requests in my capacity as a citizen of the UK, like thousands of others.

    Mr Dransfield isn’t being bullied and he isn’t a scapegoat. He used the FOI system and it didn’t give the result he wanted because of his own behaviour. He challenged using the courts, and he lost. All of his bluster and finger-pointing cannot mask the fact that generally, FOI delivers. If you read the Court’s decisions, you will see an intemperate and angry man who has no backing in the health and safety sector for his theories. He is an odd choice of FOI hero, when so many journalists and campaigners deserve credit for what they have achieved with FOI. Just yesterday, Dransfield was on Twitter saying he wanted to spit in my face and ‘put me to sleep’, presumably because I had had the temerity to comment here. Not a big fan of free speech, it seems.

  8. ANM says:

    I have published your comment, but I want to make clear that I will not tolerate insults or trolling on my blog.

    There is no evidence for your extrapolation that his tweet had anything to do with this site – and you need to respect that if you want to comment here.

    I don’t agree with threats or insults at all and Alan knows that, but don’t use my concern with the FOI issue to troll me in order to bring personal business in here. It’s clear there is history between you that doesn’t concern ANM.

    I certainly don’t agree that his initial request was in any way vexatious – and I’m not easily persuaded to take as read Court decisions as God given, especially at this time of societal and political transition, neither am I a big fan of paternalism.

    In a nutshell I know enough about the vexatious exemption racket to believe it bogus which is why I have published the letter – the editorial makes it clear that the ICO are the ones who “couldn’t let it lie” and that in itself is an abuse.

    Thanks for your patience. 🙂

  9. Tim Turner says:

    You can play around with all the catchphrases you like – Dransfield’s case is the law. It is the ICO’s role to make decisions and then defend them – if their defence of their decision was an abuse of the process, the Tribunal had the opportunity to say so. It did not. Mr Dransfield has had several opportunities to persuade differently constituted Tribunals of his case. He has failed. You may believe the UK court system is a conspiracy against the little man – that is your right. It doesn’t matter whether you think Dransfield’s initial request was vexatious – the court saw it in the context of Dransfield’s wider behaviour, which is precisely why I brought his attitude up.

    How much or how little you know about vexatious refusals is immaterial. The European Court will have no say in the implementation of Dransfield’s case, and Liz Truss will not intervene in the court process either – it would be an outrage if a politician interfered with the legal system in the way that Dransfield hopes. Everything above is, like it or not, just froth. Like all of Dransfield’s efforts, it changes nothing about the reality of how FOI works in the UK.

  10. ANM says:

    “It is the ICO’s role to make decisions and then defend them”

    So not to make public interest information available to the public then, at least we are clear about that.

    I think we’ve got the message – and understand that process simply can’t get it wrong or be corrupted – and It must be equally obvious to you by now that this is a point of contention.

    It may give you a warm feeling to think that Mr D deserves to be treated vexatiously, and of course nobody is assuming power isn’t backed up with an iron fist. We all know it is.

    As for the future – I don’t think any of us can count on that which is a lesson even the most complacent will have to learn.

  11. ANM says:

    There’s been a bit of a debacle on Twitter about Tim Turner’s further comment. I didn’t publish it, so he accused me of censorship. In fact I several times invited him to provide the new information in the comment and leave out the insults, repetitions of opinions he’d already expressed, and condescending mansplaining about what the law ‘is’.

    He declined, rushing off to blog about that instead. As he did, I’m going to quote the relevant information from that comment he declined to give here.

    “If you want to stop vexatious decisions being made under Dransfield, someone needs to take a case all the way to the Court of Appeal and get Dransfield overturned. Alternatively, the FOI Act will have to be amended in Parliament.”

    In fact, he’s subsequently amended even that in his own blog post, as he has been made aware that it’s only the Supreme Court that can overturn it, making it even more difficult.

    Like Tim, I’m appreciative of the information and still interested in FOI.

    He wasn’t censored, and I haven’t banned him or anything, but he didn’t like not being able to talk down to me, and started banging on about me not being willing to publish comments I don’t like, which given the comments I’ve already published is obvious rubbish. Tim made allegations that turned out to be true, so I had to publish them even though it showed my guest in an extremely bad light.

    That doesn’t mean I have to let Tim or any man (or woman) gratuitously condescend to me, and I wish more people could tell the difference. One thing I’m grateful for is that Tim asked me for my comment policy, and I don’t think I’ve redone that since the site moved to WordPress, so I’ll attend to it.

    It’s not hard to confess to being shocked by aggression and the obvious personal animosity between these two men, which clearly has history, but which couldn’t go anywhere without spilling out all over this piece.

  12. ANM says:

    After a busy week I’ve attended to the comments policy which you can find here:

    http://amazonnewsmedia.com/articles/comments-anm/

  13. Alan M Dransfield says:

    Fully appreciate the owner of the site holds vicariously liability hence must dictate the rules. Tim Turner is an Information Commissioner wannabe and bleeds ICO blood when the ICO are attacked. He also believes my Foia requests are without merit and I am a general nuisance and trouble causer.
    Turner is entitled to his opinions.
    He claims the ICO can do no wrong. Let me give you just one example of a major screw up by the ICO. IE the ICO have not yet published their Register if interests. Turner claims the ICO are fully compliant with their register of interests

  14. Alan M Dransfield says:

    Tim Turner claims the ICO top brass Denham, Entwhistle and Wood have published their register of interest documents on the ICO website.
    My response to that is hogwash because all three forms are blank. Can Turner explain why these register of interest forms are blank?!

