As reported here last Thursday, my good friend Chris Knowles of the International Civil Liberties Alliance (ICLA) was fired from his job at the Leeds City Council for exercising his rights of free speech and free association.
ICLA has now posted a press release about what happened.
You’ll notice that Chris was never informed of the specific charges against him, nor was he allowed to defend himself or have counsel present. He was simply told that he had “engaged in political activities, which could be viewed as improper activities for an employee of the council”.
At no point did the LCC follow its own definition of due process. These are the actions of a totalitarian police state:
ICLA Member Chris Knowles Dismissed By Leeds City Council Without Due Process
6 August 2012, LEEDS, UK: On 2 August, Chris Knowles, a member of the International Civil Liberties Alliance (ICLA), was summarily dismissed from his job in the Council’s Children’s Services Department. This follows a seven month “investigation” and suspension of Mr. Knowles, initiated in December 2011 by a denunciation to the Leeds Council by the Sunday Times about Mr Knowles’ “political activities.”
Chris Knowles is one of the main contributors to both the ICLA Mission Statement and the recent 2012 Brussels Declaration To Safeguard Individual Liberties and Human Rights, and the associated Brussels Process that was endorsed by a recent conference in the European Parliament. He has presented testimony on protecting civil liberties at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw in October 2009. He is an editor at the ICLA website and has been involved in education and outreach to public and policymakers on the threat to human rights from totalitarian systems, specifically particular Shariah doctrines. He works with a wide range of politicians, journalists, writers, grass roots activists, and intellectuals from many backgrounds, ethnicities and religions to preserve civil liberties and human rights for women, gays, people of all religions, apostates, and moderate Muslims, all threatened by Islamic Shariah doctrines.
In early December 2011, a representative of The Sunday Times newspaper contacted Leeds City Council with allegations against Mr. Knowles’ political views. On December 15, based on these allegations, the Council suspended Mr. Knowles in a private meeting, stating that:
“…the council has received allegations that you may have engaged in political activities, which could be viewed as improper activities for an employee of the council to be engaging in, and contrary to the councils values and equal opportunities policies.”
The Council assured Mr. Knowles that the meeting would be kept confidential, as required to protect employee rights. Three days later, on December 18, The Sunday Times published an article about Mr. Knowles quoting a “spokeswoman” from Leeds City Council who stated:
“We take the allegations made by The Sunday Times very seriously and a member of staff has been suspended while we undertake a thorough investigation. If there has been any breach of the council’s policies or code of conduct we will take appropriate action.”
Mr. Knowles filed a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission regarding the article. At an investigatory meeting on 20 December 2011 Mr. Knowles was assured that the question of a breach of confidentiality regulations would be looked into. He received no further information on the subject.
For the next seven months, Mr. Knowles was told only that the investigation was ongoing. He received no further information on the “charges” nor any explanation as to why his political activities on behalf of human rights and civil liberties would be contrary to the values of Leeds City Council nor why having political opinions or personal beliefs were a cause of official inquiry and professional suspension
In a July 17, 2012 letter, the UNISON trade union, of which Mr. Knowles has been a member since early 1996, notified Mr. Knowles that they would not represent him:
“UNISON cannot agree to represent you as in our view there is prima facia a conflict with the allegations against you and UNISON’s policies and rules.”
On August 2, 2012, Mr. Knowles attended the meeting at which he was dismissed. The July 27 notice for that meeting stated:
“The investigation into allegations that you have engaged in political activities, which could be viewed as improper activities for an employee of the council to be engaging in, has been completed.
You are required to attend a meeting….”
That notice did not provide further information on why his political activities could be viewed as “improper activities.”
A Chief Inspector of the Police was present when he arrived. Mr. Knowles’ lawyer was not permitted to attend the meeting. At the end of a very brief meeting Mr Knowles was dismissed with immediate effect and without the right to appeal. Mr. Knowles was told that Leeds City Council viewed the ‘offence’ committed by Mr Knowles to be so grave, even though it has never been named nor described, that he would not even be allowed to have a disciplinary hearing at which he could refute any evidence that was brought against him. No evidence was presented against him. A letter sent the following day stated:
“The council has concluded that your behaviours and values are so different from the council’s values, that this is a fundamental breach of your employment contract.”
Mr Knowles has never been told what he is supposed to have done wrong. He is simply being dismissed without a hearing because his “values” are apparently different to those of Leeds City Council. He has not been told what these values are or what gives Leeds City Council the right to decide the values employees are supposed to have. It is simply a matter of sacking him because of his personal and private opinions.
In consultation with his legal representation, Mr. Knowles will file with the employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal and breach of human rights.
The International Civil Liberties Alliance (ICLA) is a human rights organisation that aims to uphold democracy, freedom and individual liberties.