Sunday 9 April 2017

Llangennech: the strange tale of CrowdJustice

Update 11 April

All trace of the appeal has now disappeared from the CrowdJustice website, with even the message promising a relaunch at the end of April having been removed.

The timing of the appeal during a very difficult election campaign would have been very unwelcome in the upper echelons of the Labour Party, and the promise to relaunch the fund raiser less than a week before polling day may explain the now complete disappearance of the case from the CrowdJustice website.

Thanks to all of those who have helped piece together the sequence of events behind the latest extraordinary twist in the Llangennech saga which last week saw the launch of an appeal to fund a judicial review of the council's decision, and the abrupt withdrawal of the appeal last night, with a brief statement saying that the appeal will be re-launched at the end of April.


CrowdJustice describes itself as a tool to help bring cases to court by building a "community" around them and to "gain financial and community support", and it charges fees for the service. What is left goes to the courts and needy lawyers.

It is safe to say that practically nobody goes around thinking, "I wonder what new cases there are on CrowdJustice today, as I'd like to give some of my hard-earned cash to fund some litigation".

The only way that CrowdJustice can work is if individual cases are given lots of publicity, and it is up to whoever is hoping to bring a case to ensure that their message gets out to all of the relevant social and mainstream media.

Prior to going to CrowdJustice, whoever was behind the Llangennech appeal met up with and instructed a firm of solicitors, Watkins and Gunn - to be precise one of its partners, Mr Michael Imperato.

The result was that a statement went up on the CrowdJustice website last week outlining the case, almost every word of which was demonstrably untrue. Among other things it said that "the intention is for all children across potentially the whole of Wales to be taught solely through the medium of Welsh at primary and secondary level". It went on to claim that a majority in the village wanted to keep the current dual stream set-up, that there was "overwhelming" opposition to the change, and that there had been flaws and breaches in the statutory process. There was "no English medium alternative", and the statement suggested that no provision had been made for children with special needs.

You can see the full text (now removed from the CrowdJustice website) on Jac o' the North here.

The catalogue of falsehoods, wild exaggerations and misleading claims will be familiar to anyone who has followed the story over the last 18 months or so, but the extraordinary thing about the CrowdJustice statement was that it was put out by firm of solicitors.

The public was being asked to contribute money to a case which would have been laughed out of court, and Cneifiwr understands that a complaint against Watkins and Gunn and Mr Imperato has now been made to the Law Society.

Why the appeal was suddenly withdrawn is a mystery, but one possible explanation is that Watkins and Gunn realised late in the day that they had been sold a pup, had not done their homework and stood to be pilloried for accepting money from the public for a case based on a web of falsehoods with no prospect of success.

It remains to be seen whether the appeal will be relaunched at the end of April, which is what CrowdJustice is now threatening.

Smoking Guns

The only person who has been named in connection with the case is Mr Michael Imperato, who as Jac o' the North points out has twice stood as a Labour candidate in local government elections, and is a director of the Bevan Foundation, a Labour think-tank. Jac also says that Mr Imperato has previously considered standing for Westminster.

Right from the moment Tegwen Devichand first turned up protesting outside the school gates (against a policy she and the rest of her party had voted for), Labour's DNA has been all over the Llangennech row. Only 10 days ago Lee Waters stood up in the Senedd wrongly accusing the school of withholding plans to phase out the English stream from him and his family.

Michael Imperato and Lee Waters are both roughly the same age, they both spend most of their time in Cardiff, they are both prominent figures in Welsh Labour, and both are or have been involved with Labour or Labour-leaning think-tanks. The likelihood that their paths have not crossed is remote, to put it mildly.

Did Imperato discuss the case with Waters? As Imperato would have known that Llangennech is in Lee Waters' constituency and that Waters has been deeply embroiled in the row, it would be surprising if no discussion had taken place.

Unsurprisingly, Lee Waters has so far had nothing to say about this latest development which threatens to prolong the uncertainty and agony inflicted upon Llangennech.

We do not know who instructed Michael Imperato, but we do know for sure that in order for the fund raising appeal to get off the ground it needed publicity, and so it is probably no coincidence that both Michaela Beddows and her friend Jacques Protic who runs the notorious website and numerous other accounts, were busy plugging the appeal from the very beginning:

Protic has long been known for his extreme views about and fanatical hatred for the Welsh language. Here's a taste of the sort of thing he pumps out:

But Cymraegophobia is by no means the only instrument in his orchestra. On the one hand, he is supporting George Galloway in the upcoming Gorton by-election, on the other he is a big fan of Nigel Farage and Vladimir Putin. Until very recently he was also a big fan of Donald Trump, but Trump's decision to attack President Assad's air force has clearly come as a major disappointment. "Trump betrays Trumpism", thunders Glasnost today.

Israel (bad) is trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn (most voters seem to think Corbyn is doing a pretty good job of that without Israeli help). If there was a chemical attack killing hundreds of civilians in Syria last week, and Protic seems none too sure, it was Assad's opponents who made the stuff. Or else the victims were just faking it. And anyway, Katie Hopkins (good) says that one of those helping the gas attack victims (who may have been acting), was a convicted terrorist.

