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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Ramsgate Pleasurama: Gagging Injunction Continues

Former Councillor, Ian Driver, says he is “astounded” that Thanet Council has refused to release him from a High Court gagging injunction which is almost 2 years old.

Originally granted  by the High Court in October  2014, the gagging injunction prevents Driver from publishing or disseminating  documents about the controversial Ramsgate Pleasurama development site which include reports  produced by lawyers Pinsent Mason and property consultants Strutt and Parker.

Driver, who due to legal aid changes, was forced to represent himself at the High Court argued that  widespread concern about the stalled Pleasurama development and  its  long-term blighting of  Ramsgate’s  seafront,  meant that there was an overwhelming public interest in allowing the publication of the documents. TDC’s barrister, Wayne Beglan, disagreed, claiming  that the release of the documents could have  jeopardised negotiations which were then  taking place between TDC and building contractors Cardy about the development and sale  of the Pleasurama site. The Court ruled against Driver.

Said Driver, “negotiations between  Cardy and TDC over the development and sale of the Pleasurama site were completed on 20th July 2016 when Cardy purchased the freehold of the Pleasurama site  for £3.515 million from the Council. On hearing this news I immediately contacted the council requesting that I be released from the injunction as there was no longer a legal justification to continue it.

I was astonished to receive a reply  from the Council’s legal officer, Colin Evans yesterday (Tuesday 30 August) saying that the documents remain confidential because their disclosure would be prejudicial both to the interests of the Council and Thanet residents. Moreover if the information were to become public it could prejudice the Council in its commercial dealings and negotiations. If the information was released there could be a detrimental effect on the Council.

Now that the freehold of the Pleasurama  site has been sold, with the cash safely  in the council’s bank,  and  now that negotiations with Cardy have been concluded I am at a loss to see how Thanet Council’s commercial dealings could be jeopardised by allowing the publication of the documents. I think that the real reason for withholding the documents is that their  publication will cause serious embarrassment to top council bosses and  politicians. This is all about watching arses and protecting reputations instead of being open and honest with the public about how the Pleasurama development was mismanaged”.

Driver says he will be contacting South Thanet MP  Craig  MacKinlay and Council Leader Chris Wells to request that the decision not to release him from the injunction be urgently reviewed. He is also seeking advice about taking legal action or complaining to the local government Ombudsman because he claims that his right to free expression is now being unlawfully fettered by Thanet Council’s refusal to release him from the gagging injunction.

It is believed that Driver is the only  councillor in legal history to be subject to a gagging injunction by the council  he was democratically elected to oversee. Driver claims that the Council’s former Monitoring Officer told him that the  decision to secure the gagging injunction was approved by “very senior” members of Thanet Council’s ruling Labour Cabinet,  which  at that time was led by Iris Johnston.

Thanet South MP Craig MacKinlay, who is supporting Driver in his fight against the injunction said in a letter submitted to the judge at a cost hearing  that “the fact that an elected councillor in exercise of his of his own judgment in what should brought into the public domain in the interest of his electors was then subject to effectively a “muzzling action” by the very council upon which he serves, at public expense, is highly questionable and raises important constitutional issues  as to the basis and rights of elected representatives”  

Driver has now had a £23,000 charging order, plus 8% statutory annual interest placed  on his family home by Thanet Council to cover the costs of the High Court hearing. The father of 3, who was forced to give up work almost 3 years ago to become a carer for one his daughters who is disabled said he is paying back the debt at £80 per month but that the  repayment does not cover the interest and the debt is becoming bigger and bigger. He will be publishing an account and short video of how and why  the injunction was secured against him in the next couple of months and will be linking this to a crowdfunding appeal which he hopes will help him clear what he described as a “politically motivated debt aimed at  silencing me and punishing my family who have done no wrong”



 

3 comments:

  1. Very concerning: we could do without council lawyers like Colin Evans etc. Why would we the public and our councilors be dined access to any document son Pleasurama or any within the council or funded by the council?

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  2. How much have you paid so far Ian - a councilor being fined by the council they regulate is a concern. Release the documents with some parts detailed as "Mickey Mouse" etc...And which other councilors have copies?

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  3. Ian, sorry for the late comment, but have only just realised that Colin Evans reply and correct me if I'm wrong, but in his closing paragraph he states "...in paragraph 1 of the injunction dated 3rd December 2016". Is this a 'typo' error or just plain carelessness on his part. Errors such as this, when presented in court, would deem the correspondenve invalid.

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