Brief summary and background to the case.
Nigel Hobro is the claimant here, a former employee of Enterprise Solutions, trading as WirralBiz Limited [dissolved in 2014], where he worked as a qualified accountant.
Nigel noticed impropriety and dodgy goings on way back in Spring 2011 and along with fellow accountant James Griffiths, blew the whistle on his employer to the controlling partner organisation and local authority, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.
This was the commencement of many years of personal upheaval for both whistleblowers and which soon became steadily compounded by the ongoing dishonesty of multiple Council senior officers and senior members, but namely … then CEO Graham Burgess, ex-Super Director Kevin Adderley and current Council Leader Councillor Phil Davies, who all lied to the public…
…all done to fend off Nigel and James’ well-founded allegations of corruption, dishonesty and theft of public funds at Enterprise Solutions, whose two directors have long since fled to Portugal. Despite the departures of Burgess and Adderley to lucrative posts elsewhere, the conspiracy to deceive goes on to this day and has been readily taken up by the current chair of the Audit Risk & Management Committee, recently re-elected member for Seacombe, Councillor Adrian Jones.
Councillor Adrian Jones (“the Pretend Friend”)
Jones was involved at a very early stage and approached Nigel Hobro under the guise of fulfilling a vital role as “the whistleblower’s friend and ally”. But sadly, it appears to vigilant observers like us that his (and his wife Councillor Christine Jones’) intention was never to help, but to lift sensitive information, report it back to base and ultimately – because no progress has ever, ever, EVER been made – use Nigel’s own information against him and his fellow whistleblower James. We have no smoking gun obviously, but in hindsight, when you wade through the wreckage seven years later, no other conclusion makes any sense.
Burgess, Adderley and Crabtree
Under Graham Burgess, Kevin Adderley, and former Chair of the ARMC, turned ex-Councillor, turned criminal, Jim Crabtree, the council engaged itself in a concerted, long-term cover up in order to conceal the existence and minimise the impact of these allegations.
Burgess himself, when questioned in the public arena, had an unfortunate tendency to gloss over and to characterise all council failings as ‘mistakes’ even when his organisation had been caught red-handed in the now proven financial abuse of “sitting duck” learning disabled people when it thieved £736,756.97 from their bank accounts over a 9 year period:
Undeterred, Nigel Hobro, as a qualified accountant, and with all the information readily to hand, made an estimation of the totality of public money which ‘went missing’, arriving at a figure of £2 million.
Mr Hobro’s claim
This was based in personal injury due to stress, centred upon council negligence, and brought via the ‘small claims’ process, which is currently limited to £10,000 max.
- Figure of £5,000 claimed
- Medically attested stress
- Loss of opportunity as an unsubstantiated whistleblower
Wirral Council’s response to the claim (Mr Howe was the barrister for WMBC)
- Stress not recognised as a qualifying medical condition
- Claim for Wirral Council’s wilful negligence is statute barred
- Claimant not an employee and not protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act
- Claim has no cause for action
Judge Campbell heard both sides and was impressed by Nigel’s candid and honest contributions. She stated that Nigel’s decision to follow the small claims court channels was appreciated and understood. However, she stated that this could not be allowed to cloud proper application of the Civil Procedure Rules.
She referred all present to a recent UK Supreme Court ruling which stated that in future, no allowances will be made for laymen or litigants in person, such as Mr Hobro, and they will be expected to possess the same comprehensive understanding of the four inch thick book of “Civil Procedure Rules” as qualified solicitors and lawyers.
As part of his submission to the court, Mr Hobro had supplied signed dental records to show that he had been suffering from bone loss and teeth grinding due to high levels of stress, a situation confirmed by his dentist. However, the judge stated there was nothing of substance to directly and causatively link this condition to the conduct or actions of the defendant, Wirral Council. Neither had a full medical report been provided.
The Statute of Limitation Act Section 11 requires a time limit of 3 years between the person experiencing and recognising any condition related to personal injury and the lodging of any claim. Mr Hobro stated that the link between Wirral Council and the stress had been noticed in 2012. The wilful negligence claim on the part of Wirral Council had however been made in 2017 and was therefore time-barred.
Importantly, Wirral Council were mistaken in their contention that Mr Hobro “did not qualify for protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998”.
Presenting a very business-like case, Mr Hobro succeeded in convincing the Judge that he did qualify for protection under PIDA as a “worker” and that he therefore received the right not to suffer detriment. This right is spelled out under Section 43c. The judge went on to state that the small claims channel was not the correct jurisdiction for employment matters and that an application would need to be made to the Employment Tribunal in order to seek remedy. But this option may now be time-barred.
In summary the judge stated that there was no reasonable cause of action for bringing this claim and that the claim therefore must fail.
Despite Wirral Council’s suggestion to the contrary, Mr Hobro succeeded in convincing the judge that his claim had not been ‘frivolous’. After a brief discussion beteween all parties, the judge decreed that costs of £7,000 were to be met by Wirral Council’s very deep pockets, which we all know to our constant shock and dismay, are regularly topped up with our hard-earned moolah, and that should we decline to pay it and fund their reckless ventures, we ourselves end up in front of a judge.
There was an embarrassing moment for the judge when she’d assumed that some crucial supplementary information had not been provided by the claimant, Mr Hobro.
Nigel helpfully stated that she must be mistaken, because he had personally hand-delivered this material to Birkenhead Crown Court some weeks earlier and had given it to an unnamed male employee.
Persons in the public gallery were later relieved to see the bundle of information being handed to the judge 20 minutes later, presumably after a frantic search had been mounted deep in the bowels of the building.
The judge, Ms Michelle Campbell, 49, (appointed to the Northern Circuit in 2011 – many thanks to an observant reader for unearthing this info) had introduced herself as a Wirral Council Tax payer.
We sincerely hope she finds time in her obviously very busy schedule to read this and other local blogs in order to allow some vital contextual information to percolate through about vulnerable people living inside an ongoing nightmare, and the foreseeable and avoidable effects of the thoroughly shitty, yet protected behaviour of our dishonest elected and senior unelected officials at Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.
If she’s successful in accessing this steadily thickening seam of hidden, unaddressed corruption, scandal and failure, perhaps hers and her colleagues’ future judgments will take into account how irredeemably broken and bent are the officials to whom she willingly hands across her Wirral council tax payments.