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…