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April 2019
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Oldham Council threatens man with an ASBO as they believed he was recording a call

A man has been threatened with an ASBO by an Oldham Council official who thought he was recording their telephone conversation.

Stuart Littleford who is the editor of GPSJ, said he contacted the Credit Control Section at Oldham Council earlier today, over a long running dispute about an alleged Council Tax debt, which he has always denied he owes.

He said: I called to try and resolve a matter which has been going on since 2005, I was explaining to the gentleman on the phone why I didn’t owe the money when he suddenly asked if I was recording the call. He then referred to an email I had sent the previous day in which I stated I had recorded some calls in the past but only to prove I had not been ignoring the matter as they had threatened legal action.

When I refused to tell him whether or not I was recording this conversation, he said I was ‘breaching his human rights’ and he would have to end the call, I replied that I was making a genuine enquiry and there was no reason for him to do that.

He then told me I was committing a ‘criminal offence’ and that all future correspondence to his department should be kept to letters from now on and not done over the phone. He then stated they could look to seek for an ‘ASBO’ against me.

The gentleman then refused to talk anymore and put the phone down.

I can’t believe I have been threatened with an ASBO for doing nothing more than responding to an official letter sent by Oldham Council and trying to resolve the matter with them. I would be interested to know if they ask everyone who contacts them if they are recording the call and then use this as an excuse to put the phone down or threaten them with an ASBO.

I have never heard of this happening before and I have been left feeling like a criminal. If I had been rude or abusive I would have understood him wanting to end the call, but this was a polite call and all very business like.

This man is paid to take calls from the residents of Oldham, his attitude is not acceptable, there are plenty of people looking for work these days who would jump at the chance of his job in my opinion.

Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), it is not illegal for individuals to tape conversations provided the recording is for their own use.

Home secretary Theresa May announced in May 2012 that ASBOs were being abolished and replaced with Criminal Behaviour Orders from 2013.

Oldham is one of the few local authorities still using them.

Legal advisor Cleland Thom commented: ‘It’s incredible that an Oldham Council official in a public role would be stupid enough to think that someone recording a phone conversation warranted an ASBO.

‘To get an ASBO, you have to prove someone has persistently behaved in a way that causes people harassment, alarm or distress.

‘Anyone can record a phone call, provided they make the recording themselves. It strikes me that Oldham Council need to give their staff some basic customer service training!’

A spokesperson for Oldham Council said: -Oldham Council will not comment until any outstanding investigation into a complaint or appeal is completed.

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