  15. ANM says:

    Perhaps Tim will provide the compliant register of interests info if it exists?

    Thanks for the acknowledgement Alan – I hope you have read my comment policy (top of the sidebar) and I appreciate that you were not the person bringing “outside” personal information in – even though it was quite shocking!

    Let’s keep it clean eh gents?

    That certainly doesn’t mean you cannot obliterate one another’s arguments or expose facts. I hope the site’s comment policy makes the difference clear and I am ready to discuss.

    I hope the policy also makes it clear how careful you have to be if subject to stalking and harassment by proxy trolls working for harassers determined to remain hidden.

  16. Tim Turner says:

    The register is available on the ICO’s website. If Mr Dransfield or any other person can point to the law that says that the Register is unlawful in its current form, I would fascinated to hear which specific law that is. An assertion that something is unlawful is very different to being about cite the relevant law.

    As Mr Dransfield has been given the opportunity to claim that I bleed ICO blood, and I am immortalised in the comments policy as an ‘apologist’, I hope I am allowed to say that I have been a longstanding critic of the ICO for many years, both on my blog and elsewhere. Indeed, the only reason why Dransfield can complain about the conflict of interest over managers moonlighting as politicians in his open letter is because I worked it out and wrote about it.

  17. ANM says:

    Hi again Tim – there is obviously plenty of history between you and Mr Dransfield and I’d like to remind you that you took the opportunity to bring that in here which you certainly didn’t mind doing.

    That means we’ve got off on the wrong foot as it were, but I am not Mr Dransfield, and I responded to you as you were coming across to me.

    My comment policy thoughts will doubtless change again as I assume you noticed that it wasn’t all about you but about ongoing gang stalking?

    If indeed you are providing genuinely helpful information to open democracy then there shouldn’t be any problem acknowledging that but that makes the obvious hostility between you even less comprehensible to an outsider.

    As the host of this Open Letter it’s difficult to manage that without encouraging more fighting, and off-topic ad hom.

    On the other hand the issues are important, so hopefully it won’t ignite fury if I simply risk this observation:

    There’s a vast difference between being a critic of any organisation, group or Government, and being a target of it.

  18. Alan M Dransfield says:

    Tim Turner is on record that my original FOIA was made out of mischief and was not related to any H&S related matters. Strange that the DCC and the ICO went on record, “we do not consider Mr Dransfield FOIA request was designed to cause disruption or annoyance”. Therefore Turner’s statement about my motive being driven by myschief crashes on take off.
    I think he worked for the ICO or a PA somewhere hence, he takes a dislike to most FOIA requesters. He is on record saying ,” I dont know much about the FOIA as I am Data Specialist”. Too tru he doesnt know much about the FOIA and he knows even less about Construction and Lightning Protection.
    and by his own admission , he knows FA about my case and less about the motives. Surely, even he knows the FOIA is motive blind.

  19. Alan M Dransfield says:

    In response to Mr Turner’s request for the Law ref Register of Interest at the ICO. I refer to the Localisim Law 2011. Mr Turner defends the ICO failure to ensure ALL senior Managers are required to publish the Register of Interest Docs.
    MPs do it, Councillors do it but the ICO do NOT.
    Ms Denham was in the Chair for 6 months before she made a declaration, hardly leading by example, is it?
    The whole idea of Register of Interest Docs is to demonstrate the PA have Policies and Proceedures in place to protect transparency, accountability and security (TAS). TAS MUST be seen to be working and it AINT seen to be working at the ICO, ditto for the Lord Chancellor.

  20. Alan M Dransfield says:

    It would appear the ICO have dropped the Dransfield Vexatious decision GIA/3037/2011 as a Court Precedence. Since Jan 2013 the ICO have used the GIA/3037 case as a Court Precedence but since the 12th of Jan this year, they have handed down 5 Vexatious decisions which have not relied upon the Dransfield Vexatious Court Authority??!! Indeed, these 5 vexatious decisions are devoid of any Court Precedence period,rendering them null and void.

    I would be very interested to hear Tim Turner Opinion on this U Turn.

  21. Alan M Dransfield says:

    I must say it is surprising and disappointing that the Lord Cheif Chancellor has ignored my Open Letter above about the vexatious BS .Notwithstanding the veracity of my allegations, the gravity of my assertions do require her intervention. I suppose this is a direct result of putting Baker in Charge of a Nucear plant.??!!

    It would also appear the ICO are massaging their Decision Notice total and for the last three days, they have reported three diffferent Total Number of their Decsion notices,i.e 4850-9600-8061

  22. Alan M Dransfield says:

    It is paramount for democracy that the General Public SHALL not be gagged and we must be allowed unfettered access to Public Information. Enough is enough of this Dransfield Vexatious CLAPRAP

  23. Alan M Dransfield says:

    According to the HSE, the Olympic Stadium is not a Construction Site. At least that is what they said when they were called to the London Olympic Stadium on June 28th 2015 to investigate a Fatal Fall from the Stadium Rooftop.
    At that time, the Olympic Park was the biggest Construction Site in Europe. How bizzare?

  24. ANM says:

    Alan this is interesting – have you got any sources for the denial? Or for your claim of it being the biggest construction site?

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