Jacqui: No "personal campaign" against council chief exec

A BLOGGER arrested for filming a council meeting has refuted accusations she waged a "personal campaign" against Carmarthenshire County Council's chief executive.

Jacqui Thompson, from Llanwrda, who has been writing a blog since 2009, is suing Mark James for alleged libel at the High Court, claiming a letter he wrote was intended to undermine her.

Under cross-examination by lawyers for Mr James, she told the London court her only intention in filming meetings of the county council was to improve transparency.

Mrs Thompson, who was ejected and arrested after refusing to stop filming a meeting in June 2011, said: "I was legitimately trying to make a stand about filming council meetings.

"It wasn't a personal campaign and it appeared to me and other people that it was Mr James and the chair, to an extent, who were so set against it."

She added that, after watching the footage she had filmed prior to her arrest, she felt Mr James had "taken over" chairing the meeting with regard to her expulsion.

Adam Speker, representing Mr James and the county council, put it to Mrs Thompson that she was taking "direct action" by filming at the June meeting when she had previously been asked not to, and that her actions were about "getting" Mr James.

She replied: "To film at a council meeting isn't what I would think of as direct action.

I wasn't being provocative, it was about transparency of meetings and it was about showing residents of Carmarthenshire how their representatives were in the council chamber, that was all. "It wasn't about getting the chief executive or the council, it was about the principle of filming meetings."

The High Court was told Mr James wrote a letter in response to criticism of the council following Mrs Thompson's arrest.

Mrs Thompson is suing Mr James and the county council for alleged libel over his comments - which were sent to 74 councillors and viewed 825 times after being re-published on another blog.

She claims Mr James was wrong to say she was "running a campaign of harassment", because her actions were no more than reasonable "political criticism" and were therefore protected by freedom of expression laws.

Mr James and the council are defending the claim and Mr James has brought a counterclaim against Mrs Thompson - which is being funded by the council - alleging he was defamed by five posts she made on her blog.

Lawyers for Mr James and the council say there has been no infringement of Mrs Thompson's rights.

The hearing continues.

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