Dear Mr Sargeant
I am writing to ask you to urge Carmarthenshire County Council to reconsider its decision to fund a claim for libel being brought by the authority’s chief executive against Mrs Jacqui Thompson, and also to take steps to introduce a measure which will prevent Welsh local authorities from using public money to bring offensive as opposed to defensive actions for defamation in the future.
As you are aware, Camarthenshire County Council, in common with other local authorities, is having to make painful cuts in its services. It is, for example, proposing to cut £33,000 from the funding it provides to enable disabled children to receive respite care. The public will find it very difficult to see how the Council can justify signing a blank cheque to fund what may be an extremely expensive libel case when it is having to make savings of this kind.
I saw from your answers to Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM that you are acquainted with aspects of the case, and the fact that Carmarthenshire County Council would appear to be relying on case law.
As you may be aware, there were significant factors peculiar to that case (R Comninos v. Bedford Borough Council) which played a part in the judgment. Those factors do not apply in the Carmarthenshire case. Moreover, the judge commented:
This case seems to be very much a "one-off", and it was not suggested otherwise in the adjournment debate in the House of Commons. The hazards of defamation actions are, or should be, notorious. Common sense suggests that the council's disastrous experience in the present case should be sufficient to warn-off all but the most litigious of local authorities from granting indemnities in respect of the costs of defamation proceedings brought by their officers.
It seems that Carmarthenshire County Council has chosen to ignore that advice.
No doubt other councils and organs of government across Wales and England will be watching this case with interest; if successful, the James case will form a very dangerous precedent which could throttle free speech and the right of the press and the public to criticise and hold government to account.
I hope you will do whatever is in your power to act quickly and decisively to ensure that the Council reverses its decision.
I pay my council tax to fund council services and NOT to fund the defence costs of an overpaid council official whose income is over fifteen times mine! Besides, he is supposed to be a qualified solicitor - is he INCAPABLE of conducting his own defence?
That the council (and councillors) approve this diabolical misuse of public funds shows that they ALL are morally bankrupt and intellectually bereft of any sense whatsoever
I am writing to Carl Sargeant immediately and will ask everyone I know to do the same. drogi
As the Chief Executive (to whom we raise our hats!) gets his defence costs paid out if Council funds, does that mean that this applies to all other council employees? If not, why not?
If a teacher, say, is sued for an alleged offence against a pupil, could that teacher get defence costs paid by the Council?
If not, wht not?
Surely a teacher is of equal (if not more0 importance as the Chief Executive? If gthe Chief Executive disappeared, I am sure the general population would not notice or complain (nor the running of the Council be much affected) but if all teachers disappeared, there would be absolute chaos and everyone would complain and many would be affected!
Carl Sargeants web site has a contact me page and you can comment directly on there.
Thanks for pointing that out Stuart. Thanks also to everyone who has said they will write - the more, the better.
Have you you had a response to this Cneifiwr? My own letter, comparable to this, did not give rise to so much as an acknowledgement of receipt.
We the public must be such an inconvenience to those whom would rule over us...
I would produce that letter here for you now, but sadly I am directly involved in legal dispute between Jacqui Thompson and Mark James, and the letter contains information which might perhaps be viewed as sub-judice.
It would be nice however if perhaps the Minister could find the time to acknowledge the problem...
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