A local authority has been accused of breaching the Human Rights Act and curbing the rights of care home residents to speak to the press.
Managers and staff of care centres have been told that no resident is to be interviewed ‘on site’for their views and reactions to controversial proposals to close down six of the authority’s managed premises.
Residents must leave the building if they want to talk to any reporters.
The action came as Staffordshire county council’s political executive prepared to vote on proposals to shut four residential care homes and two centres for disabled people in the towns of Stafford, Rugeley, Penkridge and Stone.
The weekly Staffordshire Newsletter carried the story on three pages complete with reactions from relatives of a number of residents, some of whom had joined in calls for a reprieve.
But when local reporters tried to canvass the opinions of elderly residents, the council issued an email to editors saying: ‘Please note [that] members of the press, including photographers, are not permitted to go on the site of our care homes, be they recommended to remain open or closed.
‘Our primary concern at this time is the well-being and private interests of all our residents, including some who are frail and vulnerable.
‘Should a resident wish to speak with you, they are fully entitled to do this off premises.”
In response, the Newsletter ran a hard-hitting editorial comment under the heading ‘Freedom is not at home”, alluding to infringements of people’s rights to speak and protest in Pakistan and Burma.
Media consultancy business Orchard News Bureau, which specialises in local government and law, believes the council’s actions are unsustainable in law.
Orchard News journalist Richard Orange told Press Gazette he believed the move had the potential to breach articles 5, 6, 8, 10, 11 and 14 of the Human Rights Act.
A spokesman from Staffordshire council said residents were not banned from speaking to journalists ,but they had merely controlled journalists’ access to the care homes.