Fellow blogger Jacqui Thompson was in court in Carmarthen yesterday for a brief hearing in which the court made a charging order to enable Carmarthenshire County Council to try to recover £190,390 in costs associated with the libel trial back in 2013.
The hearing was accompanied by a small but poignant protest in the streets of Carmarthen featuring a blood-spattered Kidwelly resident carrying a "pound of flesh".
The judge appears to have had misgivings about the action being brought by the council, but reluctantly agreed to make the order final after pointing out that any action by the council to enforce would mean spending yet more public money in the pursuit of a claim which will yield no return.
For its part, the council has argued that it is legally obliged to pursue action to recover its costs, but that argument is somewhat undermined by the council's failure so far to bring action to recover a further £41,000 in costs incurred when the chief executive, Mark James, persuaded the council to bring a counter-claim for defamation.
All of this is academic because the council has no realistic prospect of recovering any of this money.
As Jacqui reports on her blog, the chief executive is now pushing ahead with court action to enforce his claim for damages, a claim which now stands at £35,000. Mr James's order was made final back in September 2014, so the next step is to actually force the sale of the Thompsons' home.
The lawyers will have a field day because there are other charges on the property, including a mortgage and a prior charge held by Eifion Bowen, the council's former head of planning.
Cneifiwr is no lawyer, but it would be reasonable to assume that the Thompsons' mortgage lender will want its money back before whatever is left goes first to Eifion Bowen and then Mark James. The County Council will be at the back of the queue in a bun fight with no buns.
Although Carmarthenshire County Council did not make any effort to find out about the state of Jacqui's finances when it allowed Mr James to push ahead with the libel case in 2012, it has since had full disclosure. As things now stand, therefore, the council is guilty of wasting public money by pursuing a claim which has no realistic prospect of success.
One question councillors may wish to ponder is the source of the legal advice given to the Executive Board and just how independent of the chief executive that advice was.
They may also want to consider the timings of the various court hearings. Bearing in mind that Mr James's claim for damages takes precedent over the council's attempt to recover its costs, why did the council push ahead with this action before the chief executive's application to have the property sold?
The council's answer, as approved by Mr James no doubt, would be the legal nicety that in seeking to obtain his damages, Mr James is, in theory at least, acting in a private capacity.
What is now evident is that Mr James has once again succeeded in persuading the council to pile pressure on to one of his biggest critics while shouldering not just the costs but also the negative publicity which will result.
There was no compulsion for the council to act before Mr James, and it was certainly not in councillors' interests to do so. But turkeys voting for Christmas seems to be all the rage these days.
Finally, if anyone is still in doubt as to what this has always been about, read Jacqui Thompson's account of the the chief executive's attempt to have Dyfed Powys Police pursue her with charges of criminal harassment for a string of offending blogposts, including a reference to "lumpy carpets" in County Hall in connection with the Pembrey Country Park scandal.
That must have had Dyfed Powys' finest scratching their heads because, as the Carmarthenshire Herald reported some while back, they are in possession of a file containing serious allegations of criminal activity and a cover-up handed to them by Nia Griffith MP for investigation.
In the Alice in Wonderland, paranoid, thin-skinned, PR obsessed world of Mr James, it seems that what really counts as criminal is criticism of his management of the council.
Executive board CCC should all resign over the unlawful indemnity and then become whistie-blowers as to what happened at the meeting where it was decided to give it.Wouln't that be great?
Today at lunchtime I had a telephone call from Beaufort Research in Cardiff. They have been contracted by the Wales Audit Office to canvass opinion by way of a questionnaire, as to residents thoughts on the quality of their local authority.
As I was having my lunch I declined to comment.
As usual, a cogent summary of the situation, Cyneifiwr.
In any other circumstances it might have been amusing to watch Mr James yesterday heading rapidly for his car and driving away just before an apparently blood-spattered Tessa arrived to present him with his "pound of flesh" in the form of a pig's heart. Presumably someone had warned him that he was about to be confronted with a somewhat embarrassing gift?
