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Legal battle between blogger and Carmarthenshire Council chief executive reaches High Court

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: February 15, 2013

Mark James

A LEGAL battle between an internet blogger and the chief executive of Carmarthenshire Council has reached the High Court.

Jacqueline Thompson, who has been writing a blog since 2009, told the High Court she was "absolutely mortified" at remarks made by Mark James in a letter, fearing they would make people think "a hell of a lot less" of her.

The letter was written in response to Mrs Thompson's criticism of the council after she was ejected from a council meeting and arrested, following her refusal to stop filming proceedings in June 2011.

The 50-year-old from Llanwrda is now suing Mr James and the council for alleged libel over his comments — which were sent to 74 councillors and viewed 825 times after being republished on another blog.

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She claims Mr James was wrong to say she was ''running a campaign of harrassment'', because her actions were no more than reasonable political criticism and therefore protected by freedom of expression laws.

Her lawyers told the court the letter was an attempt to "silence, discredit and undermine" Mrs Thompson, because she was regarded as a "troublemaker and a nuisance''.

Mr James and the council are defending the claim and 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.

Telling Mr Justice Tugendhat, who is hearing the case, how she felt when she read the letter and why she brought her claim, Mrs Thompson said: "I was absolutely mortified.

"I felt the only way I could make a stand and challenge what he was saying as being untrue was legally."

Her barrister Christina Michalos said: ''She will have to go back to Carmarthenshire and it would be a tragedy and wrong if she had to go back labelled an unreasonable harrasser with the entire content of her blog discredited.''

Lawyers for Mr James and the council say there has been no infringement of Mrs Thompson's rights and the letter Mr James wrote was ''necessary'' to protect rights and freedoms of others by maintaining public confidence in the democratic process and the local authority's conduct.

The hearing, expected to last at least a week, continues.

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