AN OPEN LETTER TO RBKC LEGAL SERVICES

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Dear Ms Sarna,

The Grenfell Action Group blog is by necessity polemical and sometimes lampoons public officials we believe to be remiss or negligent in the discharge their duty of care to the residents of this community. We make no apology for this, but it is not our intention to harass or cause unwarranted upset, alarm, or distress to any individual(s). We are engaged in the serious business of campaigning on behalf of the Lancaster West community for much needed and long overdue improvements to the living environment we all share. We consider the KALC development to be a serious threat to the quality of life of much of our community, both during its demolition and construction phase, and in the future when the site will have been grossly overdeveloped much to the detriment of local residents.

Your letter of 25th July strongly objects to some recent content on our blog but fails to specify precisely which content is considered objectionable. You suggest that we may have defamed a number of individuals, but you have not named these individuals, and have not specified which posts you believe to be defamatory or objectionable, nor which specific portions of these posts you consider to be defamatory or objectionable. Nonetheless you appear to demand that we remove this unspecified material by issuing an ultimatum with a deadline of 29th July for its removal, although your letter is so unclear in its’ detail that you appear at times to be demanding that the entire blog be removed.  In either case I find your demands both threatening and unreasonable.

I do not accept that I have defamed anyone. I would therefore be obliged if you would now clarify this lack of detail and precision by specifying which named individual(s) you are referring to who have allegedly been defamed, which specific portions of our blog you believe to be defamatory, and in what respect you believe this specific content to be defamatory.

Your letter refers to “accusations about unfounded criminal actions” in recent posts on our blog. Please note that any recent allegations that we published against named individuals were by no means “unfounded”.  In our opinion the prima facie evidence makes it very hard to accept that nothing untoward occurred, particularly from the perspective of local residents and members of the Lancaster West Management Association, and I would be glad to provide you with copies of the supporting evidence in my possession if you will identify the person(s) allegedly defamed, the sections of the blog which you believe are inaccurate or untrue, and explain in what respect you consider my allegations to be defamatory and/or inaccurate.

I have addressed my concerns to RBKC in the past through the complaints procedure and via the Internal Audit team and the Standards Committee, but have never received a satisfactory response or resolution. I would welcome, therefore, a full and frank disclosure from RBKC concerning these matters. If I am proven to be wrong, then I will of course take steps to ensure any inaccuracies in the blog are immediately corrected, and will issue an apology; but if allegations are not properly answered and fully and independently investigated, then how can I be expected to accept that there has been no cover-up, and why should I not continue to voice my concerns, present my evidence, and demand that RBKC instigate, and cooperate fully with, a criminal investigation of these matters?

From the tone of your letter it would appear also that some Councillors and/or Council Officers, on whose instructions you appear to be acting, consider our dissenting voice, and our exercise of our right to free speech, to be vexatious and offensive. Consequently you ask us to;

“…immediately confirm that you have removed the offending blog and that you will refrain from making …personal comments about an individual’s performance or actions whilst working on or for the Estate Management Board.”

Please note that this is not a dictatorship. We therefore assert and defend our right to free speech and dissent. We reject the implicit characterisation of our blog as vexatious and/or offensive and defend our right to comment on and/or criticise the performance (and not the person as you allege) of any public servant, regardless of whether they are in the service of RBKC, TMO or EMB.

I would also be obliged if you would explain why RBKC Legal Services consider it appropriate to represent the interests of these accused individuals, who are not, as far as I am aware, Council employees, at the expense of RBKC resident taxpayers. It might be argued that you are thereby misusing your power and position in an apparent attempt to intimidate me, to crush dissent, and to discourage whistle blowing by a small local action group such as we are.  I would therefore ask you to let me know precisely which council officers and/or members have instructed you to pursue this matter. If the costs of your time are being recharged then I would also like to know precisely how much this has cost and who will be paying,

That said, I certainly do not wish to break the law, nor do I wish to be involved in costly libel action as I believe that RBKC have better things to spend their money on, and I have better things to do with my time. I therefore look forward to receiving from you a detailed explanation of precisely which part(s) of the blog you wish to see amended and evidence that any specific or implicit allegations that have been made are inaccurate and/or defamatory.

Given the time constraints you have placed on this matter; I look forward to hearing from you as a matter of great urgency.

Yours sincerely,

Francis O’Connor
Grenfell Action Group

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