Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A new low

The latest in democracy-suppression from the UK: a local council is suing three of its own members for harassment for lodging Freedom of Information Act requests:

A Conservative-controlled council is to seek an injunction against three of its councillors for alleged harassment.

Rutland County Council has voted to set aside £90,000 for legal action against independents Nick Wainwright, Richard Gale and David Richardson.

The three members of the Rutland Anti-Corruption group (RACP) are accused of harassing senior officers in a series of requests for information.

Mr Richardson denied the charges and said he did not fear legal action.

This is a new low for Britain's democracy. The right to seek information under the FOIA is a statutory one, and an important means of holding officials to account. But their harassment law is so broad that it is almost certainly covered: "harassment" is doing something which annoys someone more than once - regardless of context. The law has been used against protesters, and now it looks likely to be used to silence a democratic opposition.

What next? Injuncting journalists from making FOIA requests which "annoy" officials? Or maybe the government could injunct the opposition for its repeated annoying questions in Parliament? Its on that level - and just as dubious.

(Lets just hope the Taranaki District Council doesn't notice this, or we could start seeing similar tactics here...)