Legal letters ramp up declaration dispute

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A controversial story that first saw light here on Neil Wilby Media last week has spawned at least two consequent legal letters, according to a number of well placed sources.

The NWM article concerned a nationally known health campaigner, Dr Zahid Chauhan MBE, who is also Deputy Mayor of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, and allegations of conflict of interest, and registration defects, made by two Liberal Democrat councillors, Cllr Mark Kenyon and Cllr Louie Hamblett, who sit in the same civic chamber.

At its heart was a contract for COVID-19 swabbing entered into between a well known Greater Manchester not-for-profit community company, Bardoc Ltd., by whom Dr Chauhan is employed as part-time chief executive, and the Council, in March, 2021.

By way of balance, NWM published, very soon after the original article, statements from the Leader of the Council, Cllr Amanda Chadderton, an un-named Council spokesperson (read both here) and by Dr Chauhan himself, exercising his right of reply (read here).

After those three articles had appeared, one of the two local newspapers that serve the town, the Oldham Chronicle, published a version of the first article, based almost entirely around a Liberal Democrat press release, including at least two palpable errors, and with, apparently, no other comments or statements by way of balance.

It is understood that a leading Manchester law firm, JMW Solicitors, issued warning letters to both the Liberal Democrats and the Chronicle over what they say are ‘damaging and untrue’ allegations in the press release and newspaper story, respectively. Dr Chauhan, via his solicitor, robustly denies any wrongdoing and insists all the necessary procedures were followed regarding the contract, about which he says he knew very little in any event.

JMW Solicitors are well respected in the field of Media and Communications claims, for which there is a specialist division in the High Court based at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. They act for another Labour councillor (and former Mayor), Cllr Riaz Ahmad, who has successfully prosecuted defamation and harassment claims against Khazir Rehman, a former Labour councillor in Oldham who now is a well known Conservative Party activist and Raja Miah, an unemployed Tameside conspiracy theorist (read more here).

The LibDem Group Leader, Cllr Howard Sykes MBE, a former Leader of Oldham Council, and Oldham Chronicle Managing Director, Matt Ramsbottom, have both been approached with a request for a statement.

Page last updated Tuesday 21st November, 2022 at 1715hrs

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Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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