The persecution of Patrick

Ducking heavy showers, I dashed to Soughton Hall, built in 1714 and started life as a Bishops palace. The Heesom panel was back in action & I am compulsively drawn to the spectacle as I’ve seen nothing like it in my years of legal encounters. The brochure boasts a family line which acquired this noble house as included two knights, three high sheriffs, a Chaplain to Queen Victoria, a Lord Chief Justice to mention just a few of this star studded resident list of years gone by.

The Ombudsman for Wales Adjudication Panel members have returned to the wooden gilt ceiling, oak panelled room and the inquisition into Cllr Patrick Heesom’s behaviour seems destined to run for ever. Had the Panel members taken up lodgings as well, the trio would had to slum it in a choice of the 15 bedrooms with ‘sumptuous en suite bathrooms that match the bedrooms in their decadence, featuring everything from claw-foot three standing slipper baths perfect for sharing to state of the art power jets’.’The hotel nestled in truly breath taking settings with 150 acres of uninterrupted views of the Welsh countryside’. That should give enough scope to satisfy the jogging needs of panel members. In truth, I can reveal that only one of the team settled for the £79.50 a night room with choice of continental breakfast at £9 quid or the the full Welsh for a knock down £18.49. The other panellists are billeted in the Ewloe 4 star haunt, where the taxpayer will shell out £95 a night rooms albeit reduced from the usual £145.

The legal proceedings are much of the same. Same old questions asked of Cllr Heesom, more evidence accepted by the Panel even though to me so much is hearsay and lacks corroboration. The former the Interim Head of Housing’s evidence is damaging. She felt affronted that this upstart Cllr had challenged her performance. Hell hath no fury and Heesom is attempting to defend himself from accusations of intimation, threatening her and being critical of housing policy. I’ve expressed concern that the standard of proof is too low. Testimony accepted as gospel, no corroboration, just one word against another. Amazing logic is tossed out by the Ombudsman’s barrister, “If you don’t recall the conversation, how can you can you say it did not happen?” Wow, hows that for you’re damned if you do & damned if you don’t!

Letter to Times of 1st October was extremely timely. It made my point perfectly. Proof required for criminal proceedings must be “beyond reasonable doubt” whereas domestic tribunals require only the lower “ balance of probabilities”. The writer argued, “A domestic tribunal nearly always has a criminal flavour in that they usually concern an alleged transgression”. “The higher standard should be applied, particularly since the range and severity of punishment open to a domestic tribunal often far exceeds the maximum for essentially the same offence in a criminal court.” Another letter to the Times made further interesting points. “The legal profession tribunal requires proof to a criminal standard”. But, those guilty in a domestic tribunal, the same that Cllr Heesom has been under the cosh since March 2009, still rely upon the lower “balance of probabilities” on which he is to be judged. Good example of double standards? Why?

Letter continues. “If found guilty of professional misconduct , the consequences can be devastating” “Loss of livelihood, reputation ruined with breakdown and family breakdown waiting in the wings thereafter are commonplace”. “The widespread practice of regulators to require only the lower standard of proof is based on flawed logic.” “ It is high time that all regulators in all professions moved to the criminal standard of proof” So speaks Greg Treverton-Jones QC.

The pernicious atmosphere surrounding this tribunal and the nasty attitude of most of its cast became apparent towards the end of a heavy day for Patrick who faced the usual three against one in this uneven contest. Of course, I was stupid to have spoken but it’s difficult to keep stum when you know the officer who judged Cllr Heesom to be threatening and intimidating and rude about council housing policy. This officer appeared at the Housing committee monthly as it was her job to update members of how slowly but surely she was turning the dire performance in the Authority’s housing spanning a decade slowly around. ‘Spanish Practices’ were being eliminated, “vehicle tracking was doing well” etc, on course to get the department in order. I did not particularly like her not because I felt her dress code of short skirts stretched over fulsome belly and bosomy blouses were not good taste, but she was a cold fish and loathed being challenged. Her failure to apply for the Head of Housing job despite being on a temporary hired hand contract surprised me. I assumed the dosh was better as a temp rather than if she came fully on the pay roll No there was another explanation. .Read on!

At some stage, Cllr Heesom more charitably described her dress code as colourful but he was in no doubt that she was a dangerous woman. “If you didn’t agree with her, she’d pull you under the water”. Only when the current Head of Housing won the job in November 2009 then we slowly learnt that several of the Interim’s promises of progress had been so much waffle. As with her boss, the infamous departed Director, both serenely churned out the hype that all was well in the State of Housing.

I saw the twin bombs of truth and fact bouncing behind the Director and Interim Head; just waiting to explode and to reveal them as seeming charlatans. These truth bombs are bouncing merrily behind many players in this dreadful saga to be honest.

Listening to the barrister singing the praises of the fancy dressed one, in frustration, I muttered an involuntary word under my breath. For my ears only. Bang. On queue the precise, steely pitched voice of the Ombudsman’s barister rang out immediately. “Cllr Halford is making comments from the back and I feel she is leading the witness.” For a moment I was stunned by the seriousness of the allegation. To me, this was a mean & malicious comment. I angrily denied this wrong allegation. The Judge thought the recording might be useful but the moment passed. Mr Hughes had frequently had to repeat the letters and numbers by which to recognise the numerous thick bundles that contain all the evidence, before Patrick heard. P and B & D’s are difficult to distingush though. He would have known that Patrick’s hearing was not always sharp. Furthermore, Patrick was seated well away and shielded by his team and several high backed chairs. No way could my muted comment have reached him.

When the panel withdrew, I challenged the lawyer. “That was a totally unnecessary and malicious slur,” I barked, “ you have sunk even lower in my estimation”. “I heard what you said”, he simpered. I didn’t bother to ask how he could prove his leading the witness allegation! In this unfair and one sided costly circus, I now give the big beasts a wide birth. I have no faith in anyone involved in this wretched Panel system.

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