Book Review: Jaded Jerusalem – A horrific serial killer thriller set in Wales and London during the miners’ strike

Jaded Jerusalem

A serial killer haunts the streets of the Rhondda Valley. Bent Police who torture suspects and beat up a whistleblower colleague come to the Rhondda on a mission to get rid of evidence. In North Wales two children escape the clutches of a care home run by a paedophile only to be murdered later. And in London a far left group backing the miners strike is run by a control freak hypocrite with a penchant for sexually abusing young women.

This is a riveting and horrific tale and there is hardly a sympathetic character in the book. Only Terry Vaughan, a local policeman who joined the force to escape the Valleys and is described as a ” wet behind the ears sheep-shagger ” by his bent superiors emerges as a hero in the tale.

Roger Cottrell

The author, Roger Cottrell, is a former investigative crime reporter and was a young Trotsykite on the Central Committee of the Worker’s Revolutionary Party during the miner’s strike. Now a script writer for TV and film in Ireland and a university academic this is part of a ” work in progress” trilogy.

For those, like me, who love to frighten themselves watching edgy Scandi Noir on BBC 4 on a Saturday night this tale is a perfect fit. Indeed the author has already written a script.

Put together in the mix, an ambitious graduate local reporter nicknamed ” Clever Trevor” with a drug habit in the Rhondda; an ambitious woman hack on the Sun and News of the World and those senior bent police officers, all on the trail of a serial killer who murders paedo victims and young women who support the miner’s strike. It also a cover up of a paedophile ring involving Westminster politicians. To add a literary angle the mysterious killer who taunts the police goes by the name of Azazel, the fallen angel who joined Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno creeps into the story.

Azazel as portrayed by Gustav Dore in Paradise Lost

For those who remember this era the background of the miner’s strike with pickets stoning coaches bring in scabs, and police from the Met roughing up striking miners in the back of vans, is very familiar. Added spice comes when striking miners smash up Rhondda’s police station and the police wreck a miner’s club in retaliation.

Some references in the book are more than just fiction. There is the murder of a black social worker Americk Fraser for trying to expose a paedophile ring operating in the London borough of Lambeth. He was handcuffed to shopping trolley, doused in lighter fuel and set ablaze and dumped in the Thames. In real life Bulaq Forsythe a black social worker was murdered for trying to expose a paedophile ring in Lambeth. He didn’t die in such horrendous circumstances But he had notes linking the South Vale Care Home in South Norwood to paedophiles. The Met Police launched an investigation into his death but nothing came of it. Now we know from the official Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and a recent internal inquiry there was widespread child sexual abuse in Lambeth.

Similarly the North Wales care home where the boys absconded in the book had for years been part of a paedophile ring and its ring leaders in the 1980s included the late North Wales Police chief superintendent Gordon Angelsea. He was never exposed until a National Crime Agency investigation secured his conviction in 2016. All the stuff about Masonic links and the police co-operating with care homes is based on grim fact.

And Liam O’Leary, the head of the Workers Revolutionary League, is based on the now long dead Gerry Healy, the head of the WRP, who is said to have sexually abused 26 women and employed two thugs to impose discipline in the far left organisation.

This is indeed a very dark book but made more menacing because a lot of the fiction in the tale has a basis in reality. It has a very dramatic ending which I won’t spoil by revealing but it is very cinematic. Read it if you can stomach it.

Jaded Jerusalem by Roger Cottrell. Available from Amazon £12.99

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Eco or ego Legacy Ltd: How a Labour peer was caught in the crossfire of an Irish company brought to its knees by ” mismanagement and intransigence “

Baroness Mary Goudie Official Portrait pic credit: parliament.uk

Last week the House of Lords Conduct Committee recommended Baroness Mary Goudie, a Labour peer, be suspended for six months from Parliament for entering a consultancy with an Irish eco company, which was declared late and providing advice to the firm who they should lobby in Parliament.

Normally this blog would condemn utterly any public figure who sells their expertise in Parliament for financial gain but there seem to be some rather peculiar circumstances in this case that make this judgement unduly harsh. Yes Baroness Goudie should be punished for breaching the Nolan code of conduct but her actions pale into insignificance compared to the behaviour of the bust company itself.

Obviously the role of the company is outside the remit of the House of Lords Conduct Committee but researching the history of this short lived firm reveals an extraordinary saga of events and Baroness Goudie seems to be left taking the rap.

For a start the case against her has been brought SIX years after the event in Parliament and FOUR years after a petition in the Dublin High Court forced it to go bankrupt. And the complainant has turned up with six year old emails, her consultancy contract worth 20,000 Euros over 10 months and internal corporate details of what she promised to do for them. It would suggest the person was either a member of the firm or knew someone there.

Parliamentary meetings never took place

She did plan to facilitate a meeting in Parliament where the directors could lobby an MP who belonged to an all party group on funerals and bereavement and write to the permanent secretaries of DEFRA and the Ministry of Justice. But the meeting never took place and the MP met the directors of ecoLegacy without Baroness Goudie being there. And there is no trace of any letter ever being written to the permanent secretaries.

Wrongly used the House of Lords library to help company

She wrongly used the House of Lords library to prepare a report for use by the company but as to be explained later it really didn’t tell them anything as the firm was using a new untried technology for cremation. Nor did she use debates in the Lords to promote the firm but was very late in registering her interest.

Now if we examine the firm its management record is appalling. It describes its business as “Provider of alternative processes to burial and cremation. The company offers burial and cremation alternatives that turn human deceased bodies into calcium and carbon powders and returns the powders in a biodegradable urn and seed which can be grown as a tree, helping families to remember their loved ones who departed.”

This sounds a lovely eco-friendly idea and the directors sought huge sums from wealthy American investors in ” start up ” schemes promising good returns. By the time it went bankrupt according to the Irish Business Post it had raised 7.2 million Euros and was running at a big loss.

