IDIOT CHIEF COUNCIL LAWYER CREATES CRAP FICTIONAL FACT FINDING REPORT ON SEND SPYING (PART TWO)

A collection of legal interpretations that are such a load of old bollocks it’s hard to put into words

The council openly acknowledge that that they were spying on SEND parents at para 29 of their fact finding report.

SEND  report  para 29


And again at para 41

SEND report  Indexed pack

Having acknowledged parents were spied on, the report concludes with some bizarre legal analysis from council legal boss, “L’ill” Tim O’Gara explaining why nothing unlawful occurred. On the subject of the Regulation of Investigation Powers Act, which regulates how, why and when state actors can spy on us, he says:

SEND report  surveillance

A rather odd conclusion as the relevant legislation on directed surveillance makes no mention of ‘publicly available information’ being exempt as O’Gara seems to think:

RIPA  directed surveillance

Considering that O’Gara’s report acknowledges that the information on SEND parents was obtained on two occasions for what looks like a ‘specific investigation’ in a ‘manner likely to result in the obtaining of private information’ (eg. the identity of anonymous Twitter users and wedding photos), it’s hard to understand how this wasn’t directed surveillance as defined in RIPA.

RIPA authorisation would have meant that rather than providing a useless (and unrecorded) briefing to obtain permission for their dodgy investigation from clueless moron Education Director, Alison “Pervy” Hurley, the managers undertaking the investigation would have had to have obtained formal written advice and authority before undertaking any spying activities. To most normal people, a sensible course of action.

However, any authorisation would have had to come from a magistrate, who would be unlikely to authorise an investigation of parents because they were criticising some thin-skinned local authority managers and their shit service. This is on the simple basis that slagging off the council is not a crime and councils can only spy on people where there’s a reasonable belief that they are breaking the law.

O’Gara reaches similarly offbeat conclusions about data protection and the relevant GDPR legislation designed to protect our personal data from government and corporate snoopers and data thieves. In simple terms, the information council bosses accessed, processed and shared was undoubtedly personal data subject to GDPR legislation.

The council, therefore requires the consent of the owners of this data to process it. Something they clearly did not have. If they don’t have consent, then the council is required to have another lawful ‘reason for processing’ this personal data.

However, here’s O’Gara’s interpretation of GDPR issues raised his by council’s spying activities:

SEND  Report  GDPR conclusion

Where’s the council’s ‘lawful reason for processing’ SEND parents personal data in all this guff? Nowhere in three long-winded paragraphs of red herrings about ‘Data Protection Impact Assessments’ (DPIA) and ‘systematic monitoring’.

There’s no dispute that it was thicko Education Director Alison Hurley’s choice whether or not to do a DPIA, which is basically a risk assessment. Something you might expect a director-level public sector manager to undertake as a matter of course before implementing any new and, potentially, highly controversial policy.

But what’s this got to do with GDPR compliance? Are the council saying they complied with GDPR because they didn’t produce a risk assessment that’s not required? Ironically, a document that might have informed Hurley how to comply with GDPR? But which might have also left a rather unhelpful paper trail directly back to her?

Similarly, the surveillance Hurley authorised may or may not be ‘systematic’ and therefore subject to further regulation but where’s the answer to the crucial GDPR issue: what was Hurley’s ‘lawful reason for processing’ SEND parents’ personal data from the internet without their consent?

This central issue is avoided in O’Gara’s report, which tells ua that their spying activities were done

at the request of Contact and BPCF to substantiate the concerns being raised by BCC about the activity of the [parent carer] forum members;

Para 49, Fact-finding report – Use of social media by council staff re SEND Parent Carer Forum.

Are we being told that if the Bristol Parent Carer Forum requests personal information from the council on the parents it’s supposed to be representing then this exempts the council from the law? This is such a load of old bollocks it’s hard to put into words.

It’s further worth noting that an unnamed ‘Parent Participation Advisor’ from Contact, an allegedly independent national organisation supporting SEND parents, seemed to very enthusiastically encourage the council to spy on Bristol’s SEND parents. They told a council SEND snooper in an email extract at para 20:

I understand that some of the evidence may be subject to GDPR but I have been advised that anything that is posted publically [sic] is ok to share

Para 20, Fact-finding report – Use of social media by council staff re SEND Parent Carer Forum.

