madaxeman

February 2, 2014

No ifs, no buts…

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 10:12 pm

If anyone is in any doubt as to the contempt Carmarthenshire County Council has for the auditor from the Welsh Audit Office, and, by extension, the people who voted them in, then you really have to look no further than the following…

At the end of the public interest reports, the auditor points out that the council are no obliged to discuss the matters being reported on within one month of the date of the reports (30th January 2014). He states this is because of section 25 of the Public Audit (Wales) 2004 Act.

The relevant but is sub section 4, which reads:

If this section applies, the body must consider the report or recommendation at a meeting held by it before the end of the period of one month starting with the day on which the auditor sends the report or recommendation to it.

Rumour has it that this meeting is currently going to be held on 7th March, rather more than a month after 30th January then, and a flagrant breech of the law that the auditor has even been so kind as to explicitly call out for them.

“Best run council in Wales”.

Says who? The mafia?

 

Sorry I’m late…

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 9:48 pm

Sorry I’m late to the party – I was lucky enough to be blessed with a new daughter on 3rd January, and what with her needs and work, well, I’ve not had much time for blogging. Still, events in Carmarthenshire right now really shouldn’t be allowed to simply pass by without comment.

Basically, it’s been an interesting few days in Carmarthen, which have seen the Welsh Audit Office issue two “Public Interest Reports” into events at the council. A Public Interest Report is basically a mechanism by which, when the auditor finds something he / she considers out of place, provides a mechanism to inform the public at large.

The first report concerns arrangements that were made to pay the Chief Executive, Mark James, monies in leiu of pension contributions under the Local Government Pensions Scheme. The Executive Board of the Council have seemingly been misinformed that senior officers would have to leave the original scheme, and one has to wonder why this might be the case. Speculation is rife that this might be because the officers concerned wish to make their own, more “tax efficient” arrangements for their pensions. Whilst I would consider that to be immoral, it wouldn’t actually be illegal in and of itself. Unfortunately though, there were various “mistakes” made throughout the decision process, and it seems that the eventual decision to pay the money is actually unlawful.

Where that leaves the officers involved remains to be seen – and frankly subjustice means I perhaps shouldn’t add to speculation. It’s certainly not a happy place though, and when the dust settles and the revolution has swept the old adminstration aside, the newly reformed council might well consider how it might go about recovering this money – estimated to be more than £27,000 by the BBC – so we’re hardly dealing with pocket change…

The second report however is by far the more interesting to me, in that it concerns the council having provided the chief executive with an indemnity to cover his costs in pursuing a legal action against local blogger Jacqui Thompson, of #DaftArrest fame. This indemnity has been found unlawful in two regards.

Procedural

It seems Mr. James as present at the meeting where the decision to extend an indemity was made, and failed to declare an interest.  The council have responded claiming that the members of the Executive Board were properly briefed in a “pre-meeting” held before the official one, but this is irrelevant. Even if it did have relevance, no formal record exists as what was said, or indeed who said it. Clearly there are massive issues of transparency and public accountability raised by this – made all the worse by the fact that the Council was actually deciding to support action against a woman who has consistently brought the Council to account herself.

The public are entitled to three days notice of such discussions, but it seems that this was not done in this particular case. The Chairman apparently decided to admit the matter as an item of urgent business as it had to be addressed before the next meeting of the Executive Board. What’s interesting here is that the last information of relevance (the Council’s advice on the prospects of success for the Counter Claim) was received late on 17th January 2012, and the meeting itself called for the 23rd, to meet a deadline of the 24th for registering the counter claim. This meant that the public could should have been notified on the 18th – but this didn’t happen. Instead, the public were left unaware of what was going on.

These points in themselves are more than sufficient to render the decision to fund the libel counter claim unlawful, but it gets better…

The Law.