Judge Deirdre Murphy at the Kennedy Summer School. Pic credit: Kennedy Summer School

The most devastating critique came from an Irish Judge Deirdre Murphy when she heard a petition from The William Jay Gencarella Family Trust, based in the US, in 2018

Her judgement read: “Two founding members of the company Tony Ennis and Brian McKimm, featured extensively in the evidence adduced on the hearing, both on affidavit and on cross-examination, but neither provided direct evidence to the court. The hearing was not so much “ Hamlet” without the prince as “ Two Gentlemen of Verona” without the two gentleman. During the course of the hearing there were allegations and counter-allegations that both had misappropriated company funds over the years. The court has the impression that in many respects the hearing of this petition was a proxy war between the two founding members, in which the petitioner has been ill-served and was liable to suffer collateral damage.”

She “appointed Declan Taite as liquidator to EcoLegacy Ltd which she said had been “brought to its knees” by the “mismanagement and intransigence” of one of its founders, Tony Ennis.

In another case before a judge in Dallas, Texas, three groups, Fox Bend Development Associates, Ltd., Fred and Michele Secker, and Jeffrey Hicks Trust 2005, sought to sue ecoLegacy. The citation reads: ” that Ennis made fraudulent misrepresentations and omitted material facts in soliciting Plaintiffs to invest a total of $3,250,000 into ecoLegacy. Plaintiffs assert claims for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, violation of Texas and federal securities laws, and costs and attorneys’ fees. “

Ennis got the case dismissed because there was an arbitration agreement built into the contract.

Was the project just a piece of Irish baloney?

The question must be asked whether the whole scheme was just a piece of Irish baloney. One engineer who worked on the project called Remo says it was not and could have succeeded but was brought down by disputes between directors. All this makes the crimes of Baroness Goudie seem small beer. if this is the Lords Conduct Committee suspension template, I can only think the alleged behaviour of Lady Mona on behalf of Metpro, the PPP supplier now being sued by the government, would see her banned for five years.

The other big question is whether Baroness Goudie knew about all these shenaghins. The main court drama came after she had finished her consultancy. If one looks at her website, it looks as though eco-funerals were never at the top of her agenda. Instead she is known internationally as a women’s rights and peace campaigner holding a number of distinguished positions. On the balance of probabilities, I think not. The problems in the company were not her fault but she should have checked it out more thoroughly rather than relying on a ” trusted friend”. It was a clash of egos that bought ecoLegacy down. It was more ego than eco.

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Exclusive Fresh Update: Betrayal – Parliamentary Ombudsman dumps on 3.6 million 50s born women

Rob Behrens -Parliamentary Ombudsman

Leaked document now published says nearly all not to get one penny compensation – despite his finding of partial maladministration – and WASPI appears to have covered this up

For those who want to see the full document or the few doubters that this can be true – you can read the document here [ google docs] or see below.

Fresh Update: MPs on the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee have taken up this story by writing to Rob Behrens asking for an explanation of the proposed remedy that has been sent to six complainants. Read the letter in full here.

The letter from Tory MP William Wragg, the chair, reads: ” We have received reports that women affected by the changes are expected to receive minimal, if any, financial compensation

“I would therefore be grateful if you could clarify:

  • whether any decisions around financial remedies have been taken or communicated
    to those
    affected;
  • whether there have been any changes in the expected timeline for the final report;
    and
  • whether there have been any changes in who will be eligible for compensation.”

In what must be the biggest betrayal of complainants since the Ombudsman was set up by Harold Wilson in 1967 Rob Behrens has put out proposals to deprive the vast majority of 1950s born women from any compensation for the maladministration suffered by being not personally informed about the rise in the pension age from 60 to 66.

The six people who complained will get £1000 each and another 600 who complained to the Ombudsman could get the money if the Department for Work and Pensions deign to pay them which on its present record seems unlikely. For the rest there is nothing.

This proposal is a far cry from the promise made by Angela Madden, the leading figure from Waspi, who told a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in September that payments of £10,000 to £20,000 each were a possibility for women who had missed out. See here. She has continually urged people to rely on the Ombudsman to sort this out – though recently has suggested a direct approach to the DWP to get a fair settlement because of the numbers of women dying.

A big emphasis has been highlighted by Waspi on making sensible demands and not going for full restitution – now on the basis of direct discrimination- as pushed by Backto60 and now by former judge Jocelynne Scutt, in her report.

Well this is the provisional settlement Waspi has got and it has not been worth the wait. Confidential proposals, seen by these blog, reveal this betrayal. It reads:

The Ombudsman’s proposed remedy -guaranteed £1000 offer to six people

“Our provisional view about remedy is that DWP should:

• publicly acknowledge maladministration in its communication about changes to State Pension age resulting from the 1995 Pensions Act and maladministration in its complaint handling

• publicly apologise for the impact that maladministration has had on the sample complainants and others similarly affected

* pay each sample complainant £1000 compensation for the injustice they have suffered

• establish and fund a compensation scheme to provide equivalent compensation [ie £1000] to anyone else who has suffered the same injustice as the sample complaints because of maladministration in its communication about State Pension age and its complaint handling

• provide an adequate and proportionate financial remedy to anyone who can evidence they suffered financial loss because they lost opportunities to make different decisions due to maladministration in DWP’s communication about State Pension age

• provide an adequate and proportionate financial remedy to anyone who can evidence they lost opportunities to add qualifying years to their National Insurance record because of DWP’s maladministration in not adequately using research and feedback about people’s understanding of the new State Pension to improve its service and performance.”

Now there are a barrel load of problems in this settlement. There also appears to be some level of deceit over recent pronouncements by the PHSO to Parliament and Waspi to the Daily Express and the Independent. First the proposed settlement. To get even this measly £1000 some 3.6 million 50s women have to both prove they didn’t get a letter and prove they lost opportunities to take different decision or lost out to pay in expensive sums to the DWP to build up their pension. Many of these women who were on the breadline would not have had the thousands of pounds of cash to do this.

Joanna Wallace destroyed all the complaining letters from 50swomen

Secondly very simply how do you prove you didn’t get a letter? The DWP has said it has no records and DWP’s so called Independent Case Examiner, Joanna Wallace, as I reported earlier -see here – has conveniently destroyed loads of letters she received complaining about this issue after being cleared of maladministration by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. It is almost as though there have been deliberate moves to make sure no evidence was available in advance of the Ombudsman’s decision.