If it wasn't for the appalling stress that this situation must be causing Jacqui and her family, the whole fiasco would be farcical. I sincerely hope that the so-called christians in County Hall will spare a moment from celebrating the birth of their god to examine their consciences because if this vindictive vendetta against one woman is an example of christian behaviour then they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
Among the comments on Jaqui's facebook page is one that asks us to remember it was she who first sued Mark James for libel.
.Why shouldn't she? He had put it on a blog and included members of her family.
What is not emphasised is that overtures were made to him to come to some agreement thereby avoiding a court case.HE REFUSED and there is proof contrary to his denial.
There is somewhere a very good article showing the judge in the case failed to consider the evidential threshol was not met.It was his opinion but he was wrong as many judges are.
No one is mentioning this or that Mark James was determined to press on with tax-payers money when there was an alternative.
There was no justification for him to have acted as he did in deliberately and in my view maliciously include a statement that he knew would jeopardise her insurance support.
The blame lies squarely with Mark James who unprofessionally reacted instead of negotiating a way out which would have caused less damage to his reputation and Jacqui's home would have been saved.
There are now more questions than answers.
1 what made him think it was appropriate to send a blog to Madaxman.
2 what time of day did he send it (relevant I think)
3 was the blog entry authorised by Legal
4 was any councillor involved
5 did council know it was unlikely that they would get any money back
6 does anybody know the full cost of this debacle ?
The previous Labour led administration acted unlawfully in granting an indemnity to Mark James to sue Mrs Thompson. Mrs Thompson acted foolishly in suing the Council and then in not telling the whole truth to her insurance company, which then refused to pay her costs of £180,000. All in all a sad situation. Having said that I don't see why the residents of Carmarthenshire should have to pay for Mrs Thompson's foolishness.
@Myfanwy - I didn't know he'd only just departed. Well if he thought THAT would be embarrassing, he'd be mortified by my idea for my next demo if he makes a move on Jacqui's home. Him.....and Dole even more so...... ;-)
There are some short videos of the protests on YouTube. Here are the links. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNVKHJpKX9g and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etepQRgqsxw
Many thanks to the contributor who made a reference to Dick Turpin. As you can see how sensitive the chief executive is to suggestions that his carpets may not be entirely level with the floor, it was probably kinder not to upset him any more with talk of 18th century highwaymen.
Anon 3 December @ 13.17 The unlawful libel indemnity was awarded by the previous Labour/Independent administration in 2012 under the then leader, Kevin Madge.
Cllr Madge is now languishing on the back benches, but the Independents - Mr James's most loyal fan club - survived the Madge shipwreck and still insist on having 5 of the 10 seats on the ruling Executive Board, which is rather more than their performance at the ballot box should give them.
Jacqui had every right to sue Mark James due to his defamation of her family on Madaxeman's blog. MJs conduct regarding this should be questioned by the councillors who are supposed to be in control. Cll. Caiach and Cll. Lenny are the only two councilors who have spoken out against this shocking travesty. Why hasn't the Leader Cll. Dole uttered a word?? His silence speaks volumes. It is plain he is under control now, as he was pretty outspoken againt MJs unlawful payment when he felt safe to say it. Different now Mr. Dole-why is that? It's about time he was made to stand down as he is doing his party a lot of harm. A wimp at best a turncoat at worst.
Yes, if Mark James is successful in his action to force the sale of Jacqui’s home all previous charges on the property will take precedence over his – a matter of first come first served. However, taking a look at Citizens Advice info and the limited amount I know about her circumstances, it would appear that there is no guarantee of success of such an action. (https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/action-your-creditor-can-take/charging-orders/)
But if we go to the hypothetical case where Mark James is successful and recovers even just one penny, this will surely cause an enormous problem for CCC. This is because the funding of his counterclaim was approved on the basis that he would return any damages to the Council to offset the costs incurred. But the funding of the counterclaim has since been declared unlawful by the WAO, so the Council would therefore be receiving money gained unlawfully, at least in the eyes of WAO.
So far the Council has run a mile from challenging the WAO decision by judicial review, indicating that they are far from certain of a successful outcome, hence the decision not to pursue the recovery of Mr James’ costs.
