Thursday 28 February 2013

Because they could: Playing House, the One Barnet way

Picture the scene. 

Look: it is just before Mrs Angry's fourth birthday, and her parents have taken her to the local toyshop to choose a present. Mrs Angry is feverish with excitement, and wanders about the shop with gleeful anticipation.

What would you rather have, Mrs Angry is asked: a lovely rocking horse - or this dolls' house? 

Mrs Angry immediately says yes, please - the rocking horse, as this was something she had always really, really wanted. 

Ah, well, Mrs Angry, say her parents: you are having the dolls' house, anyway. 


Well, thought the infant blogger: why did you bother asking me then? This is hardly a very good demonstration of the process of consultation, is it? Pretending to ask me what I want, and then telling me what I will have?

They won, of course, and the dolls' house came home, and has been well played with by Mrs Angry, and then Miss Angry, but still, all these years later: it rankles, frankly. (See above, with Mr and Mrs Green, the rather sinister squatter/occupiers of the house, recognised as licensees by Miss Angry. Yes, Mr Green is a serial killer on the run, hiding in the anonymity of suburban Broken Barnet. He is standing for council as a Tory candidate in 2014).

And here we all are now, playing with the One Barnet House of Fun. 

Did we ask for it? We did not. 

We were told we would have the House of Fun, and then when we said we did not want it, they ignored us anyway.

Now they are trying to tell us that they did ask us, and that we said we did not mind if we had to live in the house, and at the same time they also say that they did not have to ask us anyway, as they are our parents, and know better than us.

Such is life in the One Barnet House of Fun: not an innocent world of childhood play, of course, but a place of ill repute, a house of entertainment. And sitting on the sofa of the One Barnet House of Fun, and indeed, queuing in the street outside, there are, as we speak, a number of impatient gentleman callers from Crapita, tapping their feet and feeling rather frustrated. Oh dear. 

Since the reality of the Judicial Review has hit home, our Tory councillors and their senior management team have been in a state of shock. 

The arrogance which has allowed them to pursue such a massive programme of privatisation with neither mandate from the electorate, nor any consultation with residents, has led them to believe they were immune from the threat of legal challenge. 

They have boasted that they have no 'Plan B' should anything happen to prevent the £1 billion outsourcing programme from going ahead, because they simply do not consider it to be necessary: their decisions should not be challenged, and the consideration of an alternative strategy represents an unthinkable affront to their authority.

What sort of administration ventures so far, with a committment to such a huge undertaking, without the safeguard of a course of policy should the privatisation not proceed?

An administration that is desperate for the programme to proceed at all cost. And why, we must ask ourselves, should that be the case? What is the motivation behind such frantic propelling of our borough into the hands of the private sector?

The Tory cabinet members and the senior officers who have been promoting this policy will tell you it is because there is no alternative, that we need to make drastic cuts in spending, and One Barnet is the only way in which to achieve those savings. This is a lie.

First of all, One Barnet, in its previous existence as Futureshape, was never intended to be a programme of widescale privatisation. 

In truth, One Barnet is not Futureshape by another name, a rebranding, it is something else altogether, a changeling that has been supplanted in the cradle by the evil faeries of outsourcing. 

Whatever the purpose of Futureshape, it predates the recent crisis of funding, and yet the one ideological thread which links the two continues to wind us into the tangled mess in which we now find ourselves. 

The latest pressures to find 'efficiencies' in budget have been claimed as the primary motivation for the two massive contracts, and yet: the most logical, most pragmatic course of action which could be followed in order to make thes efficiencies has been studiously ignored: there has been no in house comparator.

The OJEU tender notice for NSCSO, the £750 million bundle of customer services, was rushed out almost unnoticed amongst the debris of the MetPro procurement crisis, in which a whole culture of contractual and procurement non compliance had been exposed. 

Countless millions of pounds have been paid out, in other words, by this council to private contractors and suppliers without proper evaluation of value for money, or performance, or rate of payment. We will never know how much of local tax payers' money has been squandered in this way.

No senior officer lost his or her position when this massive failure was uncovered: and instead of 'taking ownership' of this problem, and seeking to rebuild an efficiently run system of financial management, the council determined instead immediately to start the competitive dialogue process. 

Why the hurry, Mrs Angry, you may be asking? Why indeed? Why was it, nearly a year later, more non compliant contracts were being revealed, and the council voted through a 'waiver' to allow these to continue?

This was in case, they told us, it caused a delay in the outsourcing programme. A reasonable person, of course,  might well have thought that a delay should then have taken place.