Did anyone at Bristol City Council bother to check if this legal opinion was accurate and check the legal credentials of whoever ‘advised’ this ‘Parent Participation Advisor’? Or was it just accepted by a ridiculously thick set of SEND managers and has this inaccurate claim then found its way into a formal council legal opinion, allegedly prepared by three lawyers?

This short, daft report signs off with just one recommendation:

SEND report  Protocol

Would it come as any surprise to learn that this is one great big fat lie too? Bristol City Council Children’s Services has a very detailed protocol called Use of Social Media Sites by Social Care and Safeguarding Staff on the internet in their Bristol Children’s Services
Procedures Manual
.

The relevant section would appear to be:

2.3 Covert/Overt Surveillance and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000

Viewing a service-user’s social media content without their specific consent is not necessarily, of itself, unlawful.

However, consideration must be given, in all cases, as to whether viewing the sites constitutes ‘directed surveillance’ under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (‘RIPA’) and so requires authorisation under that Act. This is a complex area.

Whilst the following general principles apply, each case must be treated on its own facts, and legal advice MUST be sought as necessary:

  • If the consent of the service-user is obtained, then no further authorisation would be required;
  • If consent is not obtained but no privacy settings are in operation to prevent viewing, then the material available on the sites can be regarded as ‘open source’, and so a single viewing would not constitute ‘directed surveillance’ under RIPA and no authorisation would be required under that Act;
  • However, the Chief Surveillance Commissioner (now superseded by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner) made clear his view that repeat viewing of sites by staff may constitute ‘directed surveillance’ and if done covertly (i.e. without the knowledge of that person) then this would be ‘covert surveillance’. This would require authorisation under the Act in the form of a warrant from a magistrate.* It is for the employer to ensure that any covert surveillance is properly authorised, recorded and, most importantly, legally justifiable.

So why has the Director of Education and her SEND managers completely ignored their own publicly available procedures? And why is the Head of Legal Services and his legal team pretending in a report to councillors that these procedures don’t exist and instead published the exact opposite as their legal view?

I think we should be told ...

*******A meeting of Bristol City Council’s People Scrutiny Commission will take place on Monday 12 September at 5.00pm for councillors to discuss this absurd report and next steps. People are encouraged to ask questions, make statements and, if possible, to attend and jeer at any spying director or manager scum in attendance (that’s if they have the balls to attend – look out for last minute sick notes). Details on asking questions and putting in statements are here under ‘Public Forum’.

IDIOT CHIEF COUNCIL LAWYER CREATES CRAP FICTIONAL FACT FINDING REPORT ON SEND SPYING (PART ONE)

Inactive “activists” and non-campaigning “campaigners” star in desperately shite sham report that council’s top lawyer is pretending isn’t anything to do with him

SEND report  Cover

A little late but, as promised by outgoing Chief Exec Mike “Billie Jean” Jackson, Bristol City Council has published a heavily redacted ‘fact-finding’ report into their SEND spying scandal.

This is the scandal of senior education bosses casually obtaining personal information from the internet, including wedding photos, on parents with SEND children. With no regard for the law, this personal information was then gleefully shared among City Hall bosses and third party organisations to undermine the local Parent Carer Forum and the parents it supports.

The education bosses even appear to have attempted a spot of what’s popularly called “doxxing” by obtaining what they considered identifying information from the internet on parents and then outing them to third parties.

Luckily for the officers involved in this potentially unlawful conduct, their names have been redacted in the report. However, in order not to protect the guilty and help you avoid some massive tossers, we’re happy to name some of the key arseholes in the council’s senior education team involved in the spy operation: Alison “Purvey” Hurley, Director of Education; Vikki Jervis, Principle Education Psychologist; Virginia Roberts, WSOA/SEND consultant; Gale Rogers, Head of Children’s Commissioning; Jess Baugh, Commissioning Manager.

A number of unnamed individuals in the council’s external comms team, managed by failed journalist Saskia “Hindley” Koynenburg were also involved. Information on these individuals welcome. Why should they be allowed to skulk in the shadows and fuck with us?