On the other hand, if Mr James refused to hand over the damages, then potentially the Council would be obliged to take action against him for their recovery (in the knowledge that the counterclaim has been declared unlawful). Also, in such a scenario, there may be a case for action under part 10.1 of the Officers’ Code of Conduct – “Whilst employees’ private lives are their own concern, they must not allow their private interests to conflict with their public duty.”
With that in mind maybe CCC should revisit the email of 20 January 2012 from the WAO:
“Both the Council and us as auditors need to ensure that the Council is not acting for any improper purpose (such as pursuing aggressive litigation through its officers in order to stifle criticism of the Council)”
Anon @ 20:18 Please read post @ 18:00
M James libelled not only her but her family.Would you not want to put the record straight.
She did not lie to her insurance company at all.That was down to a judge's opinion.
It has been established that the required evidential threshold was not met therefore the judge was wrong to use the language he did.It was what the judge said that deprived Jacqui of her insurance company's support.
This should be made clear.A miscarriage of justice has taken place.
I have pointed out many times and again this is forgotten that an arrangement to mediate was refused by MARK JAMES. What chief executive anyway with any vestige of dignity would resort to insisting he has a post on a blog.
This is a concise explanation from Martin Milan on Jacqui's blog Nov 28th of the judge's ruling that has caused such devastation.
Civil court, which this was, uses "The Balance Of Probabilities" - but had no business pronouncing on attempt to pervert - that being a criminal matter to which Jacqui had a right to be tried at the Criminal standard - ie in a criminal court...
To my mind, this is similar to the meter maid finding you committed murder... A more extreme cases perhaps - but the same principles...
Excellent post @ 9:37 shows the problem CCC have with recouping M J'S damages from a court case Unlawfully funded by the Executive board.A whole can of worms has been opened hopefully, as this case is just one of a few that need to be fully investigated.
Have never heared of a chief executive causing such mayhem.
I can't reconcile either his participation in evangelical group meetings.
If it is a truly christian group then it is hypocricy all round.The new testament it would seem bears no relation to the conduct of either Mark James or Emlyn Dole.
I think much more should be made of the disproportionate judgement re the libel case.
Cneifiwr, could you please explain what the purpose of your saying the following sentence was:
"Although Carmarthenshire County Council did not make any effort to find out about the state of Jacqui's finances when it allowed Mr James to push ahead with the libel case in 2012, it has since had full disclosure."
It sounds a lot like you're suggesting libel suits should only be pursued against mudslingers who can afford to lose and pay up in the event damages are awarded against them.
This would necessarily mean that, as long as one has no assets one could tell lies and libel people (like Jacqui did) with impunity.
I'm afraid for all your fawning, what you forget in all this is that to be libelled is different from being criticised and possessing a thin skin, which Mark James no doubt does.
To be libelled is a civil breach of the law, such disputes can only be resolved legally through the civil court, which is what happened.
Oh, and before you say "...but Mark James had no good name to clear..." and/or "...he should have had a thicker skin and not be so petty as to take a silly matter like this to a court..." then you need to remember (as someone else here pointed out) that Jacqui was the one who lawyered up and commenced the legal war.
She obviously felt the need to clear her own name - and she chose to do through the courts, but it backfired big time.
Damage awards are secondary to the court's ruling clearing one's name.
Are you seriously suggesting Mark James counter-sued Jacqui Thompson because he wanted a few extra thousand on top of his vastly excessive council salary?
He had no option but to counter-sue.
I detest Mark James but your attempt to rewrite history creating the impression of some lowly, poor, innocent, downtrodden Jacqui Thompson is just not good journalism.
Anon@ 15.51 The council's own report recommending action stated that it was not aware of her financial circumstances, but they ploughed ahead anyway using public money. That was grossly negligent, and the result is that hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money have gone up in smoke. They also handed Mr James a blank cheque, and had no say in whether or not to accept a compromise agreement which would have avoided the need for a trial. Grossly negligent again.