I also found it extraordinary that the Ombudsman has put forward a remedy so quickly after being quizzed by MPs on the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee last month. At the time – see my blog here – Amanda Amroliwala, chief executive of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, was closely questioned by MPs about the 50swomen investigation and said it could take until March before the full investigation and remedy were published.

To give her the benefit of the doubt perhaps she was so taken aback by the questioning from MPs she may have speeded it up. More suspicious minds might suggest she daren’t tell them what the Ombudsman had in mind because it would create a furore. The only public announcement by the PHSO since then has been it has completed stage 2 of the investigation but still has no remedy in mind.

Angela Madden, chair of Waspi, showcasing her Jubilee Pin for going “the extra mile to improve the lives of others”. Pic credit:Waspi

The other extraordinary behaviour has been by WASPI. An article in the Daily Express on Friday quotes WASPI saying this.

Angela Madden, chair of WASPI, said: “These latest findings confirm the previous conclusion of the Ombudsman that maladministration took place at the Department for Work and Pensions. “But nearly 18 months after the Ombudsman’s first report, we are still waiting for his conclusions on a remedy.  This is becoming a lengthy examination of the blindingly obvious.”

Now by then people had been informed of the proposed remedy. Perhaps Angela Madden didn’t know. or perhaps she didn’t want anyone else to know because it is obviously too embarrassing for their campaign.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s press office said they were unable to comment was the investigation was on going.

But John McDonnell, Labour’s former shadow chancellor and a member of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said: ” This offer is completely unacceptable. I shall be raising it immediately with the PACAC committee”. As Shadow Chancellor he had offered a £58 billion settlement over five years. I await a response from WASPI.

In the meantime Rob Behrens, the Ombudsman, according to his posts on Linked In has been literally glad handing with President Zelensky in Kiev at a special Europe wide human rights conference. Someone ought to ask him about the human rights of the 3.6 million 50s women who will now be cheated by him out of any decent settlement. The DWP must be cheering him on.

As a matter of the interest the pension age for women in Ukraine is 60 – six years below the current age in the UK. See this link.

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Fresh revelations on the national role of top NHS law firm disclosed in the latest hearing in the long running Dr. Chris Day whistleblower case

Dr Chris Day

A preliminary two day employment tribunal hearing has led to fresh revelations about the national role of one of the NHS’s top law firms, Hill Dickinson, that acted for Health Education England against whistleblower junior doctor, Dr Chris Day, in a case that has now been ongoing for 8 years and was also against the South London Trust Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.

Day alleges Hill Dickinson failed to disclose over 200 commissioning contracts between Health Education England and NHS Trusts around England including a contract with Lewisham and Greenwich NHS. The significance is that these contacts proved Health Education England’s status as a second employer of junior doctors.

This is something that Health Education England and Hill Dickinson spent 4 years denying, between 2014 and 2018, at huge expense to the taxpayer in order to argue junior doctors out of whistleblowing protection.

This was in order to stop Dr Chris Day’s case ever being heard. The Tribunal were told that not one of these contracts was disclosed in the litigation and were obtained in 2019 by a freelance journalist, Tommy Greene who was writing about the case in the Telegraph. The scandalous focus of the hearing was that Hill Dickinson profited from not disclosing the contracts in litigation arguing that it was fanciful for Day to assert HEE as an employer of doctors.

Tommy Greene freelance investigative journalist Pic credit: Twitter

The Judge was told that Tommy Greene had also found that Hill Dickinson were paid handsomely to draft the very contracts that were not disclosed most notably the one between HEE and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.

The Judge was referred to a complaint to the legal regulator from Sir Norman Lamb and Tommy Greene that set these details out.

 SRA Complaints Sir Norman Lamb (54000doctors.org)

And a debate in Parliament where the 2 MPs Justin Madders and Sir Norman Lamb further explored the matter;

Sir Norman Lamb

Justin Madders stated;

“Health Education England effectively sought to remove around 54,000 doctors from whistleblowing protection by claiming that it was not their employer.”

 Sir Norman Lamb stated;

“Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the contract between Health Education England and the trusts, which demonstrates the degree of control that Health Education England has over the employment of junior doctors, was not disclosed for some three years in that litigation? It was drafted by the very law firm that was making loads of money out of defending the case against Chris Day. I have raised this with Health Education England, but it will not give me a proper response because it says that the case is at an end. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this is totally unacceptable and that it smacks of unethical behaviour for that law firm to make money out of not disclosing a contract that it itself drafted?”

Dr Day has fought an eight year battle with the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust and Health Education England over protected disclosures about patient safety in the intensive care unit at Woolwich Hospital which associated with  two avoidable deaths.

He recently lost a case against the trust despite it being revealed that hundreds of emails and documents had been withheld from him including notes of a crucial trust broad meeting which discussed and decided the fate of his case. Some 50,000 emails involving his case were also destroyed by a senior trust official, David Cocke, during the hearing. He was also due to be a witness in the case but never gave any.

This new hearing has been brought by Dr Day over ” wasted costs” in an earlier hearing after he was pressed to agree to a settlement with the trust which exonerated the NHS or face huge costs which would have lost him his family home.

Day was arguing that had he known the truth he would not have agreed to three separate compromise agreements made with the NHS, one of which protected all lawyers in the litigation from wasted costs stemming from misconduct and another that paid Day a £55k contribution of his legal costs which was only a fraction of what he spent resisting the false arguments in this case on HEE’s employer status.

At this hearing Day asserted that the  settlements should be set aside after new information came to light following a freedom of information disclosure to investigative journalist Tommy Greene. The Judge at the hearing was also taken to references made by Tommy Greene and Sir Norman Lamb to fraud and other offences based on a legal opinion that had been instructed by Tommy Greene.