As it happens, the lucky winners of the NSCSO bid, our new friends at Capita Plc, have won the contract with the promise that they will make lots and lots of efficiencies from ... what was it now ... ah, yes: procurement. Marvellous. And of course they will make big fat profit from this for their shareholders, at our expense, whilst doing so.

That reasonable person who thought a delay should have taken place once the procurement cock up was discovered might also now be thinking something equally reasonable: why did Barnet so quickly ignore the option of an in house proposal for making efficiencies, and in particular in the process of procurement? 

A properly run in house service would have retain savings for taxpayers, rather than the shareholders of Crapita, would retain local jobs, and retain the skills and local experience necessary to deliver an high standard of service for residents. Why has this option been so determinedly ignored, do you suppose?

Clearly the answer to this is because a commitment to the outsourcing programme, for whatever reasons, holds more importance for our Tory leadership, and our senior management team, than the need to consider an alternative policy, and they are obsessed with the need to pursue this objective, at whatever longterm cost to the borough, and whatever reckless risks are posed by such a terrifying degree of bondage, bound by a contract of perhaps fifteen years in length. 

A few weeks ago, in a speech to the New Local Government Network annual conference in Spitalfields, Eric Pickles made a very interesting and significant comment, in what might be considered to be yet another jibe at what clearly he views at the enfant terrible of Tory councils, the empty headed administration here in Broken Barnet - see here, as reported by Public

 "Eric Pickles has criticised some Conservative-run councils, claim­ing they are pursuing outsourcing at the expense of service quality.

The Communities Secretary told the NLGN annual conference that some authorities had simply outsourced services because they could, rather than out of any desire to provide better services.

He said: "I sometimes get very impatient with Tory authorities. It does seem to me that our job as councillors is to ensure we get what we expect in terms of public services.

"It's not about what the badge is on the van; it's about what the service is to the public. I have never minded whether something was provided in-house or externally, so long as the service was good and at a reasonable price."

But he added: "Sometimes I think we have overstepped the mark and tried to turn the public sector into a private sector ethos."

The truth is that government policy has moved away from the high risk, all encompassing  outsourcing programmes that have inspired the only begetters of One Barnet. Only in this borough, of course, wallowing in the stagnant backwaters of Tory ideology, would you find so much enthusiasm for embracing an outdated concept like this, and one designed on such an unprecedented scale.

In their fury over the suspension in the One Barnet programme caused by the pending Judicial Review, Barnet has responded in predictable style, seeking to denigrate the action taken by the claimant pursuing the challenge. 

Maria Nash, the disabled resident in whose name the review is being taken, has been the subject of a rather unbalanced article in the local Times paper last week, described as 'a protestor and member of the Barnet Alliance for Public Services', and accompanied by the claim, uncritically reported, that:

'Budget papers published this week show the council expects to lose £2.2million in savings even if the appeal is unsuccessful but will be forced to find £15million-a-year if its decision is found to be unlawful.'

The claim that £2.2 million will be lost by the delay involved in waiting for the JR is totally untrue, as demonstrated by an earlier response given to a question by Mr Reasonable on this point, and the attempt to frighten people with a £15 million annual sum to be found is of course another red herring: they are also making random threats about the huge levels of redundancies that will ensue should the JR be successful. 

If the council's failure to engage with residents over this immensely important issue has taken them to the High Court, that is their responsibility, and there most certainly are alternative ways of making savings without huge cuts to services or massive redundancies. And indeed if they were to resort to such actions, it would be a demonstration of malice and deliberate vengeance, and an act of irrationality that would no doubt also result in further legal challenge.

Mrs Angry has met Mrs Nash at a couple of local community events over the last few years: at a borough police Safer Neighbourhood workshop, for example. She is not 'a protestor' in the sense implied in the article. She is not even a member of the Barnet Alliance. She is, despite the difficulties posed by her disability, an active resident with a real and admirable commitment to making a positive difference to the community in which she lives. She has decided to challenge the One Barnet programme out of concern for the impact that this reckless sell off of our public services on her life, and the lives of every resident of this borough. It is not an act undertaken lightly, and demonstrates a commendable sense of public spirit. 

If only our elected representatives paid to sit on the Tory benches in the Town Hall and take decisions on our behalf had the same sense of responsibility.

As for our senior management team: why are they so determined to support a programme of privatisation, rather than allow an appraisal of the case for an in house alternative? Were they biased towards a private sector option? Were there sufficient safeguards in place to ensure protection from conflicts of interest that may ensue from those officers with links to the private sector? This is an important point of public interest, and an area which Barnet has refused to address in the eyes of many of us who have followed the course of this programme.