Mr James always had the option of fighting the case with his own money if he felt that strongly about being called Pinocchio. He used our money instead.
And by the way, I don't understand your use of the word 'fawning'. Look it up in a dictionary.
For me this case should turn on whether the political leadership at County Hall have been negligent with public money.
They ploughed on with little or no prospect of recovering our money and there is no doubt that the indemnity was unlawful. If they had thought otherwise they would have sought a JR surely. This smacks of incompetence at he highest levels in the council.
Whilst they were happily chucking our money about, the county was going through a redundancy programme, closing day centres and the Myrddyn unit. Outrageous.
The blog to Madaxeman must have been designed as a provocation which Mrs Thompson fell for. Has it ever been established if the blog entry was authorised by Executive board ?
You are totally correct Cneifiwr.Anon @ 15;51 clearly hasn't grasped the notion that a way out was offered but the chief executive really wanted his pound of flesh didn't he? There are much better ways of getting justice.He certainly does not hold the moral high ground in this case.I would like Anon @15:51 to come back on this after reading Martin Milan's post and perhaps explain why we are all wrong in criticising the judge's ruling.
I'm surprised you don't understand the word fawning (or my use of it). I suggest you go look it up!
You fawn over Jacqui Thompson and her blogging, every time something related to her comes up and you have for a long time, it affects your outlook.
On some matters you clearly don't set out to be objective but the Jacqui Thompson libel case is a bit different from an opinion piece trashing Labour and bigging up Plaid. I suggest your view is clouded by a sense of duty to a fellow blogger, which unfortunately I feel removes objectivity from reporting on what was a clear case of libel.
Maybe I can put it another way for you to easier understand.....what you don't seem to realise is that it is quite possible to intensely dislike Mark James whilst lacking sympathy of the same intensity for Jacqui Thompson.
I suspect most of the voters in the recent by election detest Mark James but as we found out that doesn't mean they will all round up behind his most devious critic.
It's sad that at a time like this we should have to deal with comments describing Jacqui as "devious". She hasn't been devious at all (on the contrary, she's been very open throughout), and she sure as hell did not mis-inform her insurance company of ANYTHING.
Her insurance pulled out because the judge in the libel trial said that she had attempted to pervert the course of justice. That is a conclusion that the judge had no right to come to, because :
a) As a criminal matter it should only be tried in a criminal court, and
b) No-one, not even "the other side", claimed that Jacqui had done so.
The issue arose because having had the council attempt to seize her phone, she complained to the police - and I think used the words "stole it", whilst still providing a perfectly factual account. The police pointed out that it wasn't theft, so it was agreed not to pursue it. Attempting to Pervert The Course Of Justice would require Jacqui to quit deliberately present the police with false evidence so as to mislead them. Nobody, including the police, think that happened.
As for why Mr. James should write on the Madaxeman blog in the first place, he wrote in response to an open letter to him that I posted on the blog about the events of #DaftArrest. On reading his response I could see that he had made some rather inadvisable comments that Jacqui might well perceive to be libellous, so before publishing his response I contacted his assistant and asked if he was actually sure that this is what he wanted me to publish. I was told that it was, so I published his response, unedited, in it's entirety.
Personally, I don't have a problem with his responding to me on the blog - I posed a number of questions surrounding his official role, and since the questions were being asked in a public forum there was no reason to think they shouldn't be answered that way. Unfortunately, his response failed to address the points I had raised, and mainly comprised a series of attacks on Jacqui.
Do I think Jacqui was right to go to court? I thought she was certainly "in the right", but not that it was "advisable" to do so.
For what it's worth, I've met Jacqui - I was called as a witness at the trial. She struck me as a dedicated, public spirited individual. Her own difficulties with the council (at the time) were issues of the past, and she was focussed solely on what the Council was doing to other people, publicly.
I've also met Mr. James and "other other side". They tried to portray me as being in cahoots with Jacqui and engaged in a focussed campaign against Mr. James based solely from the fact that I had sent supportive tweets to Jacqui since the events of #DaftArrest. There is a diffence of course between supporting someone and jointly coordinating a campaign with someone - that's quite a leap. It wasn't supported by evidence, and the best they could do was to bring out a tweet I sent to her following the downfall of Gadaffi - in which I mused that all dictators eventually meet their downfall.
