Thursday, 14 March 2013

James v Thompson Libel Trial - updated

Update 16 March

Discussions are underway to set up an appeal fund, the aim being that any money raised should be ring-fenced by the council for a good cause, such as respite care. If anyone has any experience of running a public appeal, please could they get in touch via the e-mail address on the blog. The hope is that we can  make something good come out of this.

Thanks also to all of those who have sent messages. Normally this blog tries to publish all comments, even those which may be considered offensive. Of the messages so far received, only two have been hostile, and the people concerned are welcome to write to the Carmarthen Journal which will no doubt be happy to publish such things. Cneifiwr's normal open door policy will be resumed when we move on to other subjects.

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As everyone will have heard by now, the judgment went against Jacqui Thompson, and the chief executive was awarded £25,000 in damages.

The text of the judgement can be found here and here, and a BBC report on the outcome can be found here.

David Allen Greene, who writes for the New Statesman on legal matters tweeted his first reaction thus:

"shockingly illiberal and a genuine deterrent to public participation in local government."

And that sums it up.

Jacqui and her legal team are considering whether to appeal a judgement which will have devastating financial consequences for her and her family. For the rest of us, this is a very black day for accountable, open and transparent local government in Carmarthenshire, and it poses a serious threat to free speech.

There is talk of an appeal to raise funds to help her, and I hope to be able to report more on that in the coming days.




26 comments:

Mrs Angry said...

Yes: the best of luck to Jacqui, although whatever the outcome, she emerges triumphant, in my view.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Keeping my fingers crossed, lets have victory for Jacqui and all those who fight for responsive and accountable government at all levels. Let's hope there's a big party in Llanwrda tomorrow night.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear Mrs Angry!! There are a tremendous amount of people behind you Jacqui, hoping that justice will prevail.

Ammanford said...

Very unhappy with today's result. Suddenly the Evening Post has lots to say on the subject.
http://www.thisissouthwales.co.uk/Carmarthenshire-blogger-Jacqui-Thompson-loses/story-18423700-detail/story.html#axzz2NbTQJgjl

Anonymous said...

Can we all contribute £1 as taxpayers to help Jaqui fund her damages? I am sure Mark James will be really pleased to see the public fundraising on his behalf. In support of Jaqui who has grown a set and stood up the the council.

If half the people living in Carmarthenshire gave a pound we would raise enough for the appeal too!!!

Lesley said...

I'm sure a lot of us would be willing to contribute more than £1 to help this brave and principled woman who has fought on behalf of all residents of Carmarthenshire. I am horrified by this travesty of justice.

Anonymous said...

Yes,Lets all contribute to her fund. This is so unfair. With his salary Mark James has enough £000's and the council has paid his legal bill already. This is an attack on free speech.
council leader Kevin Madge should be ashamed of himself for approving all this. Our council tax going to provide evangelical bowling alley is bad enough, using it to gag bloggers is indefensible!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with anonymous. Come on. Somebody organise a campaign. I will gladly contribute.

Anonymous said...

Whilst the result is naturally disapointing - reading the judgment it appears sound enought.

I think JT has done enough for openness in local government and should think about bowing out.

It must be exhausting for her to be permananetly at war with the council.

Hard lines JT - you have fought the good fight but it is time to retire.

If people are determined to challenge the council stand for election.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Yes I will contribute as well.

Anonymous said...

I love my county of Carmarthenshire, that verdict has saddened my heart so greatly.
I feel like I did when I'd seen that filmette 'You've been Trumped', can hardly believe it's happening in Great Britain.
The thing is, it's not just James v Thompson, it's James v's me, and you, and anybody with the expectation of transparency. These are our elected officials. I strongly believe we have a right to know how they are spending our money & taking care of our county. I want to know how & why decisions effecting me and our county are arrived at. They should be accountable. The verdict is a verdict against the people & against democracy.
To darn right I'll donate a tenner to the appeal.
Keep us informed Y Cneifiwr.

Anonymous said...

Please let everybody know that we will set up something and get this going. Contact as many as we can. We need a committee of roughly 6/8 if Cneifwr is willing I think we can all help Jaqui out. Thank you all for supporting the idea lets get it up and running!!

I am certain we will have ample support to pay Mr.James in pound coins!!

Spread the word on all your twitters etc, we need to raise the funds ASAP!!!

Tessa said...

I'm absolutely reeling! How the hell could there be a verdict like this? At the very worst I would have thought no win to either. Its simply unbelievable. This is the (metaphorical) cutting out of the tongue of those who speak out. And so completely in contradiction to the moves that appear to be afoot to better protect whisteblowers. However, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger - and Jacqui you are a strong and courageous woman who should be proud, and your supporters want and indeed need you to keep going. Yes I'll put my money where my mouth is. yes I'll join a support group.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Count me in for £20

Cneifiwr said...