SRA Complaints Sir Norman Lamb (54000doctors.org)

In this hearing the Judge only had to decide whether Day’s wasted cost claim against Hill Dickinson was strong enough to progress to a full hearing where Hill Dickinson would be subject to a disclosure order for all relevant documents and emails relevant to this dispute. Hill Dickinson argue the settlement agreements should prevent the case progressing to full hearing.

Andrew Allen KC

The hearing revealed that Hill Dickinson were paid to re-draft contractual agreements for 200 other trusts as well as Lewisham and Greenwich. The contract with highest values was revealed as £79m. As Andrew Allen argued: “The LDA disclosed nearly three years after the 2015 strike out hearing,(an outdated LDA not drafted by Hill Dickinson), showed that the 2nd Respondent[ Health Education England] was responsible for substantial terms under which the Claimant”. This was a position that had been plainly denied on multiple occasions in several courts. Andrew Allen KC continued;

” The entire basis for the strike out application had been false. The argument run by the 2nd Respondent that it was ‘fanciful’ to suggest that the party which substantially determined the terms and conditions of the Claimant’s engagement was or could have been the Respondent was completely wrong.”

Extraordinarily Hill Dickinson claim that the lawyers representing Health Education England in the case did not know about the new agreement and even other lawyers working for Hill Dickinson didn’t know about it.

Andrew Allen KC said: “Had the Claimant known then what he knows now, he would not have entered into an agreement which could stop him applying for costs against Hill Dickinson. It is in the interests of justice to permit the Claimant to progress this application. His full skeleton argument is here.

Angus Moon KC pic credit: Sergeants’ Inn Chambers

Mr Angus Moon KC for the Health Education England argued that the non disclosure of the document was not relevant to Dr Day’s whistleblowing case. made no material difference to his case, and to throw out the agreement would break the finality of all agreements reached in courts. He also warned the press and the public reporting and observing the case that any reference to Hill Dickinson should not suggest that they had done anything wrong. He wanted Dr Day’s application struck out while Mr Andrew Allen, KC made it clear that this should not happen as the preliminary hearing could not investigate nor discuss the actions of Hill Dickinson without a full hearing at the tribunal.

Dr Chris Day’s Crowdjustice page explains more about what this hearing against Hill Dickinson was about with a link to the legal paper including Andrew Allen KC’s skeleton arguments. the link is:

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/junior-doctors-whistleblowing-protection 

Dr Day has recently published a Linked In article explaining the twists and turns of his 8 years of whistleblowing litigation. The link is here.

Background note: Hill Dickinson is a 212 year old law firm, founded in Liverpool and now a big international firm. Its famous cases included acting for the White Star line, owners of the Titanic when it faced claims in the US courts after it sunk and for Cunard, owners of the Lusitania torpedoed by a German U boat in 1915.It also employed one of the first women to become a solicitor, Edith Berthen, in 1927.

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Parliamentary Ombudsman’s plea to MPs to summon the DWP and the Environment Agency for failing to compensate people

Amanda Amroliwala chief executive of the PHSO

Rob Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, has asked the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) to intervene on his behalf and summon the heads of the Department for Work and Pensions and the Environment Agency to appear before them to explain why they are ignoring his findings and refusing to compensate people.

The plea came during a hearing of the committee last week to examine the organisation’s progress and future plans to handle complaints. The committee also heard how the Ombudsman was hamstrung by the failure of the Cabinet Office to pass new legislation to give him greater powers and the latest progress in the 50swomen maladministration claim. More about this below. All these issues highlight weaknesses I have raised in previous blogs.

The DWP case involves 118,000 disabled people who suffered from years of benefit maladminstration . I wrote about this in August- see here. The complaint came from Ms U – via the London borough of Greenwich welfare rights office- who was put in the wrong lower category of the employment support allowance despite being in very poor physical and mental health with little or no savings The Ombudsman ordered the Department to pay her £7500 compensation and five years of arrears totalling £19,832.55 plus interest.

A National Audit Office investigation found that 118,000 people were in the same boat and should have been compensated alongside her following the Ombudsman’s ruling. But the DWP decided only to pay her and ignored everyone else. The pay out would have run to millions of pounds and the DWP decided it would ignore the Ombudsman because legally they can.

The second case involves one family but it is one of the most egregious cases I have heard in Whitehall. The case has been going on for 12 years and involves admitted maladministration by the Environment Agency over the issue of a water licence for a micro hydro project in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire. The Earl family who renovated a tumbledown watermill to use for the scheme was supposed to receive substantial compensation decided by an independent assessor appointed by the Environment Agency. who bungled their case. The money owing could amount to £3m as interest has piled up and the EA has refused to follow through the Ombudsman’s finding for years.

John McDonnell MP

MPs also raised the issue of the Ombudsman’s lack of powers. John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor and a Labour member of the committee, has tabled a question to the Cabinet Office asking why they have not introduced legislation to do this. The issue is raised in an earlier blog here.

Mr McDonnell asked Robert Behrens:”Can you explain the practical implications of the Government’s lack of support for legislative reform? How does that hold you back from adhering to the Venice principles, which the Government have signed up to ?”

He told him: “Two of my counterparts have the power of own-initiative investigation. In cases like Windrush, the maternity scandal in hospitals or the issues with mental health, we could go out and look at an issue without it being complained about. We could resolve that issue before it went to a long-standing independent or public inquiry. The peer review panel said that other ombudsman schemes in Europe use that and have used it in Covid to good effect.”

He went on: “If you have 16 public service ombudsmen in the United Kingdom, it means that people do not know where to go. It means the profile of my office and other offices is lower than it would otherwise be. That is not satisfactory in terms of being the only organisation in the public service that provides redress free of charge to citizens. That is very important.”

He added that he saw no reason why a government could not introduce a bill to do all this straight after the next general election.

MPs Question chief executive on 50swomen pension investigation

Amanda Amroliwala, chief executive of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, was closely questioned by three MPs, Ronnie Cowan, SNP, John McDonnell and Lloyd Russell-Moyle, both Labour, on the maladministration complaints over the delay in paying 3.6 million 1950s born women.