The report, itself, is a grim farrago of half-arsed backside covering attributed to Bristol City Council’s “Legal Services”. Largely because legal boss “L’il” Tim O’Gara may not want his name anywhere near such a political document that may cost some of the idiots involved their jobs.

O’Gara’s report is just ten slim pages. Eight of which are wholly irrelevant and dedicated to a nakedly political and obsessive attack on the Bristol Parent Carer Forum (BPC), which two parents at the centre of the scandal are involved with. The council’s main angle on the pair is that they were “activists” and “campaigners” against the council and its SEND team and this was a conflict of interest with their roles at BPC. 

The obvious response to this is, so fucking what? And what right do council managers and directors have to spy on “activists” and “campaigners” anyway? Do residents of Bristol effectively forfeit basic human rights and their dignity if the council randomly labels them “activists” and “campaigners” on the basis of unreliable evidence gleaned off the internet?

Having dehumanised their SEND spy victims as “activists” and “campaigners” with no rights, the council’s report fails to identify anything resembling a “campaign” or “action” from either parent. Instead the parents’ only apparent action was to discuss the poor quality of Bristol’s SEND offer on social media with each other!

When did conversing with friends, acquaintances and relatives become “activism” and “campaigning”? Who made up this nonsense, which is basically cover for a crude state assault on the free speech of Bristol SEND parents on the internet? And a blatant attempt to stop dissent and criticism of a failing local public service so that the incompetents running it can pump out cheery fake news about the service instead and continue to bank fat salaries they don’t deserve.

Helpfully, the report clearly indicates that this “campaigning”/”activist” schtick is all a load of bollocks. Para 16 says:

SEND report  Veracity

Remarkably, the report is openly acknowledging that its “campaigning”/”activist” concerns may not even be true but concludes that doesn’t matter because some fantasists at City Hall think they might be true! A piece of Alice in Wonderland logic that opens the door for council bosses to unlawfully investigate citizens on the basis of false facts and fictional concerns. So that’s all right then.

Another purpose of all this meandering drivel seems to be that it allows O’Gara to avoid the actual purpose of his report, which should be an investigation into spying on parents by council bosses.

We’ll pick this up in Part 2 coming soon.

GLOVES OFF! SWINDON vs SLO KEV?

boxing_glove_pic

Gossip from around the Nazi Post’s city centre flexible workdesk regarding their new editor Pete “Swindon” Gavan.

“When former editor Mike  Norton was in charge, everything was at the whim of Norton and how his relationship with Kevin Slocombe (the mayor’s PR assistant) was going. If they fell out, a minor put down by Marvin to a reporter was front page news. 

“If Norton and Slocombe were mates, Esme Ashcroft [former Post political editor] was prevented from investigating Marvin’s deal with YTL, conducted in the Far East, for an arena at Filton. Esme left because of it. Now though, it seems the new boss isn’t taking any shit. He don’t care who Slocombe is.”

Neither does anyone else in the city. What’s the big deal about pound shop spin doctor Slo Kev anyway? We watch events with interest …

PLANNING: THE MAYOR’S PATSY

Westbury
Westbury: “the patsy the council put on any scheme that the mayor wants to go through.”

The recent successful Judicial Review by the Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society of the planning permission granted by Bristol City Council to build 62 homes on Bristol Zoo’s car park puts a spotlight on the planning officer responsible, Peter “Deemed Consent” Westbury.

A judge agreed that permission for this “major scar on the landscape” was unlawful because it ignored Historic England Advice while Westbury’s report to councillors failed to consider the harm to heritage and weigh up the harm and public benefit.

Westbury also produced and presented the planning report for the controversial “monolithic blocks” on St Mary-le-Port at Castle Park. An application granted by councillors in December 2021. This has now been referred to the Planning Inspectorate by Bristol Civic Society for a public enquiry.

One concern is that Westbury’s report and the public forum at the planning meeting included the support of the ‘Friends of Castle Park’. However, it transpires that the support of the ‘Friends of Castle Park’ is actually the support of one person, Russ Leith. The self appointed moderator and “leader” of a ‘Friends of Castle Park Facebook group, he provided an ‘analysis’ of comments on his Facebook page to Westbury that allege public support for the application.

