A woman who was initially arrested in 2011 for refusing to stop filming a local council meeting, has now been found guilty of libel and must pay £25,000 to the council chief, after she posted criticism of him and the local authorities on her blog.
Jacqui Thomson was sent a letter by council head, Mark James, responding to her online publication of council criticism. Due to the personal nature of the response, Mrs Thomson sued the council leader for libel. Unfortunately for her, he counter-sued and today the results of the trial came in – she lost and has to pay him £25,000. Money she doesn’t have.
Not surprisingly, Mrs Thomson has said she is devastated and plans to appeal the ruling: “I have always acted in good faith, my motives have always been sincere and have merely criticised the council where I felt it appropriate, and have never had a complaint until the counter-claim was issued,” she said.
Pirate party UK leader Loz Kaye has weighed in on the issue, suggesting this is a real problem when government transparency is brought into question: “This judgement is very bad news for anyone who believes in holding government to account. It sends out the message that anyone thinking about criticising or even taking an interest should think again. We can not have a society where people are afraid to put up a blog post in case it costs them thousands of pounds.”
“The Pirate Party will continue to push for the right to film any council meeting, and the right to robust freedom of speech. In this time of local government cuts, it’s more vital than ever that we know what is being done with our money. One thing it certainly should not be spent on is suing council tax payers. What was a daft arrest, is now a dafter judgement.”
KitGuru Says: Bit of a rough one. Ending up £25,000 in the hole for what basically amounts to a blog post.