The law is very clear that a local authority is not able to bring an action against a member of the public, or indeed to support such an action by one of its officers. For a start, we have the “Derbyshire Agreement” – and more in Wales we have very specific law from the Welsh Assembly that forbids this - Articles 6(3) of the Local Authorities (Indemnities for Members and Officers) (Wales) 2006 Order, Look it up…

The Council however claim that they can support the counter claim, because section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972, they feel, gives them the power to do anything “which is calculated to facilitate, or is conducive or incidental to, the discharge of any of their functions”.

This is of course complete Tosh – the 2006 Order clearly overrides it. Even if it didn’t, can the council really do anything conducive to any of it’s functions? The council is supposed to protect the local economy – does this mean they can raise an army, jump on coaches for a daytrip to sack Cardiff and take out the local Tescos? Clearly not.

The Council have been well and truly caught – and the repercussions of this will be ongoing for months.

As to what effect this has on the counter claim brought against Jacqui Thompson, time will tell. It’s becoming harder and harder for even the post ardent of Jacqui’s critics to deny that her case as the distinct smell of a miscarriage of justice about it now…

 

December 28, 2013

Professional Auditors, Armchair Auditors, or No Bloody Auditors – Come Clean Mr. Pickles…

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 9:33 am

An Open Letter To Mr. Eric Pickles, MP :

Dear Mr. Pickles,

In light of the above, you might perhaps forgive me for presuming that you support of activities of “Armchair Auditors”, and feel that, in these troubled times, they have a serious role to play in holding political bodies to account. I further presume that you would also agree that scrutiny of those in public life is a good thing, and that the ability to scrutinise such people needs to be protected.

As someone with a demonstrable interest in such matters, I am sure you will be aware of the case of Jacqui Thompson, a prominent and indeed award winning political blogger based in Carmarthenshire, Wales. Jacqui has for some time blogged about many aspects of the conduct of her local authority, and is perhaps best known for her campaign to allow the public to film during public meetings, having been removed from a council meeting and arrested by police officers for attempting to film those who claim to represent her.

You might not however be aware of subsequent events – in that I wrote a letter on this blog (madaxeman) to the Chief Executive of the council, asking him to justify the council’s actions in that meeting. I feel that he failed to offer any substantive response to the points I raised, but in his response he did unfortunately make a number of comments concerning Jacqui and her family that she considered libelous, and the matter has unfortunately had to come before The High Court. Indeed, I myself was called as a witness at the case, which Jacqui lost owing to what I find to be a frankly inexplicable conclusion that she was conducting a campaign of harassment.

The merits of the case are a matter for separate consideration, but as a blogger who has frequently posted on issues surrounding political accountability myself, the most disturbing aspect of the case is that the Chief Executive launched a counter suit, with the benefit of an indemnity provided from the public purse. Whilst I can understand that public finances might well be justifiably employed in the defence of a council officer before the courts, I find the notion that public funds might be used to actually launch an action against a blogger, or any other member of the public for that matter, to be extremely disturbing.

It sets the scene for a David vs Goliath confrontation, and serves as a major deterrent to those of us who are prepared to dedicate our own efforts, though not our financial security, in the service of the public good. There is perhaps at this point a need to ensure clarity in the point I am making, because I am not suggesting that bloggers should have any special protection against the findings of the Court. The real deterrent here is the process and expenditure of a case in and of itself – during the conduct of the case, rather than at it’s conclusion. It is clearly unfair, and runs contrary to the principle of natural justice, that local authority officers should have the support of the public purse when bringing personal actions against members of the public. The Chief Executive is an extremely well paid man – and since I am denied access to the courts by my financial circumstances, it is particularly gauling to find my taxes being employed to support the actions of someone who is clearly able, though seemingly unwilling, to pay his own way.

If a local authority wishes to act against a member of the public, then it should do so in its own name. Of course, the Derbyshire Agreement prevents such conduct, and that prevention is employed for very good reasons. Those in public life should expect to face scrutiny and robust challenge – and indeed I feel it could be argued that they have a duty to submit to it.