On Stage 2 of the report, which has already been leaked on this website see here, she said: “We have not
finalised that stage of the report yet. We are in the process of receiving and analysing the very extensive comments that we have had from the Department and from the complainants who have brought the complaints to us”

RONNIE Cowan, SNP MP for Inverclyde

Under further questioning she added: “We are looking at how those will need to change the
provisional views that are not yet public but that some individuals have had sight of. We will do that as soon as possible.” She would not commit a date for this report and the proposed remedy will be published except ” hopefully” between January and March next year. She was also quizzed on the level of compensation. Ronnie Cowan pointed out it could be anything from nothing to £10,000 but if it was maladministration only the top level was much less than £10,000 .She would not be drawn on how much this is likely to be.

John McDonnell reflected the frustration among MPs about the long delay in the Ombudsman producing a final report. “You can understand the scale of interest and concern there is amongst Members of Parliament. You will have seen that from the early-day motions. There is not an MP without a constituent who has been affected. The concern that people have is because of the age of many of our constituents. Some of them have already passed away. Others may not be here to receive any form of redress, if we delay beyond the next quarter of next year.”

There is another elephant in the room that was not discussed. If the DWP is refusing to pay 118,000 benefit claimants their compensation, why should they pay any of the 3.6 million 50swomen a penny beyond the six test cases who complained?

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Updated Direct Discrimination: Former Judge Jocelynne Scutt’s report published on the 50swomen pension delay

Former judge Jocelynne Scutt today published her full report on the plight of 1950s women who have waited up to six years to get their delayed pension. As expected it provides copious arguments why the women have been cheated, why the 50swomen were the first group targeted and contains some heart rending cases. You can download the report here. It is a large file as the report runs to 155 pages including appendices.

Here is the entire speech by Jocelynne Scutt to MPs in Parliament this week. This explains the logic of her argument.

The full speech from Jocelynne Scutt to MPs

Some 3.8 million women suffered direct discrimination by the Tory government’s decision in 1995 to raise the pension age, of women to 65 and then 66, MPs and peers will be told at a briefing in Parliament today.

This is the main finding of a big report by Jocelynne Scutt, a former Australian judge who served on the Fiji bench and was Tasmania’s first Anti Discrimination Commissioner. She now teaches law at the University of Buckingham and is a member of both the Australian Labor Party and the British Labour Party and is a Labour councillor in Cambridge.

Her report followed a hearing by the CEDAWinLAW People’s Tribunal last July which specifically looked into the plight of 50sborn women where some of the women and Dr Elgun Safarov, vice chair of the UN Convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls (CEDAW) from Geneva, gave evidence. The UN committee is currently challenging the UK government to explain its failure to write the convention into UK law some 36 years after Margaret Thatcher ratified it.

The ruling in the report to be published in due course is much tougher than the case put forward by two members of BackTo60 in the court hearings following the judicial review. Then lawyers argued that the women had suffered indirect discrimination as their opportunities to pay contributions into the National Insurance fund, among other issues, to qualify for a full pension were not equal with men.

Jocelynne Scutt argues that this was not indirect discrimination but direct discrimination of a specific group of women who had been singled out to wait for their pension while everyone else was unaffected. It has also to be taken into account that 9.8 million men over 60 who decided not to claim unemployment benefit were given free auto-credits which ensured that nearly all got a full pension for life. It was going to be offered to women until 2018 but that idea was swiftly scrapped.

Every one of these women – many who have worked since the age of 15 as well as bringing up a family- was promised by the government when they started work that they could retire at 60 and planned to do so. And given the Department for Work and Pensions told the courts that it was not obliged under the 1995 Act to tell them personally this had changed – this only came in when men were affected by a rise in their retirement age.

Jocelynne Scutt has already delivered the report to Rishi Sunak at Downing Street. She argues that 50s women were treated unfavourably from the start. The 1995 decision did not affect any women born in the 1940s, targeted the 1950s women while those born in 1960s and 1970s onwards had much longer to adjust. The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report agrees there was partial maladministration in that 50s women were not properly informed. In fact hardly anyone was properly informed until it all changed with men and women facing a rise in their pension age to 66.

Full restitution must be honoured – Jocelynne Scutt

Jocelynne Scutt says “Government and Parliament have a responsibility to face up to and acknowledge the grave wrong done. There is no room for obfuscation or quibbling. Historical discrimination requires relief. There is a moral imperative to right this wrong. The law is on the side of the 1950s-born women. 1950sborn women alone are the group targeted. This is a debt of law and honour. Full restitution is the only proper legal, ethical and moral outcome. Full restitution must be honoured.

The briefing is in the House of Commons at 2.0pm today.

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How the Tories keep our Parliamentary Ombudsman powerless – while telling the rest of the world they back the highest standards

Rob Behrens Parliamentary Ombudsman

A high powered peer review of the Parliamentary Ombudsman has exposed the hypocrisy and double standards of the present UK government towards people having the right to redress from bad and unfair public and NHS treatment.

The report released from an international panel of Ombudsmen , an academic and a UK housing ombudsman concludes with a polite but damning assessment of the failure of the government to keep its word to strengthen the Ombudsman’s powers. Members of the panel included both the Greek and Israeli Ombudsmen and a respected academic, Professor Robert Thomas, Professor of Public Law, University of Manchester.

The UK is a member of the Council of Europe Venice Commission which lays down what are known as the ” Venice Principles” – an international standard to guarantee the independence of the Ombudsman and the human rights of people to have direct access to the Ombudsman to make complaints about their treatment by public services.

The UK then co-sponsored a UN resolution incorporating these standards for the entire world – telling every country that Britain was in the lead on this issue.

But then under successive Tory governments of Boris Johnson, Elizabeth Truss and Rishi Sunak nothing has not only been done but ministers have taken active steps to thwart reform.

The most obvious example is Michael Gove, who used his power in the Cabinet Office, to block any bill-even a draft bill- coming before Parliament to the despair of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (Pacac) which under a Tory MP wanted this to happen.

