My shock at allegations

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From Barbara English, Beverley

On 10 October I returned home from holiday to a shock: on the front page of the Beverley Guardian, beneath the headline ‘Magistrate gets written warning from council’, was a large photograph of me and a story that implied I had been guilty of anti-social behaviour in Beverley library.

These allegations were based on the contents of a private letter that I had received from an employee of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, which decided I had been rude to library staff while organising the distribution of leaflets for the Beverley Georgian festival. It informed me the case was being referred to the council’s anti-social behaviour unit. At the age of 81, I was on the cusp of being given my first Asbo.

Together, the story and the letter contained a number of damaging errors, including the assertion that I had not been given permission to leave leaflets in the Treasure House, and the mistaken belief, which the Guardian kindly apologises for today, that I am a magistrate (I have not sat on the bench in Beverley for more than 30 years).

Did I behave in an anti-social manner while putting leaflets in the building? Was I rude? I don’t believe so. I am nevertheless willing to apologise to the as-yet unnamed library assistant if I committed an as-yet unspecified offence.

I have been an occasional critic of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council, notably over the issue of the setts in the Market Place and the excessive amount of housing about to be dumped on Beverley. This was a private letter from the council to me: I didn’t leak it, nor, I am assured, did a member of the public, nor did the librarian. Which leads me to one conclusion: someone in the council did.

Is the council embarrassed about that? Apparently not at all. No one has apologised to me, nor has anyone from the council publicly condemned the leak. There does not appear to be any sort of inquiry that might seek to prevent this happening in future; nor is there any indication that the council intends to reassure people who live in the county that the many hundreds of thousands of pieces of material it holds about them are safe in its hands. It would appear that the private correspondence of people who criticise ERYC is considered fair game – a matter that seems to me to be genuinely in the public interest.