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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Pensioner thrown out of Carlisle club ‘for telling truth’

A pensioner has been thrown out of his social club after he formally complained about how officials recorded his private conversation with a barmaid.

Joe Mossop photo
Joe Mossop

Joe Mossop, 73, said being banned from the Carlisle Ex- Service Men’s Club has shattered his social life, and that he is being punished for telling the truth.

The club was criticised for its Big Brother tactics by national watchdog the Office of Information Commissioner Christopher Graham, who described the decision to record Mr Mossop’s private conversation as “intrusive, unfair and excessive”.

The club’s committee had used the recording, in which Mr Mossop had made a negative comment about a club official, to bring disciplinary action against the former bus driver and charity volunteer.

He was given a nine-month ban from the Albert Street club, where he has been a member for almost 48 years.

Mr Mossop, a widower, of Caldew Street, Denton Holme, spoke about his ordeal only after the Information Commissioner gave his ruling, and only after The Cumberland News was tipped off by another outraged club member last month.

Despite this, just four days before the suspension of his membership was due to end, the club’s ruling committee last week summoned him for a further disciplinary hearing. After 30 minutes, they declared that he was guilty of bringing the club “into disrepute” and expelled him.

“I was really looking forward to going back. Being expelled from my club in this way has shattered my social life,” said the pensioner, who was serving as its president when his conversation was recorded in May last year.

“My view is that it’s the club which has brought itself into disrepute by recording my private conversation – something which the Information Commissioner of this country has said was wrong. Yet they won’t admit that they were in the wrong.

“They feel they were 100 per cent right to do what they did.

“I didn’t initiate the story that appeared in The Cumberland News. It was another club member who was concerned about the way I was treated; and I did not speak about it until after an opinion was given by the people at the Information Commissioner’s Office.

“But I am being punished for telling the truth.”

Though he was allowed to take a friend to the hearing at the club last Wednesday, the other man was not allowed to address the committee.

“When they told me I was being expelled from the club, I was in shock,” added Mr Mossop. “I thought they might give me another two or three-month suspension.

“Now I want the members there to know what they’ve done to me is wrong. I want to be back in my club because I have a lot of mates there. I’ve bumped into some of them in the street and they’re disgusted by what’s happened.

“Some are thinking of leaving because of this.

“That second disciplinary hearing should never have happened. Ifeel I have been treated unjustly. This has shattered my social life.”

A fellow club member, who said: “The feeling among members I’ve spoken to is that this is grossly unfair. Joe has been a member for 48 years and served as vice president and president. For him to be treated in this manner is disgusting.”

Mr Mossop, who is a former volunteer driver with the Alzheimer’s Society in Carlisle, earlier said his recorded conversation had been with a barmaid who was a trusted and loyal employee at the club.

Club officials claimed that he had given her “confidential information” from a committee meeting. Brushing aside the criticism from the Office of Information Commissioner, club secretary Brian Lucock insisted that “justice” had been done when the committee suspended Mr Mossop last year.

Somebody had alerted them to a “negative comment” he had made during his conversation with the barmaid about a fellow committee member, prompting them to have the recording professionally enhanced.

The club insisted that private conversations are not routinely monitored and that all the CCTV equipment complied with the relevant laws.

Mr Lucock declined to comment on the decision to expel the pensioner.

In his ruling, the Information Commissioner said that recording of Mr Mossop was “unlikely” to have complied with the Data Protection Act.

It added: “This is because....the use of audio recordings to capture personal data in these circumstances is unfair and excessive... except in certain specific circumstances, CCTV must not be used for the audio recording of conversations as this is regarded as highly intrusive.”

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