Cumbria County Council

Chief Executive Mr Peter Stybelski
Deputy Chief Executive Mr RF Mather 
Head of Legal Services Mr Brian Walker
Assistant Head of Legal Services Mr Richard H Claydon
Senior Solicitor
(Environment and Property)
Mr Barry Devlin


The Legal Services Unit
Blatant abuse of the Freedom of Information Act to conceal a lie
The Legal Services Unit of Cumbria County Council has been abusing the Freedom of Information Act to hide a lie, this was probably started by Mr Richard Claydon [Assistant Head of Legal Services] and perpetuated by other solicitors within the Legal Services Unit.

For seven months the Legal Services Unit has been abusing the Freedom of Information Act by claiming exemption to disclose two reports under Section 42 of the Act, they were claiming 'legal professional privilege' - "there is a clear public interest in the maintenance of legal professional privilege where it applies".

However I knew that Cumbria County Council had not made any reports. Instead of admitting they hadn't made the reports they pretended they had, and hid behind section 42 of  the Freedom of Information Act [FoIA] to conceal the fact that they hadn't. 

For month after month Cumbria County Council stuck to this line, even after my repeated requests that they be honest, stop lying, and just admit that they had not made the reports. Cumbria County Council would not come clean, they kept on lying, and abusing the Freedom of Information Act.

After re-reading the Freedom of Information Act I spotted a way that would require that Cumbria County Council to hang a member of staff out to dry if they wanted to continue lying.

If Cumbria County Council had made the reports (which they hadn't) they might have got away with arguing section 42 FoIA. However, section 42 FoIA would not prevent them from disclosing the name and position of the person that made the report (if a report had been made), so that is what I requested; the name and position of the person that made the report and the date they made it.

Cumbria County Council Legal Services Unit have now come over all apologetic, they are terribly sorry for wasting my time but they have not made any reports, they are claiming there has been some misunderstanding. There was no misunderstanding, Cumbria County Council were abusing the Freedom of Information Act and deliberately lying to the public. 

So what can be said of Cumbria County Council Legal Services Unit, as far as I can ascertain it is full of bare faced liars headed up by Mr Brian Walker and Mr Richard Claydon.

Blatant Lies by the Head of Legal Services to make you go away
Mr Brian Walker [Head of Legal Services] will try to abuse his position, and his apparent greater knowledge of the law ("many years of dedicated, loyal service") than the man in the street to make you give up before you have even started. A ruse he has employed is by simply rejecting a section 130A Highways Act notice because he and the Highways Authority are of the opinion that:

"natural vegetation or other nature features obstructing rights of way ... are not matters that can be dealt with under s.130".

Unfortunately Mr Walker [Head of Legal Services] either doesn't know the law and is just bull-shitting, or he is deliberately lying to the public; either way he his attitude is very unhelpful in protecting our Public Rights of Way network.

DEFRA Guidance (it is backed up by a significant amount of case law) clearly states :

11. These provisions apply to an obstruction which is without lawful authority and which is :
- any structure, including a machine, pump, post or other object of such a nature as to be capable of causing an obstruction whether or not it is on wheels;
- anything deposited on a right of way which constitutes a nuisance;
- a hedge, tree or shrub or vegetation of any other description that overhangs a right of way so as to endanger or obstruct the passage of vehicles, pedestrians or horseriders.

Do not be put off by the Highway Authority's obdurate attitude and blatant lies as the documents prove most useful as evidence to present before the Court.