Naughty dogs? Why I am rubbing their noses in it! Serious warnings are often ignored. Is Grenfell Tower another example?

Grenfell Tower Inferno – were warnings around UK about serious fire hazard ignored? – cladding that could take fire, and a lesson from the Woolworth Fire and Killer Foam in 1979*, missing fire doors and gas pipes not lagged in Camden. Is the Public Sector a Blame-free Zone? Complaints going nowhere slowly and mistakes repeated.

Has the warning system been disabled so that the warning light always shows green, never amber or red?

In recent years I have been dealing with a number of “Naughty Dogs” – Newcastle City Council, the Local Government Ombudsman, the Legal Ombudsman and Bindmans LPP, London solicitors I turned to in order to flag up a serious warning about promoting cycling in narrow, already congested urban streets breathing in toxic carcinogenic diesel fumes, a massive contingent liability for the NHS in coming years.

My warnings have been got nowhere.

That has led to this.

This week I am reporting the conduct of Bindmans LLP, aided and abetted by BLM, to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority for:

1.    Breach of SRA Code of Conduct by advancing arguments not properly arguable and “bound to fail“, namely that they had a defense to my charge of negligence and breach of contract in the Small Claims Court,SCC.

2.    In the case of Bindmans LLP, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in doing their utmost to discourage me taking a legitimate complaint against the Local Government Ombudsman to judicial review when refusing to draft the pre-action protocol letter that was their contractual remit.

3.    In the case of Bindmans LLP compounding this by repeatedly failing to answer my thirty-three criticisms of their Advice although asked to do so by the Legal Ombudsman, the lawyers involved preferring to be a judge in sui causa. <Relying on just two criticisms of their Advice in the SCC to keep it simple.>

4.    Retaining the services of another firm of solicitors, BLM, and thereby making them a party to it, to deliver a letter to me emphasising the cost of litigation by way of intimidation.

5.    And, generally, falling well short of the professional standards of the legal profession.

 I shall report its decision to the appropriate Parliamentary Select Committees and to the Minister of Justice

 I was alleging that the Local Government Ombudsman was biased in favour of Newcastle City Council and against the public whose interests they are supposed to safeguard by their very name, letting errors go unchallenged.

 As evidence I had given Bindmans in the Executive Summary of a 100+ page dossier a list of 9 errors and omissions in the Decision of Ms Kim Burns, an Assistant Local Government Ombudsman, and I had paid them to write a pre-action protocol letter initiating judicial review proceedings. They refused to write the letter.  They said that the case was “unarguable” and “bound to fail”.  Because of that, the SRA Code of Conduct did not allow it. And, as “experienced” lawyers, they recorded that as a barrister I too was bound my same professional protocol.

I am saying here that they are hoist with their own petard.

At all material times of my complaint Newcastle City Council, spending funds from the Exchequer ring fenced for the purposes, planned to introduce cycle lanes and red lines on Gosforth High Street the North South arterial road cutting through the residential area of Gosforth.

·      This plan would have endangered the health and safety of cyclists in rush hour traffic inhaling toxic diesel fumes from many buses, cars, vans and lorries.

·      Narrowed an already narrow, very busy road.

·      Added to the congestion.

·      And threatened the livelihood and well being of local people.

 Its implementation was blemished by serious breaches of Newcastle’s own protocol not least in relation to consultation and adopting totally without checking Sustrans’ vision that one motorist in five should give up the car for all local journeys under five miles and their figures supporting that. Newcastle had commissioned Sustrans, the national cycling charity and cycling lobby based in Bristol to design those plans.

 I was not alone in protesting, and our stance has since been vindicated. The City Council would now appear to have dropped the misguided plan silently in Gosforth High Street while still pursuing it elsewhere. And, as I have said elsewhere, they leave behind the folly of the cycle lane for non-existent cyclists they have created at a cost of £18m in John Dobson Street in the heart of Newcastle. And incidentally, nationally, the same misguided policy continues with a detailed £1bn+ waste, much of it to promote urban cycling and walking through to 2040 when UK’s roads are too twisty and narrow, and popular sentiment hostile. Immediately dangerous and unhealthy too.

 This surely means that Bindmans were wrong to say that an action would be bound to fail and had no good reason to say so, the substance of my allegation; generally solicitors show no such scruple in rejecting work. It was, in fact, winnable and certainly arguable. And their arguments were bogus.

Why did Bindmans LLP, well known Human Rights Lawyers try to prevent me asserting my human right to pursue judicial review, actually conspiring to pervert the course of justice? Why? You tell me. Maybe on the Left the Public Sector can do no wrong. Don’t suggest it did. Maybe you just shouldn’t stand in front of a steamroller owned by the State!

