13 February 2017
Chief Executive Officer, Lambeth Council
Dear Mr Harriss
An Open Letter re Serious concerns about Lambeth’s treatment of whistle-blower Brian Pead
I am a friend of Mr Brian Pead, a former Headteacher at Lambeth. I must immediately add that he was unlawfully dismissed prior to your appointment as CEO so I do not hold you responsible for the extreme human rights abuses of Mr Pead and his family, although how you handle my letter will be closely observed.
I have read his books and understand that from Hillsborough to Lambeth was unlawfully banned at the High Court, that Lambeth Council sought to have him imprisoned (but not the co-author of the book – which is bizarre in itself) and that in July 2013, I understand from information readily available in the public domain that Lambeth Council wasted taxpayers’ money in seeking a permanent gagging order against Mr Pead at the High Court.
It is my understanding from credible information I have seen that the award-winning Employment Law specialist, Alex Passman, told Brian on 19 April 2007 when representing him at an investigatory meeting, “You are being set up by Lambeth Council.” This is, in itself, extremely concerning. I have also seen information which demonstrates that Mr Pead was replaced as Head of the Open Learning Centre for Vocational Studies (olcvs) on 02 April 2007 – thus he was clearly replaced prior to the investigatory meeting and ultimate dismissal. This renders his dismissal unlawful and it is my understanding that my mp and former barrister, Sir Henry Bellingham, (in a meeting dated 27 January 2017) firmly stated that Brian’s dismissal was, indeed, unlawful. I am also given to understand that Sir Henry said he would arrange a meeting with Brian Pead and yourself and discuss a formal written apology and compensation.
However, my serious concerns with regard to Lambeth Council and some of its officials (and, of course, I have been closely following the Shirley Oaks child abuse case) grew deeper when I saw a copy of the Tribunal judgment in the case of James Walker v London Borough of Lambeth (case numbers 2302617/2009 and 2347101/2010).
It struck me that everything that happened to Brian Pead also happened to Mr Walker. The more I read the judgment, the parallels became alarming. I provide a summary of the parallels below:
- both Heads were whistle-blowers (Walker on financial mismanagement, Pead on child abuse, bullying and racism);
- both men were accused of bullying members of staff as a “stalking horse” to their own complaints against the Council;
- both men no longer had trust and confidence that they would be treated fairly and justly during the investigation;
- both men were highly committed to their respective schools;
- both men complained about long-term funding of their schools;
- both Heads were described as “aggressive, intimidating and unprofessional” when, in fact, they were not;
- both men were undermined by a specific member of staff (female in both cases);
- both men had had no complaints made about them prior to the investigation;
- both men complained of insufficient support from Lambeth Council;
- both men complained that the Council had failed to show any adequate concern about their well-being;
- both men had telephoned hr to complain about staff bullying;
- both men significantly reduced pupil exclusions and increased pupil attendance;
- both men described a witch-hunt against them;
- Lambeth spent huge amounts of money and time finding anything they could pin on both men;
- both men described inhumane treatment meted out to them by the Council;
- both men were suspended unlawfully;
- both men had their offices ransacked and had important files destroyed;
- both men were subjected to draconian suspension conditions;
- both men initiated grievance procedures which Lambeth failed to investigate;
- both men were bullied by Lambeth officials whilst ill;
- both investigations failed to adopt impartiality and were deeply flawed;
- both men complained of Lambeth’s hostility towards them;
- significant failures by Lambeth to call key witnesses;
- failure to provide accurate minutes of witness meetings;
- failure to get witness statements signed;
- not acting even-handedly by not asking relevant questions of the complainant against both men;
- failure to carry out the investigations in a prompt and ordered way;
- failure to appoint an impartial and independent panel;
- unnecessary repetition of allegations;
- failure to act on allegations by both Heads that they were bullied;
- Lambeth officials disregarded whistle-blowing evidence;
- there was already a body of evidence before the investigation officer to show that the allegations against both Heads were unfounded and yet the investigation still went ahead;
- allegations against both Heads arose only after they had blown the whistle;
- the allegations against both Heads were remarkably similar;
- both men had complaints made against them through a third party and not by the person directly;
- both men had witnesses against them who displayed bias and hostility towards them;
- both men had investigations against them which were nothing more than ‘fishing expeditions’ focused on obtaining the most damaging information about them whether such information was justified or not;
- both men had ‘reports’ commissioned against them;
- the authors of the reports had never consulted either Head;
- both men were bullied by Barry Gilhooly [line manager] and Phyllis Dunipace [executive director];
- both men were placed in a state of total isolation;
- Lambeth Council failed to treat both Heads humanely and breached the employment relationship and duty of care owed to them;
- both men had investigation reports produced against them which were highly selective and failed to reflect any evidence which had surfaced during the investigation which was favourable to them;
- both men had witnesses against them whose hostility undermined their credibility as a witness of truth;
- serious failures to provide the Heads with specific and detailed allegations;
- Lambeth Council ran investigations which were motivated into reaching a particular result in both cases;
- Cathy Twist, Barry Gilhooly, Claire Cobbold, Carol Palmer, Chris Ashton, Mary White and Phyllis Dunipace were involved in both men’s unlawful dismissals;
- no-one has ever been held accountable within Lambeth.
I think you will also find the parallels alarming. I am also concerned about the huge waste of public funds but that is a matter for another time.
Despite both men’s cases being extraordinarily similar, they ended with completely different results which has never been properly explained. I can only imagine that this difference resulted because Brian reported child abuse (as was his job) and James Walker did not.
In the meantime, I am calling for a meeting between you, me, Sir Henry Bellingham, Chuka Umunna, Michael Bird (co-author of from Hillsborough to Lambeth), Brian Pead and his daughter, Sorrel Birch.
It would appear that Lambeth Council is attempting to re-write history (as it initially did with child abuse in its children’s homes) but the facts speak for themselves.
I believe that you have a unique opportunity to clear this matter up once and for all before your name becomes tarnished along with those of Gilhooly, Twist, Dunipace and others.
cc Sir Henry Bellingham, mp Amber Rudd mp, Home Secretary Chuka Umunna mp
Sorrel Birch Lib Peck, Leader Lambeth Council the Streatham Guardian
Clive Driscoll (retired dci) Lorne Green, Police and Crime Commissioner, Norfolk