I was shocked that they would make such suggestions on so little evidence, and the whole episode served to solidify my perceptions as to the type of individuals Jacqui is dealing with.
Now, those posters who have come on here to attack Jacqui - I suspect some of you are part of a press management exercise being ran by the council. You will be exposed. I don't have a problem with people having a different view, or claiming Jacqui is Satan's sister for all I care - you're welcome to your opinions, and you're welcome to debate them. However, when you start posting drivel to misdirect such as Jacqui "lying to her insurers" or "being devious", don't expect it to pass without challenge.
It should also be noted that the "right side" of such arguments rarely resorts to public relations, which is more generally regarded as ground for those who are both wrong and know it.
Martin - aka Madaxeman
"Fawning"? Nope. Supporting? Yep.
Anyway, wasn't the £30K or damages for hurt feelings or something? From being called "Pinocchio", and stuff?
Not for any possible consequential loss from a damaged reputation - for example. Like being labelled as coming from a troublesome family and this flashing up by a potential employer ahead of an interview.
James didn't lose any salary or anything, did he? I assume he's on an annual increment. He's firmly stuck in the driver's seat of the Council's gravy train. I assume he has sufficient personal savings to fight any attempts to get rid of him by the council. And his price was half a mil I think? The golden goodbye he was demanding?
Mind you he's damaged his own reputation - far more than he was by being called Pinocchio.
I wish the Commander of the British Empire would just cut his (reputational) losses and quietly bugger off - go and retire on the costa del sol or wherever.
Wasn't it an Independent led administration in January 2012 who agreed to funding the counterclaim ? Not that it matters whether it was Meryl Gravell or Kevin Madge who authorised the money and/or the blog comment by James, written with the help of the press office and checked by the legal department. It certainly must have been agreed by the Leader. No late night mistake after one too many but a calculated put down.
Mark Chooses the Leaders of this Council, hence the story that PLaid were told to get rid of Peter Hughes Grifiths and get Emlyn Dole in place if they wanted to "get on".
Most people have no idea what has been going on in this Council and none of the main political parties have any motive to come clean about any of it.
Well said Martin Milan. It's high time the whole truth is exposed. It's also worth bearing in mind that a firm of London lawyers advised Jacqui that MJ did in fact libel her and her family and it was on this advice the case proceeded. This same firm also attempted to get MJ to see reason, come to an amicable agreement, draw a line under it all to stop it carrying on to court. It was M J who declined as he wanted his pound of flesh.
The Welsh Government should be deeply concerned as to the goings on in our council, especially with it's CEOs conduct and indeed the leadership of Plaid. To have someone who wields such power and fear and who has now shown himself to be so vindictive and malicious is setting a dangerous precedent. He is unfit for such a responsible position.
Whilst on the subject of the judge, why did he dispense with a jury that everyone had expected - hummmmm - could have been a completely different outcome couldn't it if the case had been heard by twelve good men and true???
Who are you anyway, anon@5 December 2016 at 05:07 ? MRS James?
Anyone who still persists in their contention that Jacqui lied has no grasp of the logic of the argument even now when it is made so clear especially by Martin Milan.He is probably one of the people who know at first hand the train of events leading up to the the terrible and flawed judgement of Judge Tug.Get your heads around it anyone and look at it logically.
Rubbish Anon 5/12 13.00pm Utter rubbish I am sure Plaid Carmarthen will describe the suggestion that Emlyn Dole was chosen by MARK JAMES as rubbish , utter rubbish . that is taking conspiracy theory to the mad mad world that some people inhabit
It is only down to your blog and Jacqui's that we know what we do about council business and what has Jacqui got for it.
Maybe Emlyn Dole could house Jackie and her family in his new huge hair salon/dorma bungalows that he got through planning last year depsite breaching planning regs, rthat would show some Christian charity, sure he will be preaching that at a chapel near you this Xmas
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