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Court of Appeal refuses blogger permission to appeal in libel case

The Court of Appeal last month refused a blogger permission to appeal in her libel claim against a council and its chief executive, it has emerged.

Jacqui Thompson had sued Carmarthenshire County Council and its chief executive, Mark James, over comments he made to another blog, the madaxeman blog, in 2011.

James’ comments related to issues surrounding Mrs Thompson’s arrest following a council meeting at which she tried to film proceedings. However, relations between the claimant and the authority had been difficult for a number of years.

In March 2013 a High Court judge, Mr Justice Tugendhat rejected Mrs Thompson’s claim in its entirety. He also ordered her to pay £25,000 in damages after a counter-claim brought by Mr James was successful.

The judge concluded that the claimant had engaged in an unlawful campaign of harassment, defamation and intimidation targeted against Carmarthenshire’s chief executive and other officers.

Mrs Thompson sought to take the case to the Court of Appeal but in December was refused permission on all grounds.

In a statement Carmarthenshire said: “The impact of this refusal of leave to appeal is effectively that all of the Honourable Mr Justice Tugentdhat’s judgment as handed down back in March stands, save for one finding which Mrs Thompson previously had leave to appeal. This relates to one post on her blog in relation to the counterclaim made by the Chief Executive Mark James.”

It added: “None of the findings Mrs Thompson was trying to get leave to appeal on in relation to her failed defamation claim against the council and the chief executive have succeeded. This includes the refusal [of permission] to appeal against some of the contents of a letter from Mr James in which he explained that she had been conducting a long running campaign of harassment, intimidation and defamation of council staff and members; the finding that Mrs Thompson had attempted to pervert the course of justice by knowingly and deliberately making false allegations to the police about an officer of the council; her claim that the counterclaim by the chief executive was an abuse of process; and that the £25,000 damages, including £5,000 for aggravated damages, was too high.”

Writing on her blog after the Court of Appeal’s ruling, Thompson said: “I will now have to live with the trial judgement and deal with the consequences, financial and otherwise but I will never accept nor agree with the findings. [The Court of Appeal’s] hearing was yet another devastating blow.”

She said the issue of costs and damages had still to be resolved. “This currently stands at approximately £190,000 for the claim, £41,000 for the counterclaim and £25,000 damages.”

Thompson added that the purpose and motivation for writing her blog had “always been, and always will be” a means to scrutinise the local authority and to share issues which she felt were important and which would otherwise perhaps have remained unreported. She vowed to continue blogging.

She also maintained, amongst other things, that she had always acted in good faith and personal integrity and not made unwarranted personal attacks on individuals.

In September 2013, the Assistant Auditor General at the Wales Audit Office questioned the lawfulness of £23,217 of expenditure incurred by Carmarthenshire in granting an indemnity to Mr James to bring his counter-claim.

The council said it had sought advice from a leading QC on the issue and remained firmly of the view that it had followed the correct course of action.

 

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