Why have senior officers been allowed to move to and from companies involved in the tender process? There have been concerns raised about this for a year and a half, and nothing has been done about it, other than the repetitions of assurance that all officers are obliged to make declarations of interest. As was demonstrated by response to a Freedom of Information request, this clearly was not the case, and as demonstrated by yet another senior officer involved in the One Barnet programme recently moving directly from Barnet to the programme's implementation partners Agilisys, no policy was put in place to mitigate the risk of conflict of interest, or the perception of conflict of interest that such a move might incur.

There will at last be a new code of conduct to address these concerns: to be in place after the dialogues have concluded. Why only now?

At a General Functions committee meeting in January, as reported here in this post,, a senior officer from Human Resources denied,in response to a question by Labour's Barry Rawlings, that there had been any examples of movement between Barnet and any bidding companies, since the formal process had begun. 

This meeting was filmed, and after inspecting the footage, Mrs Angry wrote to challenge what might appear to be this officer's rather misleading statements to the committee, a challenge updated by the most recent example regarding Agilisys, the One Barnet implementation consultants who, according to Mr Reasonable's last post here were paid a staggering £456,131.45 of our money for their efforts, last month. That is £22,800 per working day. 

It should be noted that of course the individual officers who have taken employment with these companies are doing nothing unlawful, nor were such moves in breach of any council regulations - because there were none in place.

There has been no response to the last questions put to the officer from Human Resources, nor to the same questions put last week to Mr Andrew Travers, the Chief Executive.

The message is clear: please don't ask any awkward questions, Mrs Angry - this is the House of Fun, and we intend to carry on  having fun, as long as we possibly can.

Judicial Review: 19th to the 21st of March, the High Court. 

Put it in your diary.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Catch 22 meets 1984: Day 6 of the Caebrwyn libel trial

Temple Church


here is the link to yesterday's Radio 4 Today programme interview with Jacqui Thompson

Mrs Angry was unable to attend the trial yesterday morning, unfortunately, and arrived late, in a less than happy mood, but the by now familiar ritual of the courtroom was carrying on regardless, and it was comforting to sink back into the rhythm of the legal arguments, the ticking of the clock, the sense of concentration on abstract concepts, minutely analysed detail, caught between the extremes of obscurity, and clarity, argument and counter argument.

In her absence,   had been reporting the earlier proceedings, (in between indulging in unseemly thoughts about the strange allure of legal costume). 

Mr Speker had presented his closing arguments on behalf of his client, Carmarthenshire Chief Executive Mark James. 

It rather sounds as if there was little new in the way of argument that was out to support Mr James' counter claim, although what was not said was said at some length, but a couple of tweets caught Mrs Angry's eye, such as:

Judge indicating Press & individuals basically have same responsibility now when it comes to journalism content!


Prosecution saying council can't be held liable for not making a decision on whether to allow filming, no damages can be claimed.

By midday Ms Michalos proceeded to start the closing argument for Jacqui Thompson. Barnet Rebel tweeted:

Judge asking for clarification as to why was Ms Thompson arrested!

Which of course is a very good question, m'lud. And then:

It is being pointed out the complete imbalance between the two sides, a housewife against a large council.

Quite. But then:

Other people felt they were being treated unfairly in the planning department too. Judge: but was this necessarily corruption?
Fair question. And it could be reasonably argued that the question of concerns regarding the planning department had to be raised, and in fact earlier in the trial we had heard that local MP Jonathan Edwards had asked for an investigation into this very issue, but unfortunately this was something that Mr Mark James could not recall.

By lunchtime Mrs Angry had arrived, and listened to Ms Michalos' continuing arguments.

Jacqui Thompson: 'obviously a highly intelligent person, and very literate' - Judge Tugendhat

Everything Mrs Thompson does, she claimed, is categorised by the council as vindictive, including making allegations which have a genuine basis, and even incidents in which she was not involved, such as the aborted visit to the housing officer by her husband, and the so called 'sit in' by her husband and brother in law at a council office.

There was no substantive evidence that any council officers other than Mr James and Mr Bowen had felt 'intimidated' or 'frightened'. And it was not possible to say that the council was not worthy of criticism. 

The action regarding Mr Bowen was settled due to the cost of continuing a challenge, which did not detract from the apology made.

Ms Michalos referred now to the mysterious document, stamped by the Chief Executive's department, and the resources department, which had made Mrs Thompson believe that Mr Bowen's legal costs had been covered by the council, which although it denied any payment to Mr Bowen was unable to explain what exactly it was, or what it represented.

Judge Tugendhat asked what is left unexplained about it: why is it still on her blog? Couldn't it have been sent 'by mistake'?

