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When Bexley’s Legal Officer, Lynn Tyler, first wrote to Mick Barnbrook to say that councillor
Cheryl Bacon was fully entitled to exclude him and five other members of the public from the
Public Realm meeting held on 19th June
she said she had obtained statements from Cheryl herself plus one councillor from each of
the two parties and a council officer.
The gist of Tyler’s letter was that Nicholas Dowling and four old men were running riot and shouting constantly and loudly and therefore the exclusion was lawful. When the witness statements showed up later under Freedom of Information legislation it was found that the only statement that referred to anything like that was Cheryl Bacon’s. I have concluded she made it all up to save her skin. Why Lynn Tyler chose to disregard the other witnesses is anyone’s guess; maybe she was told what to do, maybe she is another natural liar. My money is on the former.
One of the odd things about Tyler’s letter is that she spoke of four witness statements but the Conservative councillor’s witness statement was missing from the subsequent FOI pack. Maybe it told the truth and had to be disregarded.
So I am left at present with only one more witness statement to look at. Not that it is a proper witness statement, it is neither signed, dated or even written by the witness. It purports to be that of the Civic Centre doorman. I am not convinced he had anything to do with it, so I am not going to mention his name, at least not in a form that would be discovered by search engines.
The statement is wrong in several respects but it comes from a man who cheerily bids me Good Evening when I go to council meetings. To see something so blatantly inaccurate supposedly coming from him is not an easy thing to accept. I was not sure how it could be handled here but Mick Barnbrook came up with a plan. Being rather less adventurous than him, I had misgivings but agreed it had to be done. Mick asked the doorman, all casual like, if he had been interviewed by anyone about the events of 19th June. He said “No”.
Mick then produced a copy of the alleged statement which the doorman had not seen before and he began to read it. After a a very short time he returned the copy to Michael indicating he did not want to read any more. He was no longer his cheery self.
The doorman was then asked if it was correct that he asked the police to eject a group of people. “Not a group of people, just one”, he replied. Like every other independent witness, he failed to support Cheryl Bacon’s ‘group’ assertions. The encounter, which I witnessed, did nothing to persuade me that the statement provided under FOI was anything other than a complete fabrication by Bexley council.
If you have been following this sorry saga very carefully you might have noticed that Legal Team Manager Tyler made no mention of the doorman’s statement in her letter of 23rd August. This will be because Mick Barnbrook did not mention the doorman in his first complaint on 23rd June. Lynn Tyler’s reply came on 23rd August and Mick asked for a review five days later. Only then did he mention that no council staff accompanied the police to the Council Chamber. They were absent immediately before the police’s arrival, while the police were speaking to those excluded from the reconvened meeting and while those people left the building.
In all probability Tyler was unaware of that but instantly knew the hole had to be plugged. A false statement attributed to a defenceless doorman was the only way out.
It is remarkable that the doorman’s ‘statement’, of which it would now appear he was unaware, so very neatly plugged the gaping hole. How very convenient! None of the statements are dated and signed which one might think is the minimum expected from a competent Legal Officer.
The statement which the doorman had apparently not seen before was headed with his name and is uncontroversial until it gets to this bit…
If there was another doorman on duty that night then no one saw her but the important thing to note here is that on an evening during which the councillors and officials were running around like headless chickens, phoning senior officers at home for advice and eventually deciding that a Closed Session meeting was the solution, we are asked to believe that someone was sufficiently cool headed to tell the second doorman to look out for one lonely Labour party member. It just doesn’t ring true does it, total panic all around but the one thing that might save them from criticism was fully catered for? It has to be manufactured rubbish especially when you consider that Danny Hackett was there for all to see and no one approached him at all - and then there is the doorman’s reaction when asked if he knew what had been said in his name. Nothing quite makes sense.
The next bit is likely nonsense too.
The best that can be said about this is that two events separated by 30 minutes have been run into one. The doorman did come into the chamber at about ten to eight and asked Nicholas Dowling to stop recording. Perhaps it would have been better to ask Nicholas if he was recording given his recorder was a dud. I do not recall the doorman actually asking him to leave, surely the natural question would be to ask him to stop recording? But maybe he did. What he didn’t do is accompany the police officers into the chamber around eight twenty five. No one remembers seeing him, he was after all said to be some distance away, outside Room 105, at the time making sure no riotous old men tried to enter it.
The policemen arrived unaccompanied. If the doorman did request members of the public to leave and they refused the police would not have been able to report, as they have, that no offences were committed. None of us present were likely to risk a Breach of the Peace charge; why does Bexley council suggest we did? Because it is the only way they can get Cheryl off the hook, that is why.
Hang on a mo! What is all this? The doorman has just said everyone left the Civic Offices and now we are supposed to believe he was at the back of the building outside Room 105 in case someone came in off the street an hour late. Now that would be a first. And once again we have that emphasis on a doorman being fully aware that Danny Hackett was to be allowed in. Does anyone really believe that a would-be Labour councillor willingly chose not to go to a council meeting and instead joined a group of allegedly disruptive old age pensioners? Of course not, the whole set of excuses is a farce invented by a dishonest council officer and an even more dishonest councillor.
When Mick Barnbrook put some of the above inconsistencies to the doorman he was a little lost for words and said only one thing. “If that is what it says, that’s what must have happened.” The man has been put in a very awkward position by his employer and should have every reader’s sympathy. I suspect his Good Evenings to me might be less cheery in future.
Answers to my complaints against both Bacon and Tyler are still outstanding, they will be difficult to answer, especially as I have not yet revealed all the available cards. Mick Barnbrook is expecting the review of his complaint to produce another white wash. If that happens he is determined to take the case to the police. Misconduct in Public Office for Bacon and Perverting the Course of Justice for Tyler.
Index to relevant documents and blogs.