I received the below aggressive, vexatious, demanding and threatening letter and ‘Unreasonable Behaviour Policy’ from Herefordshire Council’s Head of Legal Services Sean O’Connor on the 22nd July 2023. The letter along with others received since 2017 can also be viewed here:UBP 9 20-07-2023_Redacted plus policy
Below is my analysis and comments regarding Mr Sean O’Connor’s claims & statements in the letter, which I believe breaches the solicitors code of conduct.
- O’Connor says ‘The Council has responded to your Subject Access Request in full on 23 May 2022.’
Such is not wholly accurate or true, as can be seen in the ICO investigation ic-188010-v0j0 page under the blog sub menu. Logs and records of internet activity and searches of council staff relating to me and including my website and social media and comments were missing. Also missing were the two policy documents I requested, that being both RIPA policy documents, they providing only a hyperlink in the letter to one of the RIPA policies. And all records of outgoing phone calls to my numbers were missing.
- He continues, attempting to gaslight, ‘The Information Commissioners Office has dismissed your complaint and upheld the Council’s position in relation to your Subject Access Request on 16 January 2023.
What the ICO actually said in the letter of 16th January 2023 was ‘I have reviewed all the information in this case and am unable to conclude that the Council has not met their data protection obligations or that they have not complied with RIPA. The Council’s letter to you, dated 23 May 2022, provides their response to your SAR and clarifies their position in relation to your query about direct monitoring/surveillance. They have also reiterated this in their correspondence to the ICO. I appreciate that you disagree with the Council’s statement but the ICO is not in a position to dispute what you say about this matter and what the Council states.’
- O’Connor say ‘I have subsequently written to you to repeat the same and advised that the Council cannot assist you further.’
A fact I don’t argue, he has written and been deceitful and obstructive regarding the information I requested concerning Herefordshire Council’s years of unlawful monitoring. He has however, likely inadvertently, admitted in writing that the council had no authorisations for covert monitoring let alone from a magistrate.
- O’Connor says ‘Despite all of this, you have now commenced to email Councillors on the same matter. Between 07 June and 26th June 2023, 143 emails have been received by Councillors from you.’
His claim of 143 email is misleading and spurious, implying I have sent many tens of separate emails. When in fact I send one email to all councillors, on 7th June 2023, asking for councillors to acknowledge they received my email, due to monitoring & filtering of my email addresses by Herefordshire Council. Some days later, on the 16th June 2023, I send one more email to all councillors thanking those that responded and expressing my disappointment that some chose to disregard supporting me and that the email address used would no longer be responded to after the 18th June 2023.
There were a handful of communication to and from some councillors regarding attempting to obtain the information that I requested and which should have been provided to me along with a requested statement of truth from Mr O’Connor.
- He further says ‘ You are repeating the same points that have already been resolved by the Council and as supported by the ICO.’
The only reason the points have been repeated is because Herefordshire Council, has not resolved, but with obstruction by Sean O’Connor, has to date refused to provide copies of information requested which they have to hold. He has also not provided me with a statement of truth.
As a side note, Section 173(3) of DPA 2018 (see legislation link below) makes it an offence to alter, deface, block, erase, destroy or conceal information with the intention of preventing disclosure to individuals under the subject access provisions.
- O’Connor next says’ If you continue to contact the Council, Officers or Councillors about the same matters without raising new issues, or continue to refuse to accept our responses, the Council will take appropriate action against you under the unreasonable behaviour policy, a copy of which is enclosed.’
O’Connor Implies further repercussion punishment will be enforced for my daring to contact councillors for assistance in obtaining the missing information from my SAR, which to date has been withheld with claim they have complied, and his statement of truth. His demand concerning contacting councillors is in direct conflict with democratic rights. Only in the most extreme cases are these right taken away, via the courts.
He also implies I will be punished, regardless, because I do not accept the erroneous responses to date, having considerable evidence that the information requested exists and he is purposely assisting to conceal it.
- Lastly, O’Connor finishes by saying ‘Persistent contact on issues already answered has a significant impact on Council time and resources and the ability for them to deal with other customers who may need assistance.’
While I don’t argue other members of the public and users of local council service are equally, and some having more pressing matter than me, to be dealt with quickly & effectively, I firmly contest that Mr O’Connor nor the council has answered, as he calls it ‘issues’.
While my words may seem critical to some, I remind those reading, O’Connor has a duty to the local council but he as a solicitor let alone head one, has a duty to the public, and code of practice. Some reading may even believe he would have raised concern himself or request a review regarding the data, but no, to date, he has been aggressive, deceitful, vexatious and obstructive, assisting to conceal the information requested, and not supplied a statement of truth that I requested nor given a reason for refusal to do so.
As I said some time ago, I had hoped for a change for the better in Herefordshire Council with the introduction of a new CEO, and an end to the toxic culture, but this from experience of the continued harassment and psychological abuse has sadly not happened.
The raft of pages of other relevant information can be found under the blog submenu on the home page.
Below are censored screenshots of the account email used to contact councillors. The alleged by Sean O’Connor 143 emails received by Herefordshire Council, and those to and from councillors included along with tracking information emails can be seen in these screens. Some messages are duplicated as I wanted to show all messages on my side. However, I have redacted councillor details to maintain their anonymity. It’s also relatively clear from the screens when the council started filtering emails for monitoring of communications to/from councillors.
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