Word out of Bristol City council’s planning department is that Westbury, who also happens to be an elder at the Reverend Rees’s church, The Hope in Hotwells – enjoys a very poor reputation among planning colleagues. “Can’t administer policy for toffee, we’ve been told and “he’s the patsy they put on any scheme the mayor wants to go through.”

Oh dear

BOOZEPARK JOY

BoozePark (surely BoxPark? Ed?) bosses have announced that their BoozeHall (surely BoxHall? ed.) will open next year in two converted former council warehouses on Welsh Back. This is the site where campaigners wanted to put a slave trade museum and Bristol City Council spent £1.4m moving a house barge inconveniently moored outside the warehouses.

Rees Wade Boxpark
BoozePark founder Roger Wade and the Reverend Rees mugging for the camera

BoozeHall will basically be a large corporate shed full of food and drink retailers similar to BoxPark in Croydon, which has proved highly controversial. Not only for the amount of council subsidies and loans it has grabbed, including a £3m start-up loan; a £500k slice of Croydon’s arts festival budget and hundreds of thousands of pounds-worth of business rate relief, but for its treatment of traders.

Tenants at BoxPark are unhappy with the venue’s management running their own lucrative large-scale events, such as screenings of major football matches or the finale of Love Island. You even may have seen it on TV? Fans in Croydon throwing pints of lager in the air for TV news when England score a goal?

“On event days we lose 75 per cent of our business as we have no families visiting due to drunken people. Boxpark wants to sell all the alcohol and cover the area with drinkers,” says one trader. Many of whom have been voting with their feet since it opened in 2016. Contacts in Croydon say BoozePark is usually only three-quarters full with traders.  

Will Bristol’s BoozeHall be any different to Croydon’s BoozePark?

EVERYTHING SOLID (MELTS INTO AIR)

It’s older than the Colston statue, founded by a Bristol ‘hero’, steeped in history, loved by fans and an icon of the city.

W._G._Grace,_cricketer,_by_Herbert_Rose_Barraud
He ain’t happy

When the owners changed its name this spring, we expected hundreds of angry letters to the Bristol Post, furious radio phone-ins, angry debates on TV and Tory MPs and councillors threatening to boycott it. Instead there was silence … Not a fucking murmur.

To us, it is The County Ground, founded by cricket legend and Bristolian, W. G. Grace and home of Gloucester County Cricket Club since 1889. In March this year club members were informed, without warning, in an email that:

Gloucestershire’s home venue, the Bristol County Ground, has been renamed as the Seat Unique Stadium with immediate effect.No consultation with the fans; no debate; no thought of the history; just ‘fuck you’ it’s done. And what a shit name. The only plus is that it’s not named after some Arab dictatorship or Russian oligarch.

The last few years have been filled with bullshit as Colston lovers tried to defend the celebration and memorialisation of the slave trader in the city. They claimed ‘history was being erased’ by changing the name of the ex-Colston Hall. Why, when the County Ground is a far more popular, profitable and valid and not named after a slave-trader is there silence?

This stinks of hypocrisy. The owners of Gloucester County Cricket Club and slave-traders like Colston share the same values, they did it for the money.

NEW POST EDITOR IN RECTAL STIMULATION JOY

Editor

The Nazi Post, after years of stories about Greggs vegan sausage rolls, lists of the 13 best pavements in Bristol and any other crap with a vaguely local angle their Facebook funded ‘content creators’ can dredge up from Insta or Reddit have finally appointed a new editor.

Please step forward Pete “Swindon” Gavan, fresh from the cut and thrust of the Swindon (yes, that fucking shitehole where nothing’s ever happened) Advertiser. He was recently featured in the Post with a photo that looks like one of his poorly paid content creators might be gently stimulating his rectum. Isn’t it amazing what Facebook will fund these days? Anyway, if Pete wants to know what the fuck a proper story looks like, he knows where to look.

To pad out this miserable news out of Swindon, the Post also announced, in the same story, that “the team is in the process of moving into a brand new city centre hub”.  This comes after the long-suffering workforce have  been forced  to work from their bedrooms for the last two years by multinational shysters Reach who own the whole sad sorry mess of a newspaper.

How the mighty have fallen. Post staff used to work out of the Grey Lubianka, their own office block with its own print room knocking out two daily newspapers a day, Now they get a couple of hot desks in some shared open plan ‘space’ with a broken photocopier, a dodgy broadband connection and some inspirational quotes on the wall that make you want to die. All “Ideal for flexible creatives’ agile working needs”.

