It's taken a while, but the legal system has finally presented the bill for the libel case involving blogger Jacqui Thompson and Mark James, chief executive of Carmarthenshire Council. You can read Jacqui's statement about it here.
There were two parts to the case: the action brought by Jacqui against the chief executive over comments he made in a letter he wrote to the Madaxeman blog, and a counterclaim brought by Mr James against Jacqui. The costs were £190,000 and £41,000 for these two actions respectively. In addition, Jacqui has been ordered to pay £25,000 in damages to Mr James personally.
All told, that's just over £250,000, an amount which exceeds the value of the smallholding where Jacqui and her family live.
It took more than a year for the case to come to court, and as Jacqui says, in the first few months the hope and expectation was that the two parties would reach a settlement. That opportunity was lost.
The bombshell comes at the end of Jacqui's statement where she reveals that her insurers used the wording of the judgement to withdraw their cover. The entire £250,000 therefore falls on Jacqui and her family, who the judge noted were of very modest means.
Where this leaves the council is not clear. What is known is that the council's own insurance was invoked to meet the cost of the defence, while the council funded the counterclaim action directly. Whatever happens, the result will be a black hole for the council's tax payers, while Jacqui and her family face the prospect of being made homeless by the council, which would then have to rehouse them.
In his many interviews and articles since the judgment was handed down, Mr James has described this as an important victory for local government. Pyrrhic would be more apt. Wiser councils, particularly councils which are run by elected councillors rather than unelected officials, will certainly think twice before following the route Mr James took Carmarthenshire down.
The legal construct which the county council used to bring its counterclaim could and should have been challenged by the Welsh Government, which chose to sit on the sidelines wringing its hands.
The manner in which the council funded the counterclaim was, bizarrely, one of the key features of Mr James's case against Jacqui. The judge found Jacqui's description of the arrangement whereby Carmarthenshire County Council changed its constitution to enable council officers and members to dip into taxpayers funds to bring libel actions to be libellous.
Jacqui's lawyers are now seeking leave to appeal the judgement, and we wish her every success.