The situation is remarkably similar to the government’s attitude towards the UN Convention on the elimination of all discrimination against women and girls (CEDAW) which Margaret Thatcher ratified in 1986 and had still not been properly implemented 40 years on . This is now the subject of a review from the convention in Geneva which criticises the UK for not implementing it properly and is demanding answers.

The conclusions of the peer review couldn’t be clearer:

Professor Rob Thomas Pic credit: Administrative Justice Council

“The ‘Venice Principles’ lay down a set of international standards and principles on the protection and promotion of Ombudsman institutions. These have been accepted by the UK, as a member of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe in 2019. They were also adopted by the UN in a motion co-sponsored by the UK Government in 2020.

” In several respects, PHSO’s legal framework complies with the ‘Venice Principles’, but not in other respects. PHSO’s statutory framework is now out of date and widely seen as being unnecessarily restrictive. PHSO is also out of line with other UK Ombudsman offices, which possess powers that PHSO does not.
“This means that citizens in some parts of the UK do not have the same rights as others. We are aware that reform of the Ombudsman is a long standing and unresolved issue, although it has become an increasingly urgent matter which makes the work of PHSO more difficult. PHSO is doing everything it can reasonably do to make the argument for reform. What is required is action from the UK Government and Parliament. Any reform must maintain PHSO’s direct reporting line into Parliament to preserve its absolute independence from Government.

Andreas Pottakis, Greek Ombudsman and President the International Ombudsman Institute -Europe

The report backs this up with a traffic light (red, amber, green) system of points where it measures the consistency and performance of the Ombudsman with the Venice principles.. Nearly all the red and amber points are caused by the failure of the government to legislate to strengthen the Ombudsman.

The government does not meet the principle that “Any individual or legal person, including NGOs, shall have the right to free, unhindered and free of charge access to the Ombudsman, and to file a complaint.” Instead a complaint has to be filtered by an MP or in the case of the NHS there has to be a “safe space” for administrators to look at the complaint before the Ombudsman can act.

There is no legal provision to protect whistleblowers who contact him. He, unlike his Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland Ombudsmen cannot initiate investigations. It is not clear whether he has full powers to force people to respond to him and certainly his recommendations don’t have to be followed by the government if he finds maladministration. There is not proper protection for his position by law and even the recruitment of a successor is limited, so not all people can apply.

Venice Principles give Ombudsman right to recommend changes to the law

The Venice Principles give him the right ” to have the power to present, in public, recommendations to Parliament or the Executive, including to amend legislation or to adopt new legislation” and this is definitely not allowed in England – otherwise he could go further on the case of the 50swomen who lost their pensions for up to six years.

Now you might think the Ombudsman would make a great deal out of this report to press the government to expand his powers or show up ministers for failing to keep their obligations to an international agreement they signed.

But the heading on his website is “World’s first official international ombudsman review finds UK service is robust and good value “. Yes the report does make good points about improvements in the running of the Ombudsman’s |Office but its fundamental objection is given muted coverage – buried down in the copy.

Further down the press release Rob Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, says: “The peer review rightly says that the UK is out-of-step with other modern Ombudsman services in terms of our statutory framework. Without powers of own initiative, I am hamstrung from investigating many systemic issues that no one is looking at. Legislative reform of the UK Ombudsman service would mean fewer barriers to justice and more opportunities to prevent injustice happening in the future.”

I think a more gutsy Ombudsman would fight his corner better -particularly as this government is on the back foot when it comes to defending decent public services and upholding standards in public life.

A more cynical explanation is that the government don’t want the public to have greater rights to complain as they are fearful of more bad administration and scandals coming to light But they want the rest of the world to think Britain is a beacon of good government in this area -knowing this is a lie.

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Andreas I. Pottakis

Tribunal of the Absurd: My Verdict on the Dr Chris Day whistleblower case

Dr Chris Day

An employment tribunal under Judge Anne Martin has thrown out whistleblower Dr Chris Day’s claims against the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust after an eight year battle about patient safety at the intensive care unit in Woolwich Hospital.

In a bizarre ruling the judge has managed to discredit the evidence of Dr Day’s witnesses, including the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt and two very senior medical experts.

She glossed over the disclosure of the deliberate destruction of 90,000 emails by the NHS Trust, which should have been provided as more evidence of what happened during the eight year long dispute.

She played down false evidence given under oath from the trust’s chief executive, Ben Travis, that there was no record of a board meeting which discussed his case and approved the settlement when a note of the meeting came to light. Evidence here.

She is remarkably sympathetic to David Cocke, the associate director of communications at the trust destroying the 90,000 emails, which is a criminal offence, and accepted the excuses of the NHS Trust to avoid him attending the court where he would be cross examined.

Jeremy Hunt; Official Portrait

She did have the opportunity to strike out the trust’s defence midway through the hearing when it became clear that large volumes of potential evidence had been withheld and destroyed but decided there was enough evidence to continue the case. Now with this judgement we know why – perhaps she didn’t want to hear anything else that would prevent her finding for the trust.

Despite a long rambling 67 page judgement Judge Martin’s findings are as notable for what they omit as much as what they disclose and seems to cast doubt in one instance on the integrity of Dr Day while accepting at face value anything put forward by the trust.

Sir Norman Lamb

Dr Day was backed by two prominent politicians Jeremy Hunt and Sir Norman Lamb, a former health minister. Early in the judgement she disposes of Jeremy Hunt’s evidence by saying ” it relates to what he was told by the Claimant about the protected disclosures he had made. It does not refer to the
statements made by the Respondent which are the subject of this hearing. The Tribunal does not understand why his witness statement was put forward.”

This odd statement by the judge seems to suggest that Dr Chris Day told Jeremy Hunt t what to say – which I find hard to believe. I think Jeremy Hunt can make up his own mind and wouldn’t have given that statement if he hadn’t thought something was wrong. Sir Norman Lamb who was very vocal about the trust’s failings in treating Dr Chris Day – enough to want an inquiry – is said by the judge to have been treated ” fairly” by the trust.

