South Wales Guardian Opinion
8:57am Wednesday 20th March 2013 in News
THE six-day libel trial involving Towy Valley blogger Jacqui Thompson and Mark James resulted in an overwhelming victory for the chief executive of Carmarthenshire county council.
Mrs Thompson was ordered to pay Mr James £25,000 damages for engaging in what a High Court judge described as a “vindictive campaign of harrassment” against him and other staff.
We respect the decision of the court, yet the use of public money remains a concern. Mr James’s libel suit against Mrs Thompson was funded by taxpayers’ money, remember?
His costs – still to be revealed – were “indemnified” by councillors after a controversial decision four years ago when the local authority rewrote its own constitution. This is a highly unusual move which the Welsh Government say can only be justified if councils are satisfied their actions are lawful.
County Hall have argued there are “exceptional circumstances” – without ever explaining what these are.
We have accordingly asked County Hall: a) what Mr James’s total legal bill amounts to and b) what happens to the £25,000 damages he will now extract from Mrs Thompson?
We await answers, but given the amount of interest in this case, public unease at funds being used in this manner and the council’s oft-stated commitment to greater transparency, the fact the local authority have not yet issued a statement addressing these points is surprising.