Scrutiny is, in my view, the oil that lubricates the political system. With no oversight, you end up with chaos. But who will bring that scrutiny? I’m told there are plans afoot in Carmarthenshire to reduce full council meetings down to merely watching corporate presentations, leaving the decision making to the favoured few. What of scrutiny then? What of the local press, so starved of funds in this day and age that many publications are terrified to report the truth, lest they should find the local authority removing advertising from them?

Bloggers are ideally placed to bring the required scrutiny – but if you want people to assist you with armchair auditing, then you need to be prepared to stand by them, and ensure they are protected from unscrupulous bodies with relatively inexhaustible resources. It matters. Jacqui Thompson is now going to lose her home, which doesn’t strike me as a fitting reward for countless hours spent in service of the community.

I urge you to read her blog, and draw your own conclusions…

Sincerely,

Madaxeman.

 

December 8, 2013

All in it together?

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 10:57 pm

My partner works 20 hours per week as a teaching assistant, and I’m bloody proud of her. It is, despite what Michael Gove might tell you, a skilled job, and it takes a certain kind of person to do it… What kind of person do I hear you ask?
 
Well, the first thing that sets my partner apart from the rest of the population is the simple willingness to spend twenty hours each week in the company of a primary school class. Think that’s easy? Well, remember how pissed you can get with just a couple of kids in the house? Well, double it, then double that, double it again, and then again… Now you’re at 32 kids…
 
But it’s a school though, right? It’s all primary colours, smiles and learning? Well, not quite… In the couple of years we have been together, my partner has returned having been kicked (no action taken), had a penetrating wound when a child threw scissors at her (no action taken, and she still has the scars), and having been punched. She doesn’t spend all day sat on her arse either – even when she was six months pregnant they still sent her out onto the school field for half days at a time… She has a degree in Childcare and Early Years Development, has the patience and dedication of a saint, and quite frankly I couldn’t do her job.
 
Something else it takes, and this is truly scandalous, is the willingness to accept a mere £8,000 in return for her efforts. This being, in our modern society, what teaching your child and 30 or so of their friends to read and write is worth these days…
 
It’s a bit of a bum deal, isn’t it?
 
Members of Parliament in the House of Commons have just been awarded an 11% payrise, which is nice - for them. These are the people who decide how  to implement cuts to public services, like education.
 
Of all MPs, my personal loathing sits most comfortably with Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire). I’ve had a beef with her before (check previous posts) – but in the Register of Members Interests she recently declared having received over £18,000 for twelve hours work producing a newspaper column. In other words, in a morning, she earned than my partner does all year.
 
My partner doesn’t receive subsidised food, free accommodation, travel expenses or a cushy little subsidised bar at work. So, the next time an MP utters the phrase “we’re all in this together”, I’ll ask you not to judge me too harshly if I dispense a bit of a slapping…

November 10, 2013

Remembrance Sunday

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 10:25 pm

This morning, as I have for many years, I attended the Remembrance Sunday event at Doncaster Cenotaph to acknowledge the sacrifices made by the military and other services so that I might have the opportunity to enjoy the freedoms I do. On leaving the event, as I usually do, I reflected on what I perceive as a number of failings in the event. Usually, out of respect for the event and all it represents, I would keep my observations to myself, and not make a song and dance about them. Today however I am going to do the precise opposite, and speak my mind – for much the same reasons.

To me, Remembrance Sunday serves two main purposes. It allows us to pause to acknowledge the huge sacrifices made by the armed forces in the defence of our freedoms, but it also serves as a reminder of the both the horror and folly of war. In recent years though, and particularly at the Doncaster event, I’ve become increasing disillusioned with the prominence of political figures.

At Doncaster, the various military participants of the event move into position, and are then held waiting for local dignitaries who walk in from the Regents Park, before the event is allowed to continue. For my money, that’s just the wrong way around. Politicians, let’s face it, are hardly blessed with an enviable reputation right now… MPs expenses haven’t been forgotten, and there is a general perception that many of our elected representatives are more interested in their own interests than in ever championing ours.

