South West Wales

Blogger libel case: Council boss repayment pledge doubt

Jacqui Thompson
Image caption Jacqui Thompson became embroiled in a legal row with Mark James over posts on her blog

A council boss has refused to say if he will honour a vow to repay compensation won in a libel case to the authority.

Carmarthenshire council funded chief executive Mark James in his case over remarks made on Jacqui Thompson's blog.

Mr James said in 2012 he would not keep any damages he won.

Mrs Thompson, of Llanwrda, must pay Mr James damages of £25,000 in instalments but Mr James's lawyers would not say if this had been or would be given to the council.

As well as the damages, Mrs Thompson must also pay about £5,000 in interest and nearly £15,000 in costs for March's enforcement hearing - all the money is due by 2032.

BBC Wales understands the legal fees paid by the council on Mr James's behalf were in excess of £35,000.

The authority's pledge to cover these fees was found to be unlawful by the Wales Audit Office.

Mr James said in 2012 he was not motivated by money and vowed any damages he won would "be paid over to the authority".

When asked if this was still the case, his solicitors, Acuity Legal, said Mr James "did not intend to give any further statements or any interviews on this subject".

Image caption The row with Mr James began in 2011 when Mrs Thompson was arrested for filming a council meeting on her phone

At a hearing at Carmarthen County Court on 23 March to determine a possession order on Mrs Thompson's house, Mark Spackman, on behalf of Mr James, said this was his intention "on a voluntary basis" but was "irrelevant" to the hearing.

Judge John Parsons said: "Mr Spackman has told us he's entitled to change his mind... and it appears he has."

The council is not seeking to recoup the money it paid for Mr James's legal fees but is pursuing £190,393 owed by Mrs Thompson.

A High Court ruling said the blogger's "unlawful campaign of harassment and defamation" against Mr James meant she was "the author of her own misfortune".

Mrs Thompson said it would be "completely unacceptable" if Mr James had changed his mind and chosen to keep the money

A council spokesman said: "The council's position on this matter is well documented and subject of public record. There is nothing further to add."

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