Dr Megan Smith

The two medical witnesses Dr Megan Smith and Dr Sebastian Hormaeche were also dismissed as biased because they were supporters of Dr Chris Day’s whistleblowing activity. In fact Dr Day has never met Dr Megan Smith. She effectively demolished the case provided by the trust’s ” independent” consultant Roddis Associates, that staffing levels at the intensive care unit were adequate by quoting the national guidelines. She told the hearing;“You would not find an anaesthetist or ICU doctor in the country who would accept those ratios. There was a clear and present danger to patient safety – no question about that.”

Yet this fact- it is fact not a campaigning point by Dr Day – is ignored completely.

She said: “I have been a member of my hospital’s Serious Incident Review Panel and am currently the mortality lead for the department of anaesthesia with responsibility for investigating any patient deaths. I am also a practising barristerand I carry out expert witness work (primarily in the field of clinical negligence) for”. She linked Dr Day’s safety concerns at the ICU to the two deaths there.

When it comes to the treatment of Mr Cocke the judge almost turns somersaults to protect his activity. The passage where she describes him shows up her unconscious prejudice in favour of the trust.

“It was Mr Cocke who opened this can of worms. It was he who contacted Dr Harding [one of the doctors that Dr Day raised the issue of the icu) and he who forwarded the emails provided by Dr Harding to the Claimant. He has been open about deleting the documents.

” It was not a situation where he owned up only because he had been found out. This does not strike the Tribunal as the actions of someone who is mindset on concealing documents and lends some credence to his explanation.””

And on his non appearance:”The Tribunal’s view at that time was that considering the medical evidence from Mr Cocke’s GP there was no medical reason Mr Cocke could not give evidence and if he did not give evidence then this was a decision of the Respondent.
Further medical information was then obtained which said that Mr Cocke was too unwell to attend to give evidence. Mr Cocke did not give evidence. On balance the Tribunal is satisfied that Mr Cocke was unfit to give evidence.
“Whilst the members of this Tribunal are not medically trained, it appeared that the apparent contradictions raised by the Claimant were indicative of a progressing mental health issue and this taken together with the irrational act of deleting emails points to Mr Cocke being quite unwell especially as it was he who first provided extra documents that had not been disclosed. We do not doubt that Mr Cocke is ill, but accept that there is no independent medical information explaining the nature of his illness and how it manifests.”

First of all it remarkably prejudicial for a judge to describe the unearthing of documents that should have been provided four years ago in discovery as “a can of worms” and secondly it is remarkable for a judge to decide to excuse a criminal act as a mental health problem. That seems a job for a psychiatrist not a judge who admits she has no medical expertise.

Harold Pinter: Pic Credit: National Portrait Gallery

Pulling this altogether this hearing would make a splendid play for the Theatre of the Absurd – it reads a bit like a plot by Harold Pinter than a serious contribution to judicial case law..

I hope some playwright considers putting together a play or TV drama on Dr Day’s epic eight year struggle for justice for patient safety. It should be dedicated to the two people who unfortunately died at Woolwich Hospital ICU and whom the trust prefers to forget.

I can’t imagine a more fitting place for Judge Anne Martin, Ben Travis and David Cocke to appear than a hard hitting and satirical play at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Note: Dr Day is currently raising cash for a further hearing next month in connection with this case and the involvement of the Health Education England – the link is
https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/junior-doctors-whistleblowing-protection/

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Cheated Again! MPs blast Department for Work and Pensions for not acting fast enough to reimburse £1.46 billion to pensioners

The DWP is attacked today by MPs on the powerful Commons Public Accounts Committee for not having a credible plan to reimburse hundred of thousands of pensioners who have been shortchanged billions of pounds in pension payments.

The scheme is the only programme where the DWP admits it has made gigantic mistakes by underpaying pensioners and is committed to return the money owed to them. It is obvious at the moment that ministers and civil servants have no intention of reimbursing people who have been denied a guaranteed minimum pension when they were contracted out by their employer.

Nor do they appear to be remotely interested in compensating the 1950s women who lost six years of their pensions despite it being clear that the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Robert Behrens, has found maladministration in not telling the women properly about it, let alone even considering whether women were unfairly discriminated by the decision. The fact that not a single minister has talked to anybody about 50swomen since 2016 speaks volumes.

What is clear from a report by the MPs ( which also tackles benefit fraud) is that they are distinctly unimpressed by the DWP’s handling of this despite assurances from Peter Schofield, the permanent secretary, at the department during a committee hearing earlier this year.

Peter Schofield Pic credit: gov.uk

The Department’s efforts to correct the systemic underpayment of State Pension are too slow to meaningfully put things right. The Department now estimates that 237,000 pensioners have been underpaid a total of £1.46 billion in their State Pension.
“Despite these underpayments going back as far as 1985, the Department’s overall exercise to correct this issue is delayed from the end of 2023 to the end of 2024. The Department cannot be certain that its plan to deliver the exercise on schedule is achievable, as it is dependent on assumptions around recruitment, retraining, and automation.

“We are not convinced that the Department has done enough to ensure its communications to potentially affected pensioners are sufficiently clear. We are concerned that this may leave many pensioners lacking reassurance that they will receive meaningful and timely redress.

We remain unconvinced about the DWP – MPs.

“The Department does not yet know the full extent of the underpayment relating to Home Responsibilities Protection, and it is dependent on HMRC to evaluate the impact of these underpayments on pensioners. The Department cannot be certain that it has identified all the underpayments implied by the results of its annual measurement exercise. Overall, we remain unconvinced that the Department’s control systems are adequate to detect further underpayments before they build up into major issues in future.”
Sounds familiar. Anyone trying to ring the department already knows what lousy communicators the ministry is- that is, if you can get through to them..

And it looks like there is worse to come. The report said:

“The NAO [National Audit Office] reported that the Department cannot rule out that there may be further groups of pensioners, as yet unidentified, that have been affected by a historic underpayment.
It concluded that this was in large part because the Department had not set out plans to revise its control processes for State Pension cases to ensure that underpayments are detected and recorded at the point of payment.”

Yet again through delays and failure to get a grip pensioners are being cheated of their rightful dues and many may die before they receive them. Is there no part of the DWP that can function correctly?