What the event should be about, in my view, is recognising the sacrifices made in defence of our freedoms. It would hardly be inappropriate therefore for our civil leaders and local dignitaries to show the armed forces proper respect, perhaps even deferrence, turn up at the start of the service, and await the arrival of the armed forces. It is the forces, not the politicians, that the event should cherish, but anyone familiar with proceedings at Doncaster might wonder if a mistake has been made somewhere along the way…

So, what I propose is this – the local dignitaries should arrive before any other participant at the event, and should wait, as the public do now, for all the armed forces to take their positions. As our representatives, they should represent our gratitude and respect for the armed forces. The public should be left in no doubt that it is the forces, and not the politicians / assorted dignitaries, at the centre of matters.

And now to have a go at the British Red Cross…

Well, not really. I am a former member of the Red Cross, and I know that the staff who present the society at the Remembrance Sunday event do so with a spirit of solemnity, and in an act of sincere tribute to our armed forces. I know some of these people personally, so please don’t think this is an attack against the people who attend the event to represent the BRCS – it isn’t.

However, there is a problem, and it is actually an extremely serious matter. Any member of the Red Cross will tell you that the organisation holds a number of “fundamental principles” dear, and two of the most important of these are Impartiality and Neutrality. Without these, the work of the Red Cross, and particularly the International Committee of the Red Cross, would simply not be possible.

The modern world is a very troubling place, and we now live in times where aid workers, who have worked on foreign shores with nothing but the very best of sincere good intentions, are being attacked and even killed because of a suspicion of complicity with agencies involved in conflict. In my view, it is therefore foolhardy in the extreme for the Red Cross to take part in a parade with the UK military forces. Attending the remembrance event is one thing, but given the power of the image in our times, having Red Cross personnel join the back of a military parade is a VERY questionable decision. In my view, it places the International Committee of the Red Cross’ staff in needless and avoidable danger. It shouldn’t happen.

October 31, 2013

An Interesting Question…

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 12:41 pm

Those of us whom have taken it upon ourselves to take in interest in matters concerning the affairs of Carmarthenshire County Council following it’s treatment of respected local blogger Jacqui Thompson can hardly fail to have noticed the recent events surrounding the pension affairs of the authority’s Chief Executive, Mr. Mark James. In brief, Mr. James has chosen to receive his pension contributions not through the authority’s usual arrangements, but as a “lump sum” instead. The motivation behind what we have to assume to be his personal choice here has not been declared, but speculation is rife that Mr. James will be making “more efficient” arrangements in terms of his tax liabilities. The Welsh Audit Office have concluded that the payment concerned is unlawful, and there’s been much tooing and froing ever since…

The council claims that they received independent legal advice before entering into this arrangement, and that they’ve been told all is just ticketty boo. We’re also told that the arrangments won’t cost the council a penny extra.

This gives rise to a number of questions – let’s see if the answers emerge…

Question 1.

How much did the legal advice cost, and who paid for it?

I don’t believe there to be a pack of feral benevolent lawyers wondering around the Carmarthenshire doling out legal advice to local authorities in distress. “Free Advice” is offered for a motivation – so if we really do have an “independent” lawyer offering the benefit of his / her wisdom, we should be told who that this. Without this information, how can we possibly assess their independence?

A second possibility of course is that Mr. James paid for the advice himself – which would clearly mean we couldn’t consider it to be in any way independent.

The third possibility is that the advice came from someone on the authority’s payroll – again, doing away with any suggestion of independence. We also need to consider that their time costs money (salary) – and the costs involved should be declared.

The final possibility, and in my view the most likely, is that the council have paid for independent advice from an external source. The following questions are based on this scenario…

Question 2.

Assuming the council did pay for independent advice from an external source, we need to know how much this cost them.

Question 3.

Was it reasonable for the authority to expend the sum on the tax affairs of a very small number of employees (possibly just one!)? They are after all claiming that the financial climate means they are going to have to implement massive cuts over a range of services. How is spending money on this advice in any way in the interests of either the council itself, or the public it is supposed to serve?

These are questions with which the members of the Council need to concern themselves at the forthcoming meeting of the full Council in November. The public deserve the answers.

