Sunday 17 February 2013

James v Thompson: a conspiracy of malcontents

On Friday Cneifiwr and three others travelled to London having been advised that they might be called to give evidence in the James v Thompson libel case.

Counsel for the chief executive of Carmarthenshire had objected strongly to much of the statements provided by the four, and in the pre-trial review the week before last, large sections of the statements had been struck out as a result of the wrangling.

Counsel for Jacqui Thompson was keen for the judge to hear independent evidence from three of the witnesses from Carmarthenshire so that he could understand the context of Jacqui's blog: that this was not the work of a lone, misguided obsessive, but an accurate record of the way in which local democracy has been subverted in the county.

This is a county which, if the council's annual report is to be believed, is more prosperous, healthier and happier than ever before, and anyone who disagrees is a troublemaker and guilty of running the council down, or worse.

The judge decided that, in his words, he did not intend to "take an opinion poll", and so three of the four witnesses had travelled to London in vain.

The remaining witness was Martin Milan, author of the Madaxeman blog to which Mr James wrote a letter attacking Jacqui Thompson and her family. Mr Milan gave Mr James an opportunity to withdraw the letter before publication, but the chief executive opted to  have it published.

Much of the cross-examination of Mr Milan by Mr James's counsel appeared to be based on a theory that Mr Milan and Jacqui Thompson were part of a conspiracy (although that word was not used) to entrap Mr James into making his statement, but that theory fell rather flat when Mr Milan said he had not consulted Jacqui Thompson about whether to publish Mr James's letter.

An excellent and detailed account of the court proceedings can be found on Mrs Angry's Broken Barnet blog. Mrs Angry will be in court next week to keep us informed as the case continues into its second week.

It is good to see that media interest in the case is growing, as the realisation dawns that a victory for Mr James could open the floodgates and encourage many more councils and government bodies to sue critics for libel by proxy.

One intriguing aspect of the case is the presence throughout the proceedings of Mrs Linda Rees Jones, the county council's Head of Law. Mrs Rees Jones is not a member of Mr James's legal team in court, but sits at his side making notes. Clearly the council feels that her services as Monitoring Officer and chief legal officer are of secondary importance while she supports the chief executive for a couple of weeks.

An interesting subject for a Freedom of Information request would be how many hundreds of hours Mrs Rees Jones has devoted to a case which in theory is being brought by Mr Mark James in a personal capacity rather than by the county council. Her presence rather gives the game away, and county councillors in particular might like to ask why Mr James needed her services in addition to the rest of his eye-wateringly expensive legal team in court.

Whether they will ever be allowed to ask such an impertinent question is quite another matter.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Judge might decide he does not wish to 'take an opinion poll' next week when E. Bowen, Cll. Jackson and another member of staff arrive at the High Court to support of Mark James.

Delyth Jenkins said...

Sorry to go off the point or is it?
Please read my contribution to an article in yesterday's Guardian about my treatment as a whistleblower and the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.
Very pleased with what's been written but there is a lot more! Article can be found online.

Cneifiwr said...

Thank you Delyth. The article can be found here:

Anonymous said...

Delyth Jenkins puzzles me in that how can a whisle blower settle out of court .
It totally baffles me does it mean she got a huge amount of money for this Sally person or for herself.

Cneifiwr said...

I doubt very much that Delyth received a huge amount of money. Settling out of court is common in these cases - it saves both sides a huge amount of money and, in the case of individuals, a truly horrible ordeal.

Delyth Jenkins said...

Anon 18.41

I think you should be more concerned about how the Council failed to protect me as a whistleblower and the appalling way I was treated, but more importantly how they failed a vulnerable person who couldn't speak up for herself and someone who couldn't go home and tell her parents that she was being abused.
The whole truth has yet to emerge.

Delyth Jenkins said...

Anon 18.41

What you should also consider is why did the Council settle at all? Why were they so desperate?
Were they worried that if it went to Tribunal the whole truth would come out?

Thankfully, due to the coverage by S4C's Taro 9 last March, and now the Guardian last Saturday, the truth is beginning to emerge.

Delyth Jenkins said...


Interviewed by the Evening post yesterday. Excellent article about C.C.C., the public Interest disclosure act and whistleblowing in the evening post today.