Sunday 17 April 2016

Time bombs

As predicted on this blog a couple of weeks ago, the recent flurry of activity by Mark James and Carmarthenshire County Council in their pursuit of fellow blogger Jacqui Thompson after a three year lull was part of a carefully constructed plan of action.

First the bailiffs turn up at Jacqui's home, then Mr James goes on a PR offensive, and next an item appears on the council's Executive Board agenda to be discussed in secret behind closed doors. The supposedly highly confidential report recommending action to try to recover £190,000 in costs (but not a further £40,000 in bills run up by Mr James in his unlawfully funded counterclaim) was then leaked to the Carmarthen Journal which, coincidentally, has served as his mouthpiece on countless occasions in recent years.

The dust had not settled on that before a new three-pronged attack was launched. The council has written to Jacqui asking for proposals in the next few days on how she intends to pay the £190,000 bill, knowing full well that she can't, and that the chief executive in any case has a charge on her property and a prior claim in respect of his libel damages.

The bailiffs having left empty-handed after a couple of fruitless visits, Mr James has gone to the police alleging criminal harassment, and he is threatening to take her back to the High Court, presumably at his own expense this time, alleging that she has breached undertakings given after the trial not to repeat statements made in her blog which the court found to be libellous.

"In defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity", runs one of Churchill's most quoted maxims. Magnanimity is clearly out of stock in County Hall and the James residence.

What happens next is anyone's guess. The council will have either to bite the bullet and write off the debt, or spend even more public money on further court action to have her declared bankrupt - before writing off the debt.

Dyfed Powys Police will have to spend a lot of time, effort and public money investigating Mr James's complaint of harassment.

Harassment can take different forms, but Jacqui has not taken to stalking Mr James with a sharpened axe. Rather, her supposedly vicious and relentless pursuit of Mr James consists of chronicling his 15-year rule in County Hall which has produced countless negative headlines in the press and on our TV screens.

Nearly four years ago Mr James launched an all-out assault on Cllr Sian Caiach with no fewer than five complaints of misconduct to the Ombudsman for Public Services because she had made a few prescient remarks critical of Mr James and Cllr Meryl Gravell. The Ombudsman dismissed every one of them, pointing out that freedom of expression was a feature of democracy, and suggesting that Mr James should grow a thicker skin.

Dyfed Powys has better things to do with its scant resources, and it would do well to take a leaf out of the Ombudsman's book.

That leaves the possibility of a return to the High Court, this time paid for by Mr James we would hope, to examine whether Jacqui is guilty of contempt for not having pots of money and not writing that Mr James is a beacon of virtue in Welsh local government.

While Dyfed Powys Police clearly have better things to do than protect Mr James's very tender ego, so too does the County Council, you would think. But countless hours and pounds continue to be poured into this bottomless pit, and what all of the latest initiatives against Jacqui Thomas have in common is that they will take a very long time, energy and pots of our money to pursue to the bitter end.

Any doomed attempt by the council to try to seize assets would take at least a year to pursue through the courts.

A thorough investigation by Dyfed Powys Police, involving trawling through hundreds of blogposts, will take months, and in the event that they conclude that there are grounds for prosecution, many more months would pass and tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money would have to be spent before the matter went to court, costing us all more money. And to what end? The holy grail of silencing a critical blog?

The same probably applies to the threat to pursue Jacqui for alleged contempt of court. It took 18 months from the publication of Mr James's fatwa on the Madaxeman blog for the judge and bewigged barristers to take their places in the Courts of Justice in London. Even if the legal system goes into overdrive, what could amount to a re-run of the libel trial is likely to take at least a year to bring about.

All of which means that a series of time bombs have been set ticking which could very likely begin exploding around the time of next year's council elections, generating a flood of unflattering PR for the council. There is a high risk that some or all of them could backfire, and even if Mr James succeeds in having the Thompsons made homeless, the blog silenced and Jacqui Thompson put behind bars for lèse majesté, it will all have been achieved at a massive cost.

If ever there was a case of "not in the public interest", this is it. 


Anonymous said...

you only have to look at the speed and efficiency with which the plod have examined the allegation of fraud in Pembs - even when the evidence has been laid at their feet by Old Grumpy to see how this will go.

Also the enquiry will be welcomed like a bucket of cold sick by the Police and they are in any case likely to say that its civil and all tied up with the libel issue.

Just too much going on in society at the mo - all of this needs to be put to bed.

Anonymous said...

Perfect summary. Even if the worst happened in the High Court and Jacqui was found guilty, imagine a judge sentencing her to a few months in prison. It would go down as one of the worst PR exercises for Mark James - ever - and the council. It would most certainly hit the nationals and no longer would this sordid tale be confined to Carmarthenshire.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that there is no one in County Hall prepared to stand up to James. Officers who challenge him do so at risk for their future careers. In terms of Councillors most of them are mostly interested in feathering their own nests, and challenging James means their nest will be shot down from the tree! Hence, the megalomaniac survives.
Unil someone has the balls to stand up to this pompous , arrogant, supposed Christian he will continue with his vendetta against Caebryn and indeed anyone else who dares to challenge him. The man is out of control and it is about time Emlyn Dole Leader of the Council took some decisive action to protect the reputation of the Council and most importantly to safeguard employees, the majority of whom are committed, caring and hardworking individuals .

Anonymous said...

It would seem that M James takes no notice of public opinion any more than comments made by The Ombudsman. When will he realise that he is a very highly paid public servant and as such is answerable to them for his actions or sometimes his in-action?

Anonymous said...

Well, while he's at it why doesn't the dark lord take a combined action against you too, for allowing similar content on your blog. In fact, maybe not stop there and have the whole internet closed down.

