Reflections on a Campaign so far, and SSG Not Bankrupt

Reposted and Updated from the Wardman Wire.

Breaking News

stand-up-spck-up-button

SSG Bankruptcy Case Dismissed in Houston

The application to make the UK charity Society of Saint Stephen the Great bankrupt at the United States Bankruptcy Court Southern District of Texas in Houston has been Dismissed with Prejudice, which means the Judge didn’t think a lot of the application, and they cannot refile. Score one for Randy Williams, the Trustee for Bankruptcy, and Due Process.

More detail:

Implications of Dismissal for Mr Brewer

Unity has a look at some implications of the decision in a post this morning Dismissed with Prejudice (summarised):

So what does this means for Brewer and his creditors.

First and foremost, if I’m correct in my understanding of the legal end of things in this country then SSG’s outstanding liabilities rest with the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust, which was and still is an unincorporated body.

Second, and this will depend very much on what the full written judgement states, Brewer’s application for bankrupcy includes what, on the face of it, appears to be manifestly false information. The company name he gave on the paperwork, SSG LLC, does not exist … and the judge was minded to take a particularly dim view of the application being made using false information then Brewer could be staring down the barrel of a charge of perjury.

Finally, for now, let’s not forget that Brewer is a lawyer and that he did his own paperwork, even to the extent of trying to score a retainer out of the whole gig. In my experience, the kind of professional associations that regulate the legal profession tend to take something of a dim view of lawyers who file false information in casess in which they have a direct personal interest. It’s unethical and just the kind of thing that can easily result, if you are a lawyer, in your licence to practice being suspended, if not removed entirely.

Brewer, to put it mildly, may well be right up shit creek and rapidly running out of paddles – and that’s before the Charity Commision and/or the UK’s Companies Investigation Bureau get started on him.

Read it all (new window)

The Last Month

It is a little over a month since Cease and Desist notices were sent to a series of bloggers.

I want to look back on what has been achieved – in both concrete terms and “soft” terms.

You can get up to speed by reading my “Introductory Guide“, or the list of people posting in support, or even the Press Room:

Dave Walker is a cartoonist who runs a popular website, which includes the blogs We Blog Cartoons, Cartoon Church and The Cartoon Blog.

On the morning of July 22nd 2008 he received a cease and desist letter threatening legal action unless he removed 75 posts from his Cartoon Church blog by lunchtime – i.e., half a day’s notice.

These 75 posts had reported the developing situation over a 2 year period in a UK book chain called SPCK, which had been taken over by a company run by Mark Brewer. Dave Walker’s was the main published source reporting the situation, asking questions about the management of the chain, and highlighting the treatment of the employees.

So, what has happened?

Public Interest

There have been several hundred articles written about the mismanagement of the SPCK shops, which Here are Blogpulse Graphs for “J Mark Brewer” and “SPCK“. Note that the first Cease and Desist notices were sent around the 20th of July.

20080827-blogpulse-spck

20080827-blogpulse-j-mark-brewer

Some Specifics

Things that have happened in the last month.

Thoughts from People involved on the inside

I emailed a couple of people who have been involved for the full 18 months, and these are points where they said we have helped:

  • (Phil Groom) Coming back from holiday to such an amazing groundswell of support certainly tipped the balance in favour of fight rather than flight.
  • Dave’s SPCK posts are now plastered across the blogosphere and there’s not a thing JMB (J mark Brewer) can now do about it: Streisand Effect!
  • We’ve taken the lid off Cease & Desist notices.
  • We’ve exposed the dubious goings on behind the scenes — special thanks to Unity at Ministry of Truth!
  • We’ve helped gain payment for one supplier and one ex-employee that we know of — there may well be others (felt like pulling a tooth from lion’s jaw, but we did it)
  • We’ve kept the story alive when the print media appear to have been scared off by what now seem to be empty threats.
  • We’ve obtained a long overdue official public statement from SPCK
  • We’ve boosted staff morale for those still in the thick of it: they now know that they are not alone.
  • We’ve launched a campaign to rescue Durham Cathedral Bookshop, which has drawn broad support from academics, clergy and laity.
  • I would stress the positive balance this has provided to the staff who have and are undergoing the tribulation caused by the brewers, I know that many of them really have found this to be a positive boost to their morale and also have found it to be a focus of strength that has even enabled some of them to begin undertaking more positive and stronger action on their own behalf some of which we might come to know about later.
  • In terms of defending Dave et al and the rights of others, I am sure without doubt yet again that this has provided a strong and stable platform that has reached out to the UK christian sphere and made them aware of issues and rights normally only of such interest and understanding to poli-bloggers and rights fighters and not the normally more sedate christian folk.
  • I have even been informed of a few Methodist and Baptists that have even spoken about the whole issue of internet civil rights and using the internet to achieve J&P outreach etc at their Justice & Peace groups – an area I am told they had not previously given any thought to.
  • Raised awareness not just on the Brewer issue, but on the wider sphere of internet rights within the Christian Community.

That is quite an interesting list. However, enough claiming successes – back to work.

