Lancashire County Council leader sues Crown Prosecution Service

The leader of Lancashire County Council is suing the Crown Prosecution Service for allegedly revealing improperly that investigators were weighing criminal charges against him.

By Matthew Calderbank
Thursday, 5th November 2020, 11:30 am
Updated Thursday, 5th November 2020, 11:34 am
Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver has accused the CPS of violating his right to privacy after an employee allegedly sent out an email to a member of the public claiming he had been referred to prosecutors for potential action.
Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver has accused the CPS of violating his right to privacy after an employee allegedly sent out an email to a member of the public claiming he had been referred to prosecutors for potential action.

Council leader Geoff Driver has accused the agency of violating his right to privacy after an employee allegedly sent out an email to a member of the public confirming he had been referred to prosecutors for potential action.

The 75-year-old Burnley-born Conservative politician was arrested alongside three other men in May 2017 after the police accused them of trying to intimidate witnesses in the police’s seven-year ‘Operation Sheridan’ fraud probe.

The other three are ex-county hall chief executive Phil Halsall, David McElhinney - who was boss of the now defunct One Connect organisation - and Ged Fitzgerald, another former county council chief executive.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Cllr Geoff Driver is seeking damages and a declaration that the CPS failed to safeguard his data protection rights and expectation of privacy.

None of the three men has ever been charged as part of the broader fraud inquiry.

Cllr Driver claims the CPS’s Julia Graham emailed Pendle resident Paul Graham in June 2019, updating him that "a charging file has been referred from the Operation Sheridan investigation team to the CPS for consideration".

He claims the email expressly referred and/or implied his case was being considered for charging.

Cllr Driver is seeking damages and a declaration that the CPS failed to safeguard his data protection rights and expectation of privacy.

The 75-year-old Burnley-born Conservative politician was arrested alongside three other men in May 2017 after the police accused them of trying to intimidate witnesses in the police’s seven-year ‘Operation Sheridan’ fraud probe. No charges were brought against them.

His lawyers say in the documents: "The acts of the defendant in allowing this private information to be disseminated to a third party address was wrongful and constituted an unjustified infringement of the claimant’s right to privacy and a misuse of the claimant’s private information which the defendant failed to take any or any adequate steps to protect."

Cllr Driver, who denies any wrongdoing, said: "Since this matter is before the courts, it would be inappropriate for me to comment."

A CPS spokesman said: "We cannot comment."

Since 2013 police have been investigating a £5 million joint venture agreement the council made with BT in 2011 which intended to cut down on administrative costs.

The case is listed to be heard in the High Court.