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Massive win for nuclear whistleblower Alison McDermott against Sellafield for re-arguing the tribunal decision by employment judge Lancaster

The Sellafield site

First hurdle over clearing the way for a two day hearing in January to decide on whether the 13 grounds mean the ruling is overturned

An employment appeal judge has ruled that the decision by Judge Philip Lancaster dismissing whistleblower Alison McDermott’s case against Sellafield and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority can be challenged now on no fewer than 13 grounds.

This extraordinary ruling on Friday in London by Employment Judge Tucker took less than 10 minutes to grant after she read the submission by Andrew Allen, KC, Alison’s counsel , means practically everything Judge Lancaster decided is open to challenge at an Employment Appeal Tribunal hearing in January. She decided she did not need to hear oral submission from Andrew Allen.

Alison McDermott; Pic credit BBC

In an earlier particularly harsh decision Judge Lancaster had decided that she wasn’t even a whistleblower, for producing, at Sellafield’s request, a damning report revealing serious issues in the HR function including allegations of bullying and harassment. Prior to this Alison had raised repeated concerns about racism, homophobic and foul language and a workforce too frightened to complain to senior management there.

Despite admitting that some of the concerns Alison raised were: ‘very offensive and concerning ” the judge ruled: “The Claimant has not, on the facts, established any alleged disclosure which is properly capable of amounting to a protected qualifying disclosure or the doing of a protected act, or that there is any causal link between what she actually said or wrote.”

It is worth providing a brief recap of what Sellafield and the NDA have done to Alison.  She spoke out repeatedly about serious abuses of employees, including abject failures within the HR department, when the HR Director, Heather Roberts dismissed her overnight, allegedly for financial reasons. But when Alison started litigation, Sellafield changed its tune and Ms Roberts said she had had concerns about her performance and had only mentioned financial reasons to be kind. 

Sellafield then dragged out litigation for three years before making a last-minute offer of £160,000. When they realised the carrot hadn’t worked, they decided to go on the attack and subjected her to a brutalising cross-examination in which her character and competence were repeatedly vilified until she finally broke down on the witness stand.   But even then, they weren’t finished with her.  As soon as Judge Lancaster ruled in their favour, they lost no time pursuing her for costs   And all of this will have a hugely chilling effect on their 11,000 nuclear workforce.  

Judge Lancaster claims he concentrates on anti-discrimination cases

Judge Lancaster, who says he specialises in anti-discrimination cases, went on to support Sellafield’s allegation of “underperformance” describing the report as ” questionable and insubstantial ” and without ” meaningful analysis”. Judge Lancaster completely ignored that management consultants PwC ruled that the HR function was not fit for purpose some three months later.

By then Heather Roberts, then the HR director at Sellafield, had already sacked her on the spot and immediately buried the damning report and admitted to lying about the reasons.  Despite knowing that Alison had become so ill and had no income, the judge made a costs order against her and allowed Sellafield and the NDA to put in a claim for £40,000 costs against her.

Now Judge Lancaster’s own judgement will be in the firing line in January when an appeal tribunal examines 13 arguable grounds of appeal. In a skeleton argument, citing a previous judgement, Andrew Allen, KC, finds a plethora of errors in law which led to Judge Lancaster’s bizarre judgement that she was not a whistleblower. One paragraph that encompasses this – citing no fewer that eight grounds that the case could be challenged gives a flavour of this.

“It is an error of law for a tribunal to fail to give adequate reasons for its decisions so as to enable the losing party to understand why she has lost. The EAT has already decided that it is arguable that this tribunal have erred in law: in applying s27 EqA – in failing to recognise protected acts; in applying s109(2) EqA in identifying the correct relationship in dealing with agency; in failing to engage with the Claimant’s submissions in particular on adverse inferences, protected acts and agency; in failing to take a step back and look at the totality of the evidence; in failing to be Meek compliant; in failing to ensure compliance with the overriding objective to ensure that the parties are on an equal footing; in failing to ensure that the hearing was heard in public in failing to recognise that the Claimant has advanced argument on the facts and the law in relation to the agency point; and in failing to comply with the overriding objective in dealing with the case fairly and justly.”

Andrew Allen KC

Andrew Allen, KC also argued that the tribunal had failed to follow the principles of the law in pursuing costs again Alison which says should only be made in exceptional circumstances especially in the case of whistleblowing cases.

This case and Sellafield’s response is attracting wider attention. It is not just the UK press. On Friday, representatives of a prominent Norwegian environmental campaign group, Neptune Networks flew in from Oslo to attend the hearing.  

Norwegian national press to follow the case

Neptune Networks has been raising serious concerns about Sellafield for the last two decades and confirmed that they will be attending the main hearing on 17 and 18 January 2020 and they will be accompanied by members of the national Norwegian press.

Finally a little note about Judge Lancaster. He is also the chair of directors of a Christian charity, Spacious Spaces, based in Leeds, which offers treatment programmes for alcoholics and drug takers. Here he is known simply as ” Phil”. This is the note about him on their site.

“Phil Lancaster practised as a barrister, specialising in criminal cases. He is now an Employment Judge dealing primarily with the anti-discrimination laws. He is a member of St George’s Church, where he has been a church warden and served on the parochial church council. He is married with fairly recently grown-up children and a large collection of Bob Dylan cds.”

I find it a little perplexing given his Christian background and commitment to treating drug addicts and alcoholics that he is not concerned about what Alison McDermott exposed about the pressures on staff inside Sellafield who are working in the most hazardous nuclear site in Europe.  I also find it deeply disturbing that he made snide and pejorative comments about Alison both during the ET hearing and in the merits and cost judgment. 

An example of this is the nasty insinuations he made about Alison when he accused her in the costs judgment of bringing a claim ‘to advance her career across the nuclear sector’ even though she had turned down a £160,000 to bring her claim to court.   He also seems oblivious of the huge strain and damage whistleblowers face to their careers when they blow the whistle.   If his judgement is found to be so badly wrong by the Employment Appeal Tribunal, there must be some serious questions about justice in the employment tribunal system.

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