Trying it on with the Tribunal

The-Scales-of-Justice-Old-001[1]Breaking news on this happy Friday 13th: a three-person panel of the Information Rights Tribunal ruled that the University of Sussex unlawfully failed to publish various sections of its contract with Chartwells to me.

Partially dismissing the University’s desperate appeal for support, Tribunal Judge Robin Callendar-Smith said:

It is difficult to see, actually looking at the relevant information […] how disclosure of such information would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of either Chartwells or the [University].

And also:

The Tribunal does not accept that it is likely that disclosure would result in detriment to Chartwells.

(Because if it was going to cause the lovely Chartwells company detriment that would have broken my heart.)

Wot no value for money?

Man wearing dark office business suit hands clutching heap of money to his chest. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.

Sussex lawyer Marc Dautlich declined to comment

Perhaps the most astounding revelation from the Tribunal’s reasons is that some of the information that the University was seeking to hush up, “appears to be duplicate to that” elsewhere in parts of the contract that have already been published.

So Sussex spent a yet-to-be-determined sum on legal fees – or should I say a ‘will-be-determined’ and ‘will-be-published’ sum on legal fees – in an attempt to prevent the disclosure of ‘commercially harmful’ information that was already public and already not harming anybody’s commercial interests.

Sadly this isn’t terribly unusual. In January 2014, the University admitted that it had not undertaken any assessment of the value-for-money of its decision to spend £27,115 on lawyers to evict a protest that had already dispersed itself.

Perhaps they’ll learn one day though.

Some juicy bits

Now find below, in the case of University of Sussex v Information Commissioner and Gabriel Webber (EA/2014/0148), the small portion of the documents in this case that I have available electronically, complementing the extensive paper bundles that will be ornamenting my bedroom for some time now:

Grounds of appeal: in focus

freedom-informatio_2431517b[1]Many of Sussex’s ‘grounds of appeal’ were, basically, hopeless. This is only to be expected from an organisation that, earlier this month, advertised a vacancy for a Freedom of Information Officer “able to work confidentially at all times” with – seemingly – no sense  of irony.

But only now, after the Tribunal has ruled, can they be published and dissected.

For example, in paragraph 29.1.1 of their grounds of appeal, Sussex chiefs argued (This is a catering contract so surely you mean ‘Sussex chefs’? -Ed.) that…

should the information be available to other public authorities [… they] would be able to utilise this information to negotiate a better position with the suppliers of catering services.

Oh no! Heaven forbid that publication on my blog might enable taxpayer-funded authorities to save public money!

Vice-Chancellor Michael Farthing also sought to argue that the University’s…

attractiveness to prospective students [depends on them concluding] that the University is being run in a commercially efficient manner, thus maximising fees revenue for the good of the students and the academic services.

Of course, he somehow failed to see the irony of making this argument in a (we now know) futile appeal at considerable expense. But more to the point… he’s absolutely right. He’s spot on. It is vitally important for prospective students to see money being spent wisely.

The only problem is, how is that an argument for withholding information about how University money is spent? How does Farthing expect prospective students to conclude that Sussex is a commercially-efficient institution, (a) at all, frankly, but at any rate (b) if he denies said prospective students access to the relevant information?


Until next time

It’s good-night from me! Have a safe Friday 13th folks!

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The Edgware Marbles

In one of those rare Gabrielquotes single-issue blog posts, we take an in-depth look at a topic of contemporary importance.

There was a bit of a brouhaha on Wednesday: “SHOOTING AT KOSHER RESTAURANT IN LONDON!!!!” as The Twitter put it; and, “Everyone should relax!” as the owner of said restaurant put it.

On close examination, the excitement provides a useful illustration of The Four Stages of The Jewish Communal Response to an Incident:

stage-1Something happens. Then people who don’t know what happened tweet uninformed interpretations of some of the things that ‘could of’ happened, and do their best to cause perturbation and despair.
jc headlineAs the underlying assumption is always that whenever something bad happens to a Jew, it happened because they are a Jew, the CST will rapidly move in on the scene.
cstIdeally, at this stage, comparisons should begin being drawn to other events that are potentially comparable, even though the accuracy of said comparisons will obviously depend on the as-yet unknown details of what’s actually happened. References to Paris, Munich and Auschwitz normally go down well.

stage-2Someone who is competent explains what actually happened.
sugar lowThis stage, Facts, is by far the shortest of the four stages.

stage-3Bereft of anything factual to sustain the adrenaline rush that everyone worked themselves into at Stage 1, the Great Uninformed will express greatly uninformed doubts about the facts confirmed in Stage 2.
FireShot Screen Capture #704 - 'simon_cobbs on Twitter_ _@JewishChron Random marble attack____on a Jewish restaurant!!_' - twitter_com_simoncobbs1_status_565578025979613185Tweets at this point in the proceedings will not actually require any objective basis, being based instead on people’s general experience of life (“How can anything ‘random’ happen to anyone Jewish?!”) – rather than on such parochial concerns as reality.

Because these comments are over-egging things – why isn’t there a proper antonym for ‘trivialise’? – they will often end up sounding slightly tortuous, eg. by describing the story of a smashed window as “breaking” news.

stage-4The proper title for this stage is disputed. Some call it Refusal to climb down. Having built the incident up into front-page news before discovering that, far from being the Paris II longed for by the authors, it is in fact of negligible page 8 interest at most, it is necessary somehow to maintain its prestige – perhaps with authoritative-sounding use of a made-up term such as…
face-savingYes, that’s right: it was another one of those damnable random marble attacks of the sort that have plagued the Jewish people (and all those who lived in the same village as Just William) for centuries. The JC didn’t even have the grace to put the phrase in quotation marks, instead just blithely pretending that random marble attacks are ‘a thing’.

Also in the news this week:


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