Welcome to the living corpse of Bristol’s newspaper industry

SEND PARENT SPY SCANDAL: SEND ITEM ABANDONED AT CABINET MEETING!

SEND  Reputational narrative
Reputational narrative from Jon Smith, Newsdesk Supervisor at Bristol City Council

Yesterday, a report was set to go to Bristol City Council’s cabinet to agree a large capital spend to tackle the city’s crisis in school places for SEND children. Imagine the surprise when the agenda item disappeared off the agenda at midday yesterday prior to the meeting at 4.00pm.

The council later claimed that the item was pulled due to the spiralling costs of building work. Had these costs spiralled in the five days since the report was first published online?

Another theory is that the item was hastily pulled to avoid the public making statements and asking questions about SEND that could have included queries to the Reverend Rees about his dodgy SEND spying scandal. Has an urgent item of SEND expenditure been pulled to save our thin-skinned mayor from embarrassment and, possibly, legal complications?

Here’s one statement from a parent that got pulled when this agenda item got pulled at remarkably short notice. Read it and make up your own mind about what’s going on:

The Decision Pathway Report says: ‘Whilst this report puts forward a positive story about the council investing capital funds to deliver much needed capacity within the SEND sector, it is often the case that the reaction to such proposals is mixed. This should not deter BCC from proactively sharing this news ahead of the Cabinet decision in August and we’d recommend taking a positive stance on talking about the amount being invested and the impact it will deliver. Preparations can be made to put reactive lines in place to respond to likely counter’s [sic] from external commentators and we’d recommend ensuring a comprehensive stakeholder comms plan is in place to cover individual projects and ensure those impacted are fully aware of the proposed investments.’

This section has been added by a PR officer on 14 June 2022. Send families form the majority of external commentators in this context. These are families who have had the most traumatic of experiences. If nothing else is obvious to Cabinet, the need for an additional 450 Send places shows how many children and young people have been suffering and for how long. 

To tone police and minimise the response from ‘external commentators’ shows that disability discrimination truly is an acceptable form of discrimination by the council and administration. Its external comms department is party to victimising the families of those with protected characteristics for speaking out and advocating for their needs. 

Appendix D [pictured below] says there will be ‘reputational risk’ if the council is unable to name education settings in EHCPs. This is because ‘sufficient provision is not yet in place’. It says the key consequences of this ‘could result in increased complaints to the council and/or a judicial review’. The Key Mitigations state:

‘Communications plan required. External Communications Team engaged. Workshop to develop comms strategy to be held’. It is dated 27 July 2021. In addition, there are two restricted items, a first for council Send papers. 

The One Page Business Case paper says that the lack of specialist provision results in: ‘CYP educated out of area, CYP needs not met, BCC not meeting legal duty, More expensive placements being used, Judicial reviews, Negative reputation, Political pressure, EHCPs cannot be finalised.’ All papers show the extent of the specialist places crisis and the impact of this, such as the LA ‘not meeting legal duty’ and ‘EHCPs cannot be finalised’. 

These are things that families have been speaking out about for years. And yet, for speaking out they are ‘critical commentators’ with External Comms running a workshop to deal with it. This workshop was to develop a strategy to protect the council’s reputation against families using the entirely legitimate legal action of Judicial Review, against an LA not meeting its statutory duty. 

Leaked emails by The Bristolian last month revealed that council staff, including at director level were monitoring the social media of Send parents and compiling lists of individuals and organisations they considered to be ‘critical’. This included cross referencing personal accounts and delving through photographs and sharing the data with third parties. The External Comms team just keeps popping up like some kind of Council Black Ops whenever something happens the LA doesn’t like. 

The papers named above potentially indicate the council is in breach of Article 10 of the Convention on Human Rights [Freedom of Expression]. It supports residents’ concerns about unlawful covert surveillance taking place – as far back as July 2021 – as well as possible Victimisation under the Equality Act 2010.

Public Forum statement to Bristol City Council Cabinet 02 08 2022 (unpublished)
SEND  Comms risk
‘External Comms Team engaged’ to stop parents’ judicial reviews?