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One Man Against Bureaucracy: S. Fletcher and the ICO




'Dealing with this has caused me to suffer from severe mental health issues, as well as physical issues such as high blood pressure. I have suffered years of anxiety attacks and depression - which has been directly linked to the stress of dealing with these issues.'


The original claim was brought to the Employment Tribunal after I was dismissed from my job. Due to the conditions in my employment, I began to suffer health issues which impacted my ability to do the role. My manager used this to push me towards the door. In addition to this, my company withheld several thousand pounds of bonus money I was due.


The basic facts of my experience with the employment tribunal, Information Commissioner Office (ICO) and Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) are that a Judge, who presided over the claim, refused the request to order the release of relevant documents - a task he referred to as 'a fishing exercise'. The failure to request the release of this key evidence, and also his refusal to allow medical evidence to be presented, was one of a number of issues I found with his handling of the claim in line with the Rules of Procedure.


An application was made by the respondent for a hearing to be rescheduled. This was made without consultation with my side and granted with no fuss. When a similar application was made by myself to reschedule on health grounds, this was rejected out of hand. When I asked for this decision to be reviewed I was given hours to produce medical evidence which, due to standard NHS procedures, would take a week at least for me to obtain. This was clearly unfair.


Throughout the hearing, Judge M allowed the presentation of evidence and the questioning of witnesses by the respondent to go unchallenged. When it came to the claimant's turn to do the same, Judge M made frequent interruptions as well as making directions that questions towards witnesses would not need to be answered or, in some circumstances, reworded the questions in a way that their meaning was changed, allowing certain facts to be obscured.


After giving a verdict I, as the claimant, made a written request for reconsideration - as set out in the Rules of Procedure. This request went unanswered.


The Information Commissioner's Office responded to an initial report of a Data Protection Act breach by advising they did not have the resources to take action. After returning to them following Judge M's failure to order the release of the relevant documents, they finally - after a year - made contact with the company. The company in question responded with a bundle of documents, with many of the key documents missing.


The company admitted at this point they had destroyed everything else. They allowed a company to avoid their obligations under the legislation by failing to make even the most minimal contact with the company accused of breaching the law. When this was pointed out to the ICO, their story changed to blaming me for not providing enough details when the original complaint was made. When this lie was exposed their response was to block me from contacting their office rather than attempting to rectify their error.


With regards to the issues with the Financial Ombudsman Service, the loan was sold under specific terms. The first error made by the FOS was to ask for me not to send in duplicate documents in the bank's possession. This allowed the bank to withhold information leading to a flawed verdict in their investigation.


When a second complaint was brought to them, this withholding of information led to a second flawed verdict, before the omitted documents were highlighted. Once these issues were highlighted, the FOS made every effort to obstruct me in rectifying these issues, again lying about the correct process and advising of time-consuming and expensive legal action when they had the opportunity to correct the situation. This is an issue that should have been resolved in 2011 and 2016 had they acted appropriately, rather than dragging things out to the point where they are still not resolved in 2023.


In terms of the way this has affected me, dealing with this has caused me to suffer from severe mental health issues, as well as physical issues such as high blood pressure. I have suffered years of anxiety attacks and depression - which has been directly linked to the stress of dealing with these issues.


I have also - in part due to these health conditions and in part due to the reputational damage - lost financially to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds, if not perhaps a six figure sum over the past decade.


S Fletcher

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