Real Whitby would like to thank Cornwall Community News for running the following article and submitting it to the national news syndicate.
A scandal-stricken UK local council is in chaos this week after a solicitor in its legal department unjustly threatened to close down an outspoken online newspaper that’s exposed widespread corruption at Town Hall.
Lisa Dixon of Scarborough Council sent bullying, rambling, really slightly weird letters to the private addresses of the editors and staff of online local Real Whitby.
Miss Dixon’s disturbing note – which opened with the gratuitous declaration that “I am a solicitor and Head of Legal Democratic Services’ – caused consternation amongst the team of hard-working volunteer reporters whose homes she sent it to.
In her missive Dixon attempts to convince staff that their stories exposing corruption and sexual perversion at Town Hall ‘constitute criminal activity’, before wittering on about the ‘considerable sum’ the authority could win in a court action.
Puzzled and worried site-admins promptly published the threat – and the subsequent public outcry has, rather than leading to the unspecified ‘court action’ the rogue solicitor threatened, sparked a rebel local council motion ‘deploring’ the lawyers’ attempt to censor the free press.
The motion tabled for the next meeting of Whitby town council “deplores” the attempt to
“Restrict the right of individual electors and residents to freedom of speech”, and
“Restrict the right of individual electors and residents to publish both opinions and comment concerning the business of the council”
Real Whitby has lifted the lid on some of the biggest scandals ever to hit Scarborough’s troubled local authority.
The ballsy virtual newspaper from up North ,which had been a long standing and faithful supporter of CCN, has consistently refused to be silenced on jaw-dropping scandals of child abuse and financial corruption.
The site led the way on an extraordinary story of local councillors with their snouts rammed deep in a local ‘potash pot’.
Cllr Helen Swiers and Jane Mitchell both sit on the North York Moors National Committee.
Cllr Swiers owns “substantial land” to the south of the National Park and stands to gain a small fortune in mineral rights from the controversial York Potash scheme.
Real Whitby exposed how she failed to declare an interest when deciding on the development.
Mrs Mitchell reported ‘no interests’ in York Potash / Sirius Minerals while attending a pre-application presentation.
Thanks to Real Whitby, local people are now aware that the same Mrs Mitchell later ‘fessed up to having £4,000 of Sirius Minerals shares.
A third councillor – Tory Tim Lawn – has resigned. He gave personal reasons, but his leaving the council fast in the wake of the campaigning website’s exposing the fact that he stands to draw a staggering £2.5million from the Potash Mine Pot.
Private Eye picked up on the story after Real Whitby exposed a glaring conflict of interest; Lawn chaired the planning committee deciding on his own future income.
The site’s also been in the vanguard of the Jimmy Savile scandal, much to the consternation of Town Hall.
Reporters – all volunteering their services in the public interest – have explored links between Savile and Cllr Peter Jaconelli, a former Mayor who was always rumoured to have pederast tendencies.
As in the case of Savile, since Jaconelli’s death, a number of local people have given testimony that he abused them.
The paper explored a trail of evidence leading from Rampton Hospital to the former Mayor’s office.
Editor Glenn Kilpatrick said: “The long, disturbing letter that dropped on the doormat of my home from this lawyer made very little sense, but did succeed in intimidating me and alarming my family.
“Thankfully there are those who still value democracy and a free press and we hope that whoever was behind this pathetic bullying tactic will be censured for their actions.”
The online reporter explained: “Real Whitby and its dozens of contributors are not only extremely popular in the town, but we’re not stupid either, and we know what constitutes public interest reporting.
“Lisa Dixon should frankly be ashamed of herself. No matter how much pressure individual councillors or officers may have brought to bear, it’s the job of an authority’s legal department to issue considered advice – not blindly act on orders.
“If the highly paid head of a local council’s legal department, whose big wage comes directly from the public’s pocket, can’t act in that public’s interest – then they shouldn’t be in their post.
“We’re now hoping that the council debate of this reprehensible attack on freedom of speech will result in positive action to defend the local residents and their local paper’s right to speak freely without fear of intimidation and when necessary expose the truth.”
Facebook commentators were unanimous on the council’s thwarted repression of the press.
Jon Risdon called the letter ‘Pathetic intimidation’, Filey Bay joked; ‘Welcome to Soviet Britain’, and Cliff Miller posted; ‘How dare they!…I live in Scarborough and I read the “Real Whitby” site to find out the truth about the actions of this corrupt council!’
Jackson added: ‘They know too well they have things to hide! Your domain isn’t going to close you down – because they know how many followers you have in Whitby & in Yorkshire
You can email Lisa Dixon or Kimberley Hudson in Scarborough Legal Department HERE with your thoughts about their attempt to silence the free press.
Check out Real Whitby HERE. Check out the equally threatened and increasingly popular and professional Plymouth-based UK Column HERE. And please support your local indymedia! Keep checking in with (and sending in to) CCN for all your uncensored Cornish news!
First Published April 2013