Prison threat to editor in row over leaked documents

LGC: ran secret league tables

The editor of Local Government Chronicle has been threatened with two years in jail and a £5,000 fine for publishing leaked documents revealing the names of the best and worst councils in England.

Richard Vize vowed to continue his battle after the Audit Commission tried to sue his magazine under Section 49 of the 1998 Audit Commission Act. LGC had published a leaked draft of the commission council league tables based on public service inspections.

The commission threatened the magazine with an injunction but copies had already been sent out. LGC journalists have also been banned from attending press conferences.

Vize said the ban was "ludicrous" but the commission showed no sign of lifting it, despite the magazine agreeing to publish a letter of complaint this week.

He said he had received a legal letter last Friday asking him to destroy all documents relating to the story. He received another on Monday demanding LGC keep all the notes.

"The document no longer exists," he said. "I’d be staggered if they pursued an action against us but we are waiting to see what the next move is. We have had a conversation but they still seem to be daggers at dawn." Vize said the commission had overreacted and demonstrated "extreme sensitivity". "This is an entirely legitimate story. It was a very strong story for us; it is career-killing stuff for some people in local government and they are very jumpy about it," he said. "We would certainly fight it all the way."

 

By Ruth Addicott

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