THE computer used by the illegal blacklisting organisation The Consulting Association (TCA) has dramatically been found after being 'lost' of more than 7 years. The PC was seized during the Information Commissioners' Office raid in 2009 but unbelievably the ICO returned the computer to Ian Kerr, chief executive of the blacklisting body without even turning it on to analyse it. The government department believed they had enough evidence for a conviction but their actions were subsequently roundly condemned by MPs during a Select Committee investigation into the systematic victimsation of union members in the construction industry.
According to Kerr, once the PC had been returned, it was destroyed along with all the data on it. But this has now turned out to be incorrect. During research for his book 'Blacklisted: the secret war between big business and union activists', investigative journalist Phil Chamberlain acquired the PC from the one time TCA book keeper Mary Kerr, who is set to be a witness in the imminent High Court blacklisting trial.
Phil Chamberlain commented:
'The Consulting Association and the construction industry went to great lengths to keep their operation secret but we've gone to even greater lengths to gather evidence of their activities. It was only at the end of hours of interviews at her home that Mary Kerr mentioned a computer stored in her garage. I hadn't expected to be driving home with that in the boot of my car. Despite their best efforts, the secrets of the construction industry blacklist are being dragged into the light. Investigative journalism should and can change the public discourse but it often relies on persistence and lucky breaks.'
Apart from one letter chasing an unpaid invoice, all of the documents relating to the blacklisting operation have been deleted from the computer. The hard drive from the PC is now undergoing expert forensic computer examination to discover if previously deleted emails, word documents and spreadsheets can be recovered from hidden historical archives and ghost files. Any retrieved documents would then be used as evidence in the High Court. Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Skanska, Kier, Vinci and Laing O’Rourke are the defendants in the trial.
The rediscovery of the computer has the potential to blown apart the wall of secrecy surrounding the blacklisting conspiracy. Despite numerous Court Orders, the blacklisting firms have repeatedly failed to disclose documents and in some cases the High Court has been told about evidence being deliberately destroyed. Not a single set of minutes from 16 years of TCA meetings have so far been disclosed. Not a single letter or email to or from Cullum McAlpine, the founding chairman of the blacklist conspiracy has been disclosed to the court. In a few days, the entire cover up may start to fall apart at the seams.
Howard Beckett, Legal Director at Unite the Union said:
'These defendants openly admit to the destruction of documents. Their attempts to deny meaningful levels of compensation and to deny conspiracy allegations rely upon the lack of records. This discovery allows the victims legal teams to further explore the possibility that undisclosed documents still exist showing the true extent of those involved in the disgraceful practice of blacklisting.'
The hard drive also has the potential to shed further light on the involvement of the police in the human rights scandal. In 2008, Detective Chief Inspector Gordon Mills from the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU), one of the infamous and now disbanded police political surveillance units gave a PowerPoint presentation to senior managers and company directors at a TCA meeting in Oxfordshire. Ian Kerr claimed that a 'two way exchange of information' was established following the secret meeting. Both the police and the companies claim that no correspondence whatsoever relating to this meeting exists.
Dave Smith, BSG secretary and core participant in the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing commented:
'Its like Indiana Jones finding the Lost Ark. No one knows what secrets might be locked away inside but if you're one of the bad guys, you might want to keep your eyes closed. Lots of people involved in the blacklisting conspiracy will be having sleepness nights worrying what is about to come out. My heart bleeds for them.'
Next Blacklisting High Court hearing Thursday 7th April Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand
Photo-opportunity with blacklisted workers at: 9;15am
'Blacklisted: the secret war between big business and union activists' has been shortlisted for the Bread & Roses Book Award .
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