Muslims are just bad:

Protic's world is a world of conspiracy theories, madness and hatred. It should disturb Lee Waters that Protic regards him as one of the good guys, but probably won't:

Bizarrely, it is not just Waters' views on Welsh medium education that meet with Protic's approval:

Protic has worked closely with the Llangennech anti-Welsh medium group for almost all of its existence. His imprint can clearly be seen on their campaign website, and there is some circumstantial evidence to suggest that he recently travelled down from Anglesey to discuss tactics.

Very shortly after Protic and Beddows began publicising the appeal, the Trinity Mirror Group papers joined in, with both the Western Mail and the Llanelli Star carrying the story and directing readers to the fund-raising link.

Other members of the Beddows group include Jacqueline Seward, now standing as one of Labour's two candidates for Llangennech in the county council elections, and both she and her husband Darren are standing for the community council along with three members of the Willcock family, also part of the core group.

Jacqueline Seward, along with Michaela Beddows, has been one of the most active members of the campaign group, and her husband was one of those pictured with the Hamiltons when they came down to stir things up in the village. As a key member of the group, she will also have known about Protic's involvement.

Llangennech voters may be interested to know what Jacqueline Seward knew about the CrowdJustice appeal.

One other member of the campaign group who deserves a special mention here is Karen Deacon.

Deacon, originally from Edinburgh where she worked for the Scottish Parliament, joined Michaela Beddows, the Sewards, the Willcocks's, Gary Poumista Jones and a few others in their attempt to derail the statutory process of changing the school's language category by submitting reams of lengthy and for the most part wildly off-target questions to the council's education scrutiny committee, executive board and full council.

At the beginning of March she set up a string of websites and Facebook pages under the Families Online umbrella for Carmarthenshire, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, which she now runs as editor.

Unsurprisingly, the three websites were all quick to promote the CrowdJustice appeal. When a member of the public posted a comment criticising Families Online for giving space to a campaign with links to extremists, the editor (Karen Deacon) replied with a long, flannelly piece about editorial values, forgetting to mention that she had been involved with the group now asking the public for money.

Cneifiwr understands that the Families Online parent organisation is being asked about its commitment to ethical journalism.

Deacon's Families Online was not about to back down, but then suddenly the appeal was pulled, and late last night Karen Deacon was back hammering away at the keyboards with a hastily and rather badly edited statement.

Whereas she had previously been happy to put up a piece emanating from Watkins and Gunn claiming, among other things, that children would be taught English through the medium of Welsh in Llangennech and that the campaign enjoyed "overwhelming" support in the village, Karen Deacon appears to have had a sudden attack of cold feet after Watkins and Gunn issued a statement saying that it was now withdrawing the appeal.
A Crowd funding page was set up based around the English and Welsh Medium Education debate within Carmarthenshire and Wales and spurred on by the outcome of a recent test case involving Llangennech Primary Schools. Which witnessed a consultation process remove the English Medium Stream from the Dual Stream School, early this year and left a small group of parents and grandparents not happy with the outcome. - See more at:

A Crowd funding page was set up based around the English and Welsh Medium Education debate within Carmarthenshire and Wales and spurred on by the outcome of a recent test case involving Llangennech Primary Schools. Which witnessed a consultation process remove the English Medium Stream from the Dual Stream School, early this year and left a small group of parents and grandparents not happy with the outcome. - See more at:
A Crowd funding page was set up based around the English and Welsh Medium Education debate within Carmarthenshire and Wales and spurred on by the outcome of a recent test case involving Llangennech Primary Schools. Which witnessed a consultation process remove the English Medium Stream from the Dual Stream School, early this year and left a small group of parents and grandparents not happy with the outcome. - See more at:

Still no acknowledgement that Karen Deacon had been part of what is now described as "a small group".

The statement goes on to say that Families Online now realises that some of the information it had been provided with may have been in part or wholly inaccurate.

Well, who'd have thought it?


Anonymous said...

Another excellent blog, if this latest development wasn't so serious it'd be a good sketch for comedy show.

Jac's latest expose seems to have done its job and they've crawled back into their holes for the time being, waiting to strike when the heat has died down at they did when the EDL/UKIP connections were exposed.

Anonymous said...

Bless them all.
Now if only Plaid in Llanelli had the gumption and ruthlessness to press home against Lee 'Barry' Waters and wait for the usual outburst of petulance and 'yah, boo, sucks to you' that passes for his political convictions.

Jac o' the North, said...

I don't understand why Waters would have been making enquiries in Llangennech about the schooling of his children. The family was living in Barry Island, where they still live. Is he going to use the Welsh language as the excuse for him not living in 'his' constituency?

Anonymous said...

Who is now going to fund it all , we shall have to wait and see the end of the month, and it should put it all to rest very soon ???

Stan said...

To me this Crowdfunding attempt seems so amateurish that if it wasn't for the fact that certain individuals seem to be known, I'd seriously think it was put together deliberately to fail. Conspiracy theory and all that. One might ask - is this the best that those with an EM education can cobble together?

Anonymous said...

Anti-Welsh campaigner Jacques Protic, has not put his name forward for the Aethwy Ward – Ynys Mon County Council, in the May 2017 election.

In 2013, he finished bottom of the poll. He was 12th out of 12, securing a derisory 177 votes.

He was so out of touch in Aethwy that was utterly rejected by his own community - so why on earth does he believe that the people of Llangennech, who live 150 miles away, are going to listen to his nasty and misguided message ?

Anonymous said...

I thought the hedgehog picture in Lee Waters tweet above was most appropriate.

When faced with criticism he appears to get very, very prickly!