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Judgement reserved in battle over alleged county libels.

CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council's chief executive had a "duty" to respond to criticism of his and the council's conduct following a blogger's arrest for filming a meeting, the High Court heard.

Making their closing submissions in a libel action brought by blogger Jacqui Thompson, lawyers representing Mark James and the council said she had carried out a "wholly improper" campaign against the local authority and its staff over the past six years.

Mrs Thompson claims Mr James made libellous comments about her in a letter which was sent to 74 councillors and viewed over 800 times after being republished on a blog called madaxeman.

The court heard Mr James wrote the letter and agreed for it to be published after the blog's author wrote a post criticising the council for its ban on filming and the incident which led to Mrs Thompson's arrest in June last year.

But Adam Speker, for Mr James and the council, said it was "right and proper" for the chief executive to explain the council's position.

Mrs Thompson claims Mr James was wrong to accuse her of "running a campaign of harassment" in the letter, saying that her conduct was legitimate political criticism and thus protected by freedom of expression laws.

Mr James is countersuing the 50-year-old, from Llandrwa, claiming that she wrote allegedly libellous comments about him in four posts on her blog.

Urging Mr Justice Tugendhat to dismiss Mrs Thompson's claim and find in favour of Mr James in his counterclaim against her - which is being funded by the council - Mr Speker said freedom of expression does not allow for "deliberate falsehoods".

Lawyers for Mrs Thompson told the High Court her case was one of "state versus citizen" as they made their closing submissions in her case against Mr James and the council.

Her barrister, Christina Michalos, said it was "like a cross between Catch 22 and 1984" that the council's chief executive was using public money to counter-sue Mrs Thompson for her criticism of the very fund that allowed him to do this.

Judgement was reserved.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 21, 2013
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