Council withdraws High Court case against Inside Croydon

Hailing a ‘victory for commonsense’ over legal threats against him, this website’s editor promises to continue reporting on matters surrounding the Penn Report and Croydon’s bungling efforts to bring those responsible for the borough’s bankruptcy to account

A week after lawyers hired by cash-strapped Croydon Council were told by a High Court judge that they were “trying to put the genie back in the bottle”, they today dropped the case brought against Inside Croydon for publishing documents that had already been published on the council website. But not before their ill-considered action cost the Council Tax-payers of Croydon an estimated £20,000.

The outcome will be seen by media lawyers and publishers as an important victory for the freedom of the press. “Legal confidentiality is like your virginity,” according to one observer. “Once you’ve given it away, you can’t get it back.”

Croydon Council is described in the latest edition of Private Eye magazine as “a national laughing stock”, with senior officials – such as chief executive Katherine Kerswell and her appointee as the borough’s legal director, Stephen Lawrence-Orumwense, who brought thecase against Inside Croydon – as doing “their utmost to look ridiculous”.

Jason Perry, the borough’s £81,000 per year elected Mayor, might have intervened to stop the nonsense, yet chose not to.

A Consent Order was agreed today which allows Inside Croydon to keep published on its site its reports from earlier this month, based on the legal advice received by the council earlier this year in respect of its options for action against Jo Negrini, the former council CEO, and other senior figures at Fisher’s Folly who helped to bankrupt the borough in 2020.

The articles which caused Croydon Council such discomfort are:

Inside Croydon may repeat extracts from the advice documents that it has already reported in its future reporting.

High costs: Stephen Lawrence-Orumwense

There remains, as specifically determined by Mr Justice Nicklin last week, no third-party injunction on the material.

Steven Downes, the Editor of Inside Croydon, has given a permanent undertaking to not publish anything further from the documents.

It was Downes who suggested to council officials making his original undertaking to the court a permanent one – thus avoiding a further session at the High Court on November 28.

Legal experts estimate that Downes’ gesture, as well as offering Lawrence-Orumwense an escape hatch from suffering further ridicule, may well have saved Croydon tax-payers another £10,000 in legal fees.

Importantly, under the Consent Order, there was no award of costs against Downes or Inside Croydon. The council will therefore have to pay its own legal bills, estimated to have run to £20,000 to bring the case at the High Court. Even including a court fee to submit the consent order.

The undertaking given by Inside Croydon should not be trivialised in any way. In big, bold capital letters in red ink on the temporary order issued by Judge Nicklin last week was a very serious “Penal notice”.

This stated: “If you the respondent, Steven Downes, breach your undertaking to the court… you may be held to be in contempt of court and imprisoned or fined, or your assets may be seized.”

This afternoon, Downes said, “Basically, not to over-emphasise this at all, our family home was on the line over this case.

Laughing stock: how Private Eye magazine reported on the case this week

“I was very happy to make the undertaking permanent, because after last week’s hearing in the High Court, I saw no purpose in wasting more of the court’s time, my time or tax-payers money on Croydon Council’s absurd action.

“We have already published everything that we were going to publish from the two documents that the council had itself put into the public domain on its website for six weeks. I am happy to give an undertaking to not do something I was never going to do in any case.”

According to Downes, he had offered the olive branch to Lawrence-Orumwense last Friday, when he had handed over a signed copy of the then-temporary undertaking at Fisher’s Folly.

Since Monday of this week, Inside Croydon has been assisted by barrister David Mitchell, of 39Essex Chambers. Concerned by the freedom of speech aspects of the case, Mitchell has acted on a pro bono basis.

The offer to make the undertaking permanent was made formally on Tuesday.

But it was not until Wednesday evening that Lawrence-Orumwense accepted. Since then, the council’s lawyers have been drawing up a succession of draft orders, some that included undertakings that had never been given in court last week, until a final draft was received, agreed and lodged with the court earlier this evening.

Bystander: Mayor Jason Perry stood by and did nothing over the council’s waste-of-money legal case

Downes has now permanently suspended a crowdfunder – the #KerswellBall Fund – which he launched earlier in the week while the council’s threat of action was still a live possibility, including the risk that Inside Croydon might be ordered to pay the local authority’s costs.

In the first 24 hours, readers and supporters of Inside Croydon had donated more than £2,000 to the legal fighting fund.

Inside Croydon is really fortunate to have so many generous readers and supporters. Their backing this past week and their donations have been really appreciated, they really meant a great deal,” Downes said.

“Mayor Perry could have stopped this nonsense at any time in the last eight days. But he chose not to. So Perry’s cash-strapped council has now spent a hefty five-figure sum on a legal case that should never have been brought in the first place, and which has just made Croydon Council look even more ridiculous.

“At least one good thing has come out of it all: the unused legal fighting fund will be divided between two outstanding Croydon homelessness charities – Croydon Nightwatch and the South Norwood Community Kitchen.

“They’ll be getting £1,000 each just before Christmas, at a time when Mayor Perry is cutting council support to voluntary groups like them across the borough.”

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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23 Responses to Council withdraws High Court case against Inside Croydon

  1. A victory for bold journalism and common sense against legal bullying. Well done Inside Croydon!

  2. Well done Steven. Very pleased my contribution will go to excellent causes. Perhaps Croydon Council could fund their costs through removing from the payroll persons that have shown themselves to be rather foolish.