The Doctor came and Pulled the Chain, and out came an aeroplane

20080827-mr-philip-brewer-elephantIncidentally, if you want to buy an aircraft, Mr Philip Brewer – who has been visiting individual shops and sending ludicrous memos from time to time – has one for sale, for $29750:

  • Description – So fun to fly, absolutely perfect. N-reg allows for greater options and freedom flying in the UK. Check it out.
  • References available – You do not need to be US FAA certified. Usually much less expensive to insure and to maintain.
  • Airplane time state – 65 Continental Wooden Prop, A/C 3500 TT.
  • Interior Cloth 8 (of 10).
  • Exterior Yellow, great covering, always hangared. 9 (of 10).

Here are the photos:

20080827-philip-brewer-of-spck-aircraft-for-sale-120080827-philip-brewer-of-spck-aircraft-for-sale-3

I’d recommend the cash to go to the SPCK Booksellers Fund.

Wrapping Up

So far this campaign has re-energised some people, and helped in some measure broaden awareness of the case. But there are possibly another 12-18 months to go, and scrutiny needs to be maintained throughout that period.

As my contribution to keeping the campaign rolling I will be building a page of people who have posted about the SPCK/SSG affair, following the pattern of the “My Name is Dave Walker” page. If you have posted, please drop a link to your most substantive article (even if it was 18 months ago), and I’ll add you to the list.

Sign the Durham Petition

In the meantime, you can sign the petition to encourage the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral to do something about the parlous state of the Durham Cathedral Bookshop (an ex-SPCK bookshop), which used to be one of the best bookshops in the sector in the North of England.

Go and read / sign the petition here. Please.

15 responses to “Reflections on a Campaign so far, and SSG Not Bankrupt

  1. My quote for the day has been from ministryoftruth. “Brewer, to put it mildly, may well be right up shit creek and rapidly running out of paddles”.

    To add to his pit of misery he might find himself in trouble regarding pensions. By now most former employees will have received a letter from the CofE Pensions Board informing them when their employer last paid into the Pension Fund. They are asking that employees furnish them with as much information as possible. Since I’m on the sidelines here I can only provide the bare minimum. I’m sure others can inform us further.

    Here’s a conundrum. Would Durham and Chichester employees be covered since they are firstly, companies and not charities. Also they are Orthodox with no link to the CofE. Seems strange that workers at a CofE Cathedral might not be covered. Did the Brewers ensure that given TUPE agreements on contracts, they could provide for employee pensions? Any thoughts?

  2. Valiant for Truth

    A number of former SPCK/SSG staff have already contacted the Church of England Pensions Board about the status of their pensions contributions and AVC’s, since the move from SPCK to SSG. Initially they were given to understand that as the Bishop of Gloucester had gone on the Board of SSGCT the pensions were safe as he was the link with the Church of England. However, former staff have now been told by the Board that the matter is in the hands of their lawyers and that letters will be sent out in due course. USDAW have been informed of this situation. If AVC’s have been “lost”, then this is theft as the money was taken from staff pay. Unfortunately, under TUPE, pension rights are not covered, so a new employer does noy have to continue arrangements. However, the Government does wish all employers to offer some kind of pensions package.

  3. The fact that dear Mr. Brewer advertises his aircraft as being constructed in 1941, but the 11AC Chief didn’t enter production until 1946 is a marvellous testament to the Brewer family’s precision when it comes to advertising and nit-picking details.

    After all, when it comes to flying and aircraft maintenance “near enough’s good enough” isn’t it? Just like retailing and “ministry”.

  4. Fr Troll, you have to say, “the poor Brewers, bless them – they give us so much ammunition.” You missed out the contact bit. Phil Brewer lives in Tuscon England.

  5. Phelim McIntyre

    I don’t believe it – the aircraft is actually Only Fools and Horses yellow!! The lyrics to that wonderful comedy seem so appropriate having read about the lack of pension contributions paid. All together now:
    “No income tax, no vat
    No money back, no guarantee…….”

  6. Who’s for a Batman and Robin cartoon?

  7. Phelim McIntyre

    Of course the plane in the cartoon needs the words “Brewer Independent Trading Company – Houston, Durham, Peckham”.

  8. Hmmm… howabout “heist ’em, do ’em and sack ’em” …?

  9. Good old asingleblog has posted a picture of the plane with the Trotter van. My mistake, the plane has been washed. http://asingleblog.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/who-lives-in-a-house-like-this/

    But asingleblog has googled the address on the advert for the plane and found this. http://www.bountifulhouse.net/

    Um hello. Nice house. Would any of us like to hire it out? Views are great, shame about the landlord. If he looks after the holiday home in the way the shops have been looked after boy would we be in trouble.

  10. Hmmm… let’s not go there!!

  11. Is this where our wages have gone? to keep them in there luxary life style, with there posh houses, and holiday homes, it makes me want to throw up. They should bring the plane hear, pick up all the SSG ex staff and give us a holiday all for free.

  12. Pingback: Durham Cathedral Shop Finances and questionable Saint Stephen the Great payments | The Wardman Wire

  13. Pingback: Durham Cathedral Shop Finances and questionable Saint Stephen the Great payments « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

  14. Pingback: Durham Cathedral Shop Employees win Redundancy Payout | SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

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