So, Peter Reynolds sent me an email in December threatening to sue me again. But let me tell you about my week.
(For people new to this, I have a helpful Peter Reynolds: An Overview page covering my previous interactions with Peter Reynolds, the leader of CLEAR – Cannabis Law Reform)
I went for some legal input on Wednesday to confirm what I already thought. I obviously won’t and can’t share that here, but the general gist was “LOL”. It’s also become apparent that, if we consider Peter Reynolds a public figure, then it is totally unacceptable for him to be threatening bloggers who have been critical of him with legal action. As Julie Burchill now well knows, calling someone terms like homophobic, racist, and a hypocritical liar on the basis of their writings is pretty much standard for mainstream discourse, and where on earth would we be as a society if politicians could just silence their critics with a pissed letter because they didn’t like their genuinely held, reasoned opinions? The concept is ludicrous.
However, on my way back, I got an email from the University of Manchester Students’ Union asking for us to take down their address from the Re:Vision Drug Policy Network website. And this is where my story really starts.
Now, to give you some context here, the Re:Vision Drug Policy Network was set up by me and some other people in an attempt to mobilise young people against the drug war in 2011. We were based in Manchester and I was at university at the time, so when we set up a limited company to constitute it and gotten recognition of our charitable nature from HMRC, we registered it to the UMSU address so it wouldn’t matter where any of us were living, we’d still get post. However, in June of last year we lost some really key people for personal reasons that really scuppered a lot of our plans, and so while we were trying to work out what best to do, we let the company lapse so we didn’t have any legal responsibilities and were free to negotiate with other groups about potential mergers and things. Re:Vision Manchester stuck around as a student society but the person-in-charge forgot to register it, so we decided to move the inbox.
And so I’d already removed most of the references to addresses and company registration numbers and things from our website when I updated it, so this email was a bit weird. I wrote back and said that I’d evidently missed the page he had named and asked how he had found our website. We’re not very big so it’s not something that you’d just happen across by accident unless you were already interested in the subject.
Then, waiting for that, I got an email from Manchester Trading Standards also wanting to know more about our registration with Companies House. I sent them back our former company number (07576992), and starting to seriously wonder what was going on.
The UMSU guy wrote back on Friday to say that a “James Clay”, who claimed to be a journalist, had rung up to say he was doing an investigation into the “financial affairs” of Re:Vision and wanted to know more about our charitable status, and that he had given his phone number. The UMSU guy suggested that I call him.
Now, the “financial affairs” of Re:Vision are exclusively funded by its members and excluding in-kind donations, the turnover in our bank account was in the hundreds last year, so this was a little fucking suspicious, to say the least. And there isn’t, according to Google, a journalist called James Clay. I decided to call the number, but I figured I’d record whoever was on the other end on Skype. So I was setting that up on my computer, when it occurred to me to Google the number.
As it turns out, the phone number of “James Clay” is the official CLEAR – Cannabis Law Reform press line. Oh look, I have a screenshot.
(As an aside, Peter Reynolds seems to have a real problem restraining himself from using the CLEAR press line to attack people, I mentioned this situation to Chris Bovey, the former webmaster of CLEAR and now of NORML UK, and he sent me this mobile phone screenshot of a SMS message he was sent in March 2012 from the same official CLEAR press number:
But I didn’t feel that that was a high enough standard of proof. Peter Reynolds is of course notorious for claiming that inconvenient screenshots of his own blog or emails he’s sent others are forgeries. I therefore asked a friend to call the number.
The recording is below.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
(For mobile users and people on computers without sound, you can read a transciption of the call here.)
I don’t think I need say any more.
Within half an hour of this conversation occurring, the number I had been given as James Clay’s was gone from the CLEAR website:
UPDATE: Politics UK republished my article, and asked for and received a response from Peter Reynolds, which you can read there. His repetition of the claim that Re:Vision is masquerading as a company and a charity was already debunked in this article, but I did just want to clarify one point with everyone else, and that is that the Charity Commission only registers charities with a turnover of more than £5000. If you have an income below this but your aims are non-profit and for the benefit of the public, you are still a charity. It’s therefore still accurate to call Re:Vision a charity – we generally choose not to do so because this is a confusing point for people.
UPDATE 31st January:: All Politics UK admins were banned from Facebook this morning, one of the lead admins of the London Cannabis Club Facebook page was banned yesterday for three days, and the original SoundCloud recording of “James Clay” was made private because “someone’s voice has been used on these recordings and uploaded without their consent” (did James Clay call them up?).
Peter Reynolds does not like this article.