What a deranged, insensitive, egotistical, pompous deluded person he is. A Christian? Not even slightly. If this man attends a church, he leaves the religion at the door. Its merely a veneer and a very thin one at that.

To harass a person when they are already beaten is purely spiteful. The manner in which he attempts to bring such action is further intended to increase that pain and I sincerely hope that any firm of solicitors in Carmarthenshire have refused to represent him. And as for the police, I hope they do advise this is not a criminal matter, after all, why instruct solicitors? If it were criminal the CPS would be prosecuting the matter.

As I've mentioned previously, these blogs are mere words and without action become meaningless.

Its time for action to remove this stain from Carmarthenshire.

Unknown said...

Action is needed and it doesn't look like it will come from Plaid or Labour. The only people to have ruffled Mark James' feathers to any extent are blogger Jacque Thompson & Cllr Sian Caiach they have no whip that can silence them. Even you with your blogs which evidence the truth as to how this Council works against the public interest worries him not as he knows your party has no intention of taking action against him or his cronies! Please keep up the pressure you are exerting with you blogs as they do contribute greatly to our understanding why we need Accountability, Open Debate & Transparency to take place regarding the Carmarthenshire County Council's members & officers. You are a known loyal supporter of Plaids ethos and even Mark James realises to act against you and your blogs would be counter productive as the plaid members might suddenly rebel against him and the executives supporting role! I'd like to think the voters would give "People First" a chance to draw the attention of our Welsh Assembly Government to the shenanigans of this Toxic Council and force our representative to start acting in our interests if they want to keep their positions. Lets ruffle the feathers of the political parties who seem only to want to protect their own reputations and that of our public bodies against our interests. May 5th 2016 is our chance to show our political parties we want them to act for us not against us. Give them a short sharp shock!

Anonymous said...

Totally agree anon'18.05

Cneifiwr said...

Thanks Jennifer. Yes, I do support Plaid Cymru, and this is a mess they have inherited, along with a truckload of other headaches.

When it comes to voting on 5 May, we are of course voting for the Assembly and police commissioner, not the county council. I shall be voting for Adam Price, who is one of the most outstanding politicians anywhere in the British Isles, and Dafydd Llywelyn because he is by far the strongest candidate, irrespective of party.

The council elections are a year away, and I hope Plaid will be returned without the need to rely on the Independents who bear much of the responsibility for the sorry state of local democracy in our county.

Anonymous said...

The only way I know how to show my disgust at ALL the political parties (and none) who miss-rule Carmarthenshire County Council(and that includes the fascist so-called Independents) is to vote for none of them - so I will vote UKIP mainly to give them all a well justified "kick up the backside"

Cneifiwr said...

So Anon @15.10, I think that's what they call cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Unknown said...

Hi Cneifiwr; yes I know we're voting for Assembly Members and I also know WAG can take action against LA's who act against the public interest to the extent our's does. The Labour AM had no interest in looking into the way CCC was not following the Statutory Social Services Complaints policy even insisting they had investigated my complaint against POVA. Neither did Simon Thomas AC have any interest in becoming involved. I don't believe either Plaid or Labour AMs will want anything to do with holding the CCC to account. It could become too uncomfortable for either party as so many of their party members in the Council have just sat on their hands or actively encouraged & protected Mark James & his officers misdeeds. I feel that choosing an AM who would speak out against the way our Council continues to act against us and our interests with such impunity is one of the most important matters we in Carmarthenshire has that needs sorting ASAP. There has to be a way of holding self interested public servants to account when policies and regulations are ignored. When regulators and our Ombudsman fail to bring change the only answer is through AMs willing to stand up for us and persuade WAG (no easy matter) to get involved and start holding Members & Officers accountable. Maybe if that starts to happen the Members will stop sitting on their hands and start acting responsibly so by the time of the Council elections we can vote for our favorite party knowing they will actually stand up against iffy decisions and advice from officers and the Executive. Another thought is if Mark James can complain about individual councillors to the Ombudsman then councillors should be able to reciprocate & complain about him, his officers and the Executive should any of them stifle debate & dissent.

Wavell said...

I agree that Plaid inherited rhe Council mess.
But Plaid do not appear to be in the least bit interested in rectifying the problem.
Maybe someone can explain the reason why ?

Anonymous said...

*Head in hands* It's Jacqui who should be going to the police and filing a claim against Mark James because at this point he is most definitely the one doing the harassing!!!

Anonymous said...

Noticed on Emlyn Dole's Facebook page that he classes himself as a "Politician" and not a mere Councillor.

That says it all I think - we all know that politicians are 100% honest.

Ken Haylock said...

Perhaps the old ways are still the best... all it needs is for the townspeople to march on Gaol Hill with pithforks and flaming torches and the problem will be solved. I mean normally you'd rely on democracy to solve these kind of toxic problems, but it seems that being elected to a seat in the dining car of the gravy train is the end itself rather than a means to resolve anything for local politicians of all parties. Plaid are now defending and facilitating the indefensible with as much vigour as they attacked it before they got their own snouts in the trough, and Labour have shuffled over to the opposition benches to await their next turn begging for table scraps at Mark & Meryl's banquet. One wonders whether a Labour/Plaid 'coalition of Carmarthenshire unity' and a combined project to slay all the outstanding scandals and hold the guilty, including officers, accountable might have been a better option for the people of Carmarthenshire. But I bet it wasn't a better option personally for the PC counsellors who suddenly found themselves in line for enhanced remuneration, eh? I mean the only stipulation, that questions must definitely not be asked, and terrible dictats past & future from an unelected unaccountable dictator must all be rubber stamped, seems a small price to pay, huh?