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Law Firm Eversheds Banned from Website – Internet Freedom of Speech under Threat

May 28th, 2008 · No Comments

Law firm Eversheds acting on behalf of officers of the University of Wales Lampeter has been banned from being able to access the web site The Lamp Post, for making unfounded threats of legal action and a high court injunction in the knowledge that material on the site was in fact true.

Trevor Mayes who edits the site which is campaigning for a University Commissioner or Ombudsman has taken the step to help defend himself from any further unlawful intimidation. He explained that the law is such that it leaves students very little chance of redress for their complaints. Moreover, this is not about defamation but being able to speak out about the unaccountable power of the English Crown, which is held by politicians for their own political ends. In his opinion Eversheds are acting like bully boys to keep students quiet to protect their clients reputation.

Some observers say the Eversheds who have around 100 UK universities on their books has the higher education market sewn up; Trevor Mayes says that stitched up would be a far better description.

In a newspaper article, Eversheds heralded the onset of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education or OIA as being a revolution for students being able to complain over the arcane system of a university Visitor. Trevor Mayes says that it was Eversheds that advised OIA which is run by a company that is 4/5th owned by the universities on setting up its procedures. In his opinion, the findings of the OIA remain confidential in order for Eversheds to protect the reputation of their100 clients and against the public interest.

A spokesperson for the OIA has insisted there is no conflict of interest; however, Trevor Mayes says that the whole system does not meet acceptable standards of independence for complaints to other public regulatory bodies. He added that he has proof the system of complaint is so open to abuse by universities that no student is going to get a fair hearing, and the ultimate insult to justice is that the findings of the OIA are in any case unenforceable.

The OIA has seen a sudden 27% rise in the number of complaints this year and a growing number of students are turning to law as the system is inherently unfair and unjust. Moreover, it takes so long for the OIA to deal with a complaint that students loose the right to a Judicial Revue. Trevor Mayes believes the reason for the increase is the introduction of tuition fees broke down the social class barriers of university entry making it easier for those from disadvantaged groups. In response, the universities are actively discriminating against them in order to get rid of them which explains why there is such a high drop out rate.

Trevor Mayes went on to explain that because regulation only works in the interests of academia, the perception that universities are regulated amounts to a deception as issues that concern Joe Public are ignored. The financial regulator the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales despite claims on its website says it has no jurisdiction, the Quality Assurance Agency whose job it to ensure standards says it has no locus in these matters. The Welsh Assembly Government says it has no jurisdiction but has passed laws banning the taxpaying public from being able to make any kind of complaint, and took away the power of the Auditor General to intervene. A spokesperson for the Welsh Assembly Government says that the situation is all part of the tradition of these institutions being autonomous.

In other words, they are above the law and explains why Eversheds and the University of Wales Lampeter have attempted to override Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 – Freedom of Speech, which allows anyone to speak out against corruption in a public body such as a university provided they believe their comments to be true.

Eversheds are again making renewed threats of legal action against The Lamp Post for defamation concerning the publication of the names of the university council and their responsibility for the actions of officers and staff. Trevor Mayes says in his opinion the reasons are two fold, firstly defending the wrongdoing of officers and staff is probably going to cost the university is charitable status under the new Charity Act 2006. Secondly, Eversheds are desperate to conceal what is happening for fear of losing all of their 100 clients the same way.

The unintentional consequences of the Charity Act 2006 and the ‘Public Benefit Test’ is going to highlight the lack of regulation and institutionalised abuse of students in Welsh universities. The practise of discrimination towards students who complain, the disadvantaged, low-income groups and women is going to cost them their charitable status. In effect, the Charity Commission, which is free of any Ministerial control and has an independent complaints process, will regulate in the interests of students.

Trevor Mayes says he is going to stand his ground against the threats and bullying from Eversheds, as he has nothing to fear from telling the truth. The internet has a tradition for exposing the wrongdoing of big institutions and governments and asks others to support him on this point. The university has had the offer of talks and independent verification, which they have ignored and chosen to abuse their power in their own self-interest.

He intends to make a complaint against the University of Wales Lampeter and the Federal University of Wales under the Charity Act 2006 that will require independent verification of the wild claims and accusations made by the university. Something they have been desperate to avoid because they know it will lead to opening a ‘can of worms’ and a flood of lawsuits that will lead to their closure.

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