 I see this as a deliberate attempt to keep this matter from the public domain – out of sight and out of mind.

For the record, this is the second time I have witnessed conduct of this kind.

 Currently it is a cock-up over cycling where the cycling lobby Sustrans has hijacked UK’s transport system. Then it was a small group of political vandals who high-jacked UK’s education with an ill thought through disastrous egalitarian policy of one-size-fits all Inclusion for children with special educational needs, closing over 100 special schools in the UK in the process, some of them very good ones.

 Ironically both sets of highjackers have the same DNA. They believe that what’s right for them and meets their needs, must be right for everyone else, but everyone else has different needs and conflicting rights. A bit arrogant? A trifle ego-orientated? Or, just tunnel vision with moonlight at the end of it? They never saw it that way. They never factored into their plans human fallibility, including their own, notably the VW Emission scandal, reckless cycling and endemic bullying in mainstream schools with an un-costed need for over 200,000 NTAs there to help teachers cope. Naiveté. Naiveté. Naiveté. They believed in their own infallibility.

So, thus it was that a number of years ago, as chair of governors of Barbara Priestman School, a special school in Sunderland, I helped the parents in their campaign to keep their school open when the policy of the Council at the behest of central government was to close it. Again my stance was vindicated as BPS is there to this day. At least one very good school was saved from the vandals.

In a petulant response to the parents’ campaign in order to destabilise the school, the Local Authority concocted an elaborate sting against the Governors alleging that they had run up a debt of £225,000, and they demanded with menaces illegally £60,000 from parents, £20,000 of which was paid. I took this to the Audit Commission, right through to an aural hearing. Toujour la politesse, and nothing more. And the Commissioners left others to dismiss my complaint; their hands pristine clean, their pockets lined.

My letter to the Governors at the time, copied to the Local Authority, evidences all this. It is also recorded in a Power-point display in my archives. There is no merit however in rattling these skeletons in my cupboard now.

But please note that the Audit Commission adopted precisely the same methodology as that of the Local Government and Legal Ombudsman that I have described – a long, slow road to nowhere for a legitimate complaint.

 Just keep it out of sight and out of mind …and, the media didn’t mind. They also saw lunar light at the end of the tunnel.

 This cover-up of an obscenity was the provocation to my writing the play Death of a Nightingale, my book and my blog.

Having studied Jurisprudence at Oxford, and once a barrister always a barrister, I know how critical checks and balances are to the health of our democracy. I also know that public accountability within the public sector is a key part of that.

 I have very good reason to be grateful to this country and to wish to give something back – here, for the intellectually curious, a detailed, twenty-five-part case study of the Cycling Scandal. It evidences their absence. I flag up for the rising generation the behaviour of my generation that I describe more than once as “a lousy stinking hypocritical charade.” The warning lights flash continually green, when they should flash amber and red, And irresponsibility flourishes.

 There is a toxin here that is anti-democratic, anti-human right. Ends justify means. The “Big lie often” that Ombudsmen are “Ombudsmen”. Dr. Goebbels would be proud of it. Lenin likewise. As the old saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Democracy.


 At the age of 84 it is now time for me to enjoy the fruits of my labours without further distraction.

Before I finally close, I should say where this journey started – as a member of the Rotary Club of Sunderland. I met there the late Fredwyn Haynes, the inspiring head teacher of Barbara Priestman School, a school where excellence had nothing to do with money. It was in the mind and it came from the hearts of everyone.

I met there Ros Mearns, an outstanding music teacher, Pod a great English teacher, carers, parents and some great kids, notably Ashleigh Ritchie who fronted the parents’ campaign, lobbying David Blunkett at the time.  My play Death of a Nightingale encapsulated all this; and the sweet and sour flavour of the times we live through.

 This has enormously enriched my retirement. It gave me the opportunity to heed Rotary members’ commitment to “Service before Self”. My life would have been immeasurably poorer without it.

* Cladding a fire hazard? In 1979 following the deaths of 10 people in the Woolworths fire, Sally Oppenheim introduced the Consumer Safety Act banning “Killer Foam”. But the new foam did NOT solve the problem. The foam manufacturer put a blow torch to the new foam and it did not burn, but turning a blow torch on a mound of wax would not cause it to burn either. The wax in a candle needs the wick to get the flame. The problem was solved when the upholstered material was fire retardant as well.

The cladding and the insulation have to be tested together.

Remember also that a fire needs Oxygen. The more the Oxygen the greater the heat and, in very great heat, everything burns.

Shouldn’t the experts have learnt the lesson?


28 June , 2017


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