Carmarthenshire blogger Jacqui Thompson loses libel claim - must pay £25k to council chief executive
A CARMARTHENSHIRE blogger must pay the chief executive of the local authority £25,000 in damages - after losing a claim of libel against him.
Jacqui Thompson sued Mark James for libel, with the chief executive countersuing the 50-year-old.
Carmarthenshire Council have desribed the judgment handed down by Mr Justice Tugendhat in the High Court in London as a victory.
Last month, evidence and legal submissions were heard over six days, including hundreds of pages of documentation.
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Following the hearing, the Judge dismissed Mrs Thompson's claim in its entirety and upheld Mr James's counterclaim, awarding him £25,000 damages - including £5,000 aggravated damages.
The Judge found that Mrs Thompson, of Llanwrda, who was represented by specialist solicitors and Counsel throughout the case, "was engaged in an unlawful campaign of harassment, defamation and intimidation targeted against Mr James and other council officers".
He also found Mrs Thompson "deliberately made false statements to the police about the conduct of a council officer, and I find that she committed the offence of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
"Mrs Thompson has conducted her campaign of harassment etc. as publicly as she could, at first copying her letters and e-mails to the press and numerous other people and, after she had started her blog, publishing her unfounded allegations to the world at large."
Turning to the actions of the council's chief executive, Mark James, in responding to her attacks upon the council in 2011, following her arrest, the Judge defended his right to explain the council's stance to the public and concluded he had acted responsibly.
"Mr James had a sufficient interest … in defending the actions of the council, its members and officers which had publicly been called into question," he said.
"In my judgment the Council was pursuing a legitimate aim in explaining to the public at large actions which had been publicly called into question. Mr James did that and in my judgment what he did was no more than was reasonably necessary and proportionate."
Commenting on the judgment, Mr James said: "Councils and other public bodes accept that they are open to legitimate criticism, but this cannot extend to malicious and unlawful harassment and unfounded allegations of wrongdoing by its officers.
"Councils and other public bodies accept that they are open to legitimate criticism, but this cannot extend to malicious and unlawful harassment and unfounded allegations of wrongdoing by its officers."