Thanks for all of the comments so far. I will be discussing setting up an appeal fund over the next few days, and will post when there is more to say.

Anonymous said...

Who pays the costs then ?

Anonymous said...

Hearts go out to Jaqui from many in and around Llandovery. I hope a really public appeal is set up to give the whole of Wales and beyond the clearest of messages. How amazing it would be if the whole sum could be raised from the Carmarthenshire electorate. There couldn't be a clearer message to Mark James.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be a bit modern about this and you've probably already got the wheels in motion for this but I'll tell you what I think would be great.
I'd like 'Y Cneifiwr' to write a blog about this, and in that blog I want a link "To donate click here". Probably using Paypal..??
I've shared the blogs about this case on to my Facebook, which in turn has been shared & shared again. I think this would be an effective and efficient way of spreading the appeal and maximizing donations, as this way anyone across the country, across the globe could read, donate, spread the appeal with just a couple of clicks of the mouse.
This case, this injustice, it's not just James v Thompson, it's James v the citizens, Jacqui could have been me,you, any of us ....I believe no trial by jury would have arrived at this decision.
Not many of us are as eloquent as Caerbryn, y Cneifiwr, Mrs Angry ect, so donating is an excellent way of getting our voices heard in support of Jacqui & in support of our rights (I thought!) to question, scrutinise & report without fear & recrimination.

Anonymous said...

Stunned at this judgement! It appears to have been based more upon the history than the actual merits of the case. Mark James could not say he was upset by comments he hadn't even read. Isn't that what libel is about...being upset? Old boys network. A jury would not have supported this man. A frightening judgement for freedom of speech.
I will give £20.00...happily. This should be appealed.

mark said...

good on you jacqui,count me in for £10 pounds.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic idea!! Cneifwr up for it??
Lets get it going!!!!

Anonymous said...

Anon. 16.3.13. 00:00
Should read 'Many of us are NOT as eloquent as.....' obviously!! sorry.

Elfed said...

I am deeply shocked about the High Court libel judgement yesterday that decided against Jacqui Thompson, a Carmarthenite blogger, and in favour of Mark James, Head of Carmarthenshire County Council.

Is it true that Mark James used taxpayer's money to quell Free Speech?

After Iceland, the United Kingdom is the second oldest democracy in the world and so all the more painful and insidious that the judgement should be declared from a court in this country. The legal right to express one's opinion without fear of intimidation, except with incitement to spread racial hatred, is an important cornerstone of Britain's democracy, a political system which has slowly developed over many, many centuries. It separates us, or at least it used to, from tin pot autocracies. Yet in the last 10 years we have seen these same rights and liberties, valiantly defended and protected in the past by women and men in many wars and revolutions, gravely limited in all free-thinking countries around the world. While this may sound a trifle lofty, I think many in the older generation realise how quickly what has been given can be taken away again, and just as fast!

I take my hat off to Jacqui Thompson because she realises how slippery the slope we sit on truly is and moreover she is willing to raise her head above the parapet. Every democracy requires a strong checks and balance system in place and from what I have garnered from activities concerning the council, it is unable to properly monitor itself. If publicising the actions of the council in a blog, a form of Free Speech, serves to remind some of the council members (I exclude the genuinely honest ones who are numerous) that their duty is first to the taxpayers, then Jacqui has definately carried out a public service to all of us and voluntarily at that.

I would like to second the idea of starting a FB page with a Paypal button in order to facilitate contributions to Jacqui's fund. I think there should be a way to donate anonymously for those who may fear reprisal, not a remote possibility, I daresay. It would also increase accessibility to Welsh living abroad who might like to take a stand in favour of free expression and free thought and against intimidation.

best wishes,

Elfed

jane said...

I really hope that Jacqui will be at next month's council meeting. It would be really good to see Jonathan Edwards and Rhodri Glyn Thomas there to support her.They have after all described CCC as a dictatorship and for me and probably many other people Jacqui's the best thing that's ever happened to Carmarthenshire

madaxeman said...

Folks,

Many of you who have been over to my blog will know that I got involved with the #TwitterJokeTrial, which benefited from a remarkable appeal fund - well organised and executed by one of the supporters. I've tweeted him to ask for advice on where we go from here...

I also plan on contacting a couple of high profile celebrities whose help was invaluable... They might well be able to make useful suggestions as to where we go from here - both very intelligent chaps...

I'm fully behind the idea of a fund - and will contribute cold hard dosh once one is established.

What has happened to Jacqui represents, in my view, a shocking injustice which should not be allowed to stand. That said, we all need to give Jacqui the space to make her own view of where to go from here...

Something else I plan to do is to write to my member of parliament - in my case, Ed Miliband... I suggest everyone else do the same - and in your cases, your assembly members as well. True, they might not act, but we're not going to give them the excuse of thinking nobody cared...