 

October 11, 2013

Insurance Renewal Time…

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 9:30 am

I’ve decided to publish the following open letter to my car insurance company – .

I am, in case you can’t guess, not very happy with them…

Dear Sirs,

I have recently had the unhappy experience of receiving your renewal quotation for my car insurance, in which you kindly offer to take a further £300 from me on top of my current premium of £500 for, well, reasons that were not exactly clear…

You see, as a thirty eight year old man with a family and another child on the way, I have with some regret had to surrender my Megane Coupe, and join the ranks of dull, grey, utterly uninteresting Ford Mondeo drivers. Mondeo Man is indeed upon us. Having chosen a form of transportation highly regarded by elderly close-to-death types, I had sort of expected my insurance to come down this year – or possibly stay the same.

A £300 increase however came as something of a surprise, so I telephoned your renewals department to try and make sense of your new found desperate avoidance of my custom. Having spoken to a pleasant young lady called Chloe, I discover that the alleged justification of my treatment is “I haven’t had the car very long”. Indeed, she mentioned that you would prefer me to own the vehicle for at least 12 months, at which point I would qualify for a discount. I can barely express my gratitude.

Here’s the thing though – as a high mileage driver with over 9 years of no claims (I actually have 14, but can only prove 9), I was sort of under the impression that I might be receiving a substantial discount already. You know – assuming that insurance isn’t indeed a racket, and that premiums are supposed to somehow reflect risk. If I can drive over 200,000 miles without ever having a claim against me, then maybe I just might be safe to be let out on the highways and byways on my own for a while? I think I’m an “above average” driver by quite some margin, but then so, it seems, is my premium.

Talking with the ever delightful Chloe (a genuinely helpful lady who deserves commendation), the concern is that apparently that I might not be used to the car, and therefore I presume more likely to splatter myself all over oncoming traffic at the drop of a hat (or perhaps clutch…). This is, of course, hogwash. I drive my own car, am a named driver on my uncle’s car, and a fleet driver for a company that operates all manner of different vehicles. My employer isn’t unduly concerned that I’ll write off any of their cars because a) I can drive, and b) I am not a simpering idiot. Besides, I would have thought the “three pedals, sticky thing in the middle, turny thing in front of you” configuration for car controls now has now seen broad adoption across the automotive industry. I can confirm my previous car used such a configuration if it helps – maybe that might allay your fears…

But then, why bother? You clearly don’t want my business, so I’ll do us both a favour and take it elsewhere where it might be appreciated and, if I’m really lucky, actually valued.

Have a pleasant day, and perhaps reflect on the fact that if you’ve grown fond of receiving a salary, you might want to consider improving your service.

Yours faithfully…

June 6, 2013

Response to Jacqui Thompson’s Recent Statement On The Daft Arrest Libel Case.

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 9:52 pm

Jacqui Thompson has just released a statement on the #DaftArrest libel case, which can be found here. I urge you to read it – go away and do that – and then come back.

Done? Good.

First of all, it should be understood that upon receiving Mr. James comments for publication on this blog, I was so surprised, I actually wrote back to him and suggested he might want to reconsider them, as Mrs. Thompson was likely to contest many of his assertions. Had he done so, all the legal expenses of this affair could have been avoided – in their entirety. Whilst the court has ordered Jacqui to pay the costs, the simple fact is that she does not have the funds to do so – and so the truth of the matter is that the tax payers in Carmarthenshire are going to be left with a significant slice of the bill…

Had Mr. James asked to withdraw his comments, I would have respected that. I’m an honest, decent, person – but even if I were not, Mr. James had in his possession an email from me offering to let him reconsider. There would have been no risk to him whatsoever – had I at some point in the future revealed the exchange in violation of any agreement, he would be able to demonstrate my bad faith… Not that this matters now, for this is not what he chose to do…

What his counsel chose to do in the High Court was to suggest that I was somehow taking instruction from Jacqui – that we were in it together… They don’t seem too concerned that if I were in cahoots with her, giving him an easy way to retract would hardly serve our purpose… No – that one apparently slipped past some of finest, and apparently most expensive, legal minds in our country.

