Thursday, 24 February 2011

An Employment Tribunal (or a second attempt)

But M'lud... I have it on good authority that Dr Duke 
despite his whiskers, is a contemporaneous shite!!
'The law is the law and we can't change it!'(1)

I received yet another interesting bundle of documents yesterday from the irrepressible Mr Matthew Stephenson who's located in Information Governance at the University of Salford. That I received them well beyond the provisions laid out in the Data Protection Act - they should have been with me in the third week of January - and several days before the the Employment Tribunal has been noted and will be raised with the Information Commissioner as part of my current complaint against the University. That Vice Chancellor Hall has yesterday written to me and reiterated the same excuse for the delay - that it was due to 'the number of documents, and recent staff moves, and was therefore unavoidable' - is a bit like J-walking across a busy road slowly and complaining to the ambulance driver that your hideous and expansive injuries were due not to your laggardly behaviour, but to the number of feet you had and the fact that you'd recently rearranged your shoes. Let us be clear. Putting aside for one moment that a good deal of the documents provided were copies, this is a clear breach of the Data Protection Act and no form of window dressing will alter this.

A huge imbalance of resources

Considering the vast imbalance in resources (I am a litigant in person currently unemployed and have no financial resources to draw upon in contrast to the University, and allied to this I have been barred from accessing my union branch offices and resources by the University as they are located on University grounds), in the interest of fairness and natural justice, one might have assumed that the University would have made every effort to provide such information that I am legally entitled to, by the specified deadlines. The University of Salford are after all a major local employer with not insignificant resources. They are also aware that I have made past official complaints to the ICO with regard to similar issues in the run-up to last year's aborted Tribunal. Thus, I find Hall's talk of 'delay' less than convincing. Moreover, Stephenson and eventually the University lawyers received reminders from my good self promising all manner of potential calumnies including a threat to ask the Tribunal for an adjournment. The following morning, and amidst a cloud of discord and barely repressed grumblings from an overburdened postwoman, four bundles of documents duly arrived.

What then did Registrar Graves mean in his statement?

It does rather beg the question as to what Dr Graves means in his recent witness statement to the courts where he specifically stated that "[b]oth Professor Hall and myself do not wrongfully keep from staff or the wider public information to which they are entitled. Indeed, it is firmly one of our aims to improve communication throughout the University."(2) Ultimately both Graves and Hall are responsible for adherence to the Data Protection Act 1998. Professor Hall is after all the Chief Executive Officer. But have not the University kept from me information I was entitled to receive within specific time limits set out by the legislation? Given the esteemed Dr Graves' sworn statement and past interest in all matters Freedom of Information related (with regard to myself), it is unlikely that he is unaware of my most recent Subject Access Request. Yet it was a nice personal touch receiving the letter from the Vice Chancellor in which he gave his personal assurance that '[t]he University has provided you with all the information to which you are entitled under the Data Protection Act 1998...'. Thank you Professor Hall.

Ye won't tell anyone will ye?

Sir! As animals go cats are rum 'uns

Is it a delaying tactic as some have suggested? If so it's rather unavailing as I'm quite adept at reading through swathes of documents and emails and recognising exactly what's pertinent and what will be going into the bundle for next week. There are indeed some juicy titbits. However, I must hazard personal caution as I'm sure that certain members of the Felidae family whom themselves are no strangers to the sack, will attest vigorously that it would be wholly imprudent to raise the content of some of these emails and documents prior to the ET.

Short of being served with a libel claim prior to these proceedings by the UoS, which as a tactic is of course expected, all in all, this Employment Tribunal promises to be an interesting, and metaphorically speaking, a fireworky affair. As such, you are all welcome to attend!

Employment Tribunal
The Extraordinary case of one
Dr Gary Paul Duke 
(represented by the indomitable Mr Eric Longley)

University of Salford
10am prompt!
1st and 2nd March 2011
Alexandra House, the Parsonage

(1) The police versus Sir Topham Hatt, Courtesy of Thomas the Tank Engine
(2) Witness statement signed by Dr Graves and provided to the Court in the case of University of Salford v Dr Gary Duke, dated 3rd December 2010.

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