  3. Well done Steven!

    A big far Q to those at Croydon council who tried so hard to silence local journalism and hide the truth

  4. derekthrower says:

    So an outbreak of common sense has burst out of the Council. Well done on giving these people a way out of the ridiculous situation they had created for themselves. You would hope this would give them an opportunity to reflect on their actions, but we seem to be learning that the regime of the Democ Perry is just an endless loop of repeats of what has happened before.
    It must be a relief that this risk (however ridiculous) is lifted off your shoulders.

  5. Ian Leggatt says:

    Congratulations Steven, common sense prevails.

  6. Sue Williams says:

    Well done IC.

    The government is allowing local authorities to increase council tax by a massive 5%.

    I do not have confidence in Katherine Kerswell or her ability to ensure this extra council tax is spent carefully and indeed legally. Her screw -up as borough returning officer is one example.

    The £20k Kerswell has spent trying to muffle democracy could have paid for a part-time care assistant for a year.

    Shameless waste of money spent with naivety, trying to bolster her personal position.

    I want Kerswell to be investigated and if found wanting, dismissed.

    • But it’s not a “massive” 5% increase, is it? That’s half the inflation rate, and it is also the routine increase in LA Council Tax for the past decade.

      If we want good quality public services, child care, libraries open… then we have to pay for them.

      Because these Tory bastards in government are never going to pony up properly

      • John Kohl says:

        I agree with you in so far as good quality public services do need to be paid for.

        However, as far as I’m aware Croydon Council has always increased council tax to the maximum amount possible every year since I have been resident in the borough.

        And yet council services have gotten significantly worse, not better, every single year.

        So how exactly is Croydon Council spending the additional revenue it has raised?

        The highly respected Institute for Fiscal Studies reckons that British taxpayers will endure the highest tax burden and lowest living standards since just after World War 2 following Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement on 17 November 2022.

        I believe everyone should pay their fair share of tax based on what they can afford.

        But there comes a point where it becomes unfair/unconscionable to ask ordinary taxpayers to pay more tax when (1) the fiscal/monetary situation has been caused by external factors beyond taxpayers’ control and/or by the actions/incompetence of central and/or local government itself (the KamiKwasi fiscal event is reckoned to have caused a £30 billion hole in the public finances), (2) taxpayers simply do not have the extra disposable income to pay for any further tax increases, including council tax, and (3) where taxpayers cannot see any objective, material, observable, provable improvements in public services, or for that matter public services staying at a minimum level.

        One can’t keep asking people for money they simply don’t have.

        What has central government done with the billions of pounds of centrally collected taxpayer funding that used to go to local authorities from central government? Where is that money?

        The Tories will do what they have always done politically: try to build an election warchest of taxpayer money with which to bribe the electorate with tax cuts at the next general election. It is why since May 2010 starting with Cameron and Osborne, the Tories have sucked tens of billions of pounds of central government funding out of local councils.

  7. Sarah Bird says:

    Well done and a huge congratulations to you .

  8. Dan Maertens says:

    Many congratulations on a very well-deserved outcome!

  9. Jessica says:

    Thank you again for standing up for the people of Croydon. It’s so unjust that these people get rewarded for their incompetence. Lawrence-Orumwense should have never taken this on. We can only hope that one day Kerswell, Townsend, Cheesborough, and Lawrence-Orumwense are cleared out.

  10. John Kohl says:

    Well done! The Council had to try I suppose to injunct Inside Croydon, but the case law was always agin’ them once the Council published the document on their own website.

    And the Penn Report – whilst important to Croydon residents – hardly rises to the level of being a genuine document involving the nation’s security now, does it?!

    But with the National Security Bill going through Parliament at the moment, will it always be the case if the Bill becomes law and HM judges become pliant and refuse to uphold a public interest defence using common law (judge-made) principles?

  11. Lancaster says:

    Well done IC, and a thank you to David Mitchell as well.

    Keep up the excellent work.

  12. David Lucas says:

    Well done. The Council should publish the Penn Report in full. If anyone featured thinks they are not fairly represented in the report, they should be allowed a maximum one-page Annex to put their view.

  13. Maurice says:

    Congratulations IC on your victory and a case that should never of been brought forward given the documents involved were already published by Croydon Council. Please carry on with your forthright reports and stand up to those that would want to silent you

  14. RESPECT to IC and many thanks. Happy to donate to the Balls Fund – keep up the great work. If it hadn’t been for IC, none of us would have had a clue what was going on. Perhaps now, at last, Croydon Council can start communicating – with its residents, taxpayers and of course, IC.

  15. Colin Cooper says:

    Who is going to pay back the estimated £20,000 costs for this ridiculous case being brought in the first place? This is Council tax payers money and should be paid back by the solicitors for incorrect advice to the Council.

  16. This is why I pay my direct debit donation and am happy to continue doing so.

    Inside Croydon is the first, in fact, I believe, the only line of defence that the people of Croydon have in ensuring that those funded by our tax money (Croydon Council) have the ability to hold them to justice.

    Thank you guys, your support to the everyday people of the borough is invaluable.

  17. On another note, could not the amount of tax collected be correlated for all to see, with just whom is spending what and why?

    I’m just remembering the jolly meetings arranged by Jo Negrini’s office in France for no particular reason whatsoever. They could have easily taken place on Croydon’s turf.

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