For the record, I sent Jacqui some supportive Tweets – suggested I wasn’t done with Mr. James, but I never planned anything with her, gave her instructions, or received instructions from her. To suggest otherwise is, frankly, reaching a bit…

Something else that we might reflect upon is that Mr. James comments on this blog were in response to a number of perfectly sincere, clear questions. His comments criticised Jacqui at some length, but he didn’t seem to find the time to address any of my substantive points. To draw on a saying from the world of football, readers can draw their own conclusions as to whether he was playing the ball, the man, or indeed in this case the woman…

I share Jacqui’s concern that the conclusion of the #DaftArrest case sets an awful precedent that might well be used now to deter people, citizens and journalists alike, from holding public bodies to proper scrutiny. I also firmly believe that she was not conducting a campaign of harassment. Her blog (read it) is well researched, covers all manner of topics related to council business, and is actually seen by many in Carmarthenshire has one of an ever decreasing number of sources of sincere reflection on the actions of the authority. I also personally share her conclusion that she is the victim of a miscarriage of justice… Writing a blog about a council does not constitute harassment, and a council should be welcoming of such scrutiny. Perhaps they doth protest too much, and perhaps we might ask ourselves why…

Jacqui’s insurers have seen fit, in light of comments made by the judge, to withdraw their cover. They took her money happily enough, but when it comes to it, they’ve ran from their obligations. I do hope Jacqui reveals their identity in time, because this case should serve as a warning to anyone else tempted to enter into such an agreement with them in the future.

At the end of the day, Jacqui stands to lose her home over this – and what exactly is so terrible that she has done? She hasn’t thrown bricks through windows – she has shone the light of scrutiny into what feels like some particularly dark corners of council business. We bloggers now have to decide how to react to how Jacqui was treated – and personally, I think there could be no finer tribute than continuing to shine that light.

Jacqui is seeking leave to appeal, and since I feel it to be in the interest of justice, I wish her every success. Rather than prosecuting her, we should be nominating her for an honour…

April 30, 2013

Reflections on #DaftArrest

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 7:56 pm
Tags:

Well, it’s been a couple of months now since the #DaftArrest trial was heard before The High Court, and I’ve spent them in reflective mood. I thought that now, since I am both well overdue for a blog post, and also somewhat calmer than in the days immediately after the case, I might take a more considered look back at events. There are, after all, important things to say.

Ok – as a result of reading the judgement, I am now aware of a good deal of history between Jacqui Thompson and the council of which I was previously unaware. I didn’t realise for instance that she had conducted sit in protests, or that her history was quiet so … extensive?

But hang on a minute – it doesn’t really matter, does it? She never painted herself as a friend of the council, and merely having a dispute with the council doesn’t mean that she should expect to be treated any differently than anyone else. She had every bit as much right as anyone else in the public gallery to protest about democratic accountability, and I believe the judge even recognised that, going so far as to mention it in his written judgement.

The Council / Mr. James seemed to be suggesting throughout the case that her protests surrounding the issue of filming council meetings was somehow motivated by and represented a continuing harassment centred around her earlier libel dispute with the council. To my own mind, that remains far from proven – indeed, I don’t think any evidence was presented to even support it. It is only natural that, considering herself wronged in one matter, she would elect to give far more concern to the activities of the council.

Perhaps an example… If I take my car for a repair to the brakes which failed after I had them in last time, and whilst in the garage I hear from other customers that their steering has become faulty following work undertaken there, am I wrong to wonder about my own steering? Is it unreasonable that I might consider calling for more scrutiny on the steering? If I do make such a call, does it really follow that it is motivated by my earlier problem with the brakes? Should the garage, when I complain publicly about shortcomings in their steering, really be able to claim that I’m merely pissed off about the brakes?

