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Carmarthenshire Council chief executive defends response to blogger

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: February 19, 2013

Mark James

THE chief executive of Carmarthenshire Council has told the High Court he was under pressure to respond to comments made online after a blogger was arrested for filming a council meeting.

Mark James said councillors turned to him because they were concerned the reputation of the council was at stake as a result of a post on a blog called madaxeman following the arrest of Jacqui Thompson in June 2011.

Mrs Thompson, from Llanwrda, is suing Mr James and the county council for alleged libel over his response to that post — which was sent to 74 councillors and viewed 825 times after being republished on the madaxeman blog.

Mr James told Mr Justice Tugendhat that he felt the blog post — entitled Open Letter to Mark James — could not simply be ignored as it accused the council of dishonesty.

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He said: "There were concerns that this material being published might be believed and therefore I was under a lot of pressure, particularly from elected members, to respond, to put the council's side of the story.

"There were a lot of misconceptions and falsehoods being put around about what we were or weren't doing.

"Councillors felt that the entire reputation of the council was being put into disrepute and, as the principal adviser to the council, I was the one they turned to to do something about it."

Mr James has brought a counterclaim against Mrs Thompson, which is being funded by the council, alleging he was defamed by five posts she made on her blog.

Mrs Thompson claims Mr James was wrong to say she was "running a campaign of harassment", as her actions were no more than reasonable political criticism and protected by freedom of expression laws.

The hearing continues.

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