To my mind, it is ridiculous to claim that Mrs. Thompson has conducted a campaign of harassment. Mr. James mentioned in his post on this blog that her family had tried to visit a member of staff, at home, without an appointment to discuss their grievances. This relates to an incident where in truth her husband set off, alone, to visit Mr. Bowen – the then Head of Planning.

What Mr. James mysteriously fails to mention is both:

  • Mr. Thompson realised he was being stupid, and turned back of his own accord before ever visiting Mr. Bowen’s property, and

  • Mrs. Thompson, the lady who apparently conducts such vitriolic, bitter campaigns of harassment against the council, actually called the police to intercept her husband. Not an easy decision as we can all imagine, and not the sort of thing we might expect from a death of glory die hard nemesis of the council.

I’ve always felt Mrs. Thompson’s campaign for better democratic accountability in Carmarthenshire to be both sincere and motivated by the public interest, and I have yet to see any evidence that might tempt me to change that view.

Another questionable issue of the judgement, at least in my opinion, is that the judge finds that Mrs. Thompson attempted to pervert the course of justice when she reported what she viewed as an attempt to steal her mobile phone to the local police.

To my understanding, an attempt to pervert the course of justice requires a deliberate mind – it’s not something you can accidentally do – and must very much be the objective of your actions. With that in mind, let’s consider what happened… The witnesses to the incident had, in court, to admit that they hadn’t been able to see what had actually happened. Mrs. Thompson speaks of an attempt to grab her phone, and it’s important here to understand that in law an act of theft requires an attempt to permanently deny someone their property. Would Mrs. Thompson have known that? Would you? That someone taking your phone, by force, is not necessarily an act of theft?

Even so, Mrs. Thompson merely reports what happened to the police – honestly and accurately. I’ve not spoken to her about this so I don’t know what happened, but I presume the police told her that the offence wasn’t made out. Did she fabricate further evidence? No. Did she appeal their decision? No. Can it, in short, be said that she tried to pervert the course of justice? No.

It looks as though Mrs. Thompson might well now be considering an appeal. I hope she find some success in it – because what she has been dealt out with by the court didn’t smell much like justice to me…

 

March 15, 2013

A Ghastly Decision on #DaftArrest

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 2:10 pm

I really shouldn’t be typing right now… I know it’s not a smart idea to blog when you’re angry, and boy oh boy am I angry right now… I’ve just heard the news that Jacqui Thompson, the well known and respected blogger from Carmarthenshire, has lost her libel action against Mark James (Carmarthenshire County Council Chief Executive) – and now faces a bill for £25,000 in damages.

This decision, believe it or not (and I really am having problems with this) was taken in the High Court at the Royal Courts of Justice. By an actual judge. Who was awake. Shocking…

It is my view, and I speak as someone who has regularly read Jacqui’s blog over the course of the past couple of years, that all Jacqui has done is to hold her local council to account – and she’s done that amidst a perception that the local press failed to do this effectively themselves… The Council would have us believe that she her blog is motivated by a desire to harass Mark James and assorted other officers following an earlier libel case – and the Council, like it or not, are talking bollocks.

I’ve met this lady – and whilst it’s fair to say that the earlier case perhaps triggered her blog (a move to try and bring some scrutiny to the conduct of the Council), it can hardly be said that this continues to motivate her. She rarely brought up the subject of the earlier action on the occasions we have spoken (though I was already aware of it), but she did talk at length about the various misdeeds of the council, about her arrest, and about the need for scrutiny of public bodies… I agree with her sentiments on all points.

I gave evidence in this trial, sat through a day of it in court, and kept abreast of it on the days I wasn’t there using Twitter and the excellent commentary provided by Mrs Angry (Broken Barnet). I can’t say that I have come away from the case having seen justice to be done.

There are, perhaps most troubling of all, a lot of things I can’t now say – for fear of facing my own encounter with Carmarthenshire’s lawyers. I’m certainly not engaged in a campaign of harassment, and have valid points to make, and yet can’t speak my mind on reasonable points without fear of the potential consequences.

I weep for democracy, and for the very concept of accountability in public life. If Jacqui decides to appeal, she will have my support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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