Ms Michalos suggested that it was reasonable for a lay person to feel suspicious about it. And the council had never asked her to take it down.

Such concerns raised by Mrs Thompson  were not part of a campaign, they should be seen as 'discrete issues'. It was a question, ultimately, of were her actions to be viewed as harassment, or as sanctioned by the right to freedom of expression? Mark James had claimed that the whole website is 'offensive'. That doesn't make it harassment, she suggested.

Only five out of 732 blogposts had been the subject of the action, and none had had any warning from the council. Criticism of the council was not the same as criticism of Mark James.

The point was raised about Mrs Thompson's claims about the council's limo, which she seemed to imply was for his use, at a cost of £66,000 a year, whereas the car, with its two part time chauffeurs, cost half of that, was used by the Chair, and only sometimes Mr James.  The judge pointed out that the claim was untrue, and that he could not live in 'an Alice in Wonderland World. 

He observed, however, that Mrs Thompson produced 'a very articulate blog', that she was 'obviously a highly intelligent person and very literate', and he agreed that he would go through the whole blog and find on the whole content.

Lastly we were asked to consider the matter of  the 'Pinocchio' allegations. 

This referred to the matter of the new theatre which was to be renamed by public vote, but for some reason the council had  overruled the result, and decided the name which came second would be used, rather than the choice of residents. 

Mrs Thompson had joked that she hoped Mr James would not behave similarly in his duties as Returning Officer, and, worse still, had mischievously suggested that 'Pinocchio' might be a suitable performance for the new venue.

Ms Michalos explained to the judge that this was an example of 'sarcasm' which, according to precedent from the McCracken case, could be said to 'help protect the freedom of speech' and encourage 'robust debate'. 

The Pinocchio reference falls within the scope of this landmark case, and is what she referred to as 'an obvious joke'.

Mrs Angry was glad of this explanation, in fact, as it might have been thought that Mr James was being seriously compared to a mendaciously inclined large wooden puppet with an extendable nose, and this could be said to be an extremely defamatory and highly inaccurate description of any senior local government officer. 

Clearly 'sarcasm', joking, satire and indeed lampooning of any kind is something Mrs Angry completely eschews within the scope of her own blog. 

Mr Mark James.

Ms Michalos concluded her case, having asked for damages for the alleged libel of Mrs Thompson by Mr James, and invited his Lordship to dismiss Mr James's counter claim. Judge Tugendhat adjourned the hearing, and reserved judgement on the case to a future date.


Tuesday's session in court had ended early, and adjourned at lunchtime, so Mrs Angry found herself with an unexpectedly free afternoon, and decided to enjoy the cool early spring sunshine, and take a look around the area surrounding the High Court, especially the Temple district which lies between the Strand, Fleet Street and the Thames. 

Between here and the river you will find one of the four inns of court: a sub Dickensian world of eighteenth and nineteenth century squares, alleyways and courtyards full of barristers' chambers, their names written on wooden signs by the door, the area bustling with eager young office clerks pushing trolley loads of boxed legal documents between the chambers and the case hearings across the road. 

At the heart of this area is Temple Church, a late twelfth century building founded by the Knights Templars, a number of whose members lie there, surrounded in eternity by an impertinent array of gargoyles, some of whom seemed to Mrs Angry, trying to ignore the coachload of tourists gawping at the church and clutching their copies of the Da Vinci Code, to have oddly familiar faces. 

Perhaps it is true to say that impertinence is an eternally enduring feature of human behaviour, and as we stand in the Temple church, we still recognise and salute the expression of dissent which it represents: the response of the underdog to those in authority over us.

The templars, of course, were part of a secretive, hugely powerful organisation, immensely wealthy, and accountable to no one. 

Until, that is, resentment and suspicion of their order brought about accusations of all sorts of malpractices, and their lands were seized by the king, and in the case of the Temple estate, given to a college of law, which evolved into the Temple Inn. From an abuse of power, then, to the regulation of abuse, and the protection of our fundamental rights in law, by the law.

Over the three years or so of writing this blog, and covering all sorts of stories about the secretive, unaccountable system of local government here in Broken Barnet, the focus of dissent which is reflected here has moved from one of protest - and impertinence - to one of legal challenge. 

Challenge in the courts of actions which we feel to be unjust, or the consequence of malpractice, defence of the right to protest, in the case of the library occupation, or protest at the failure of the local authority to consult the electorate over a £1 billion privatisation scheme: these matters have been or will be decided by legal judgement. 

The wider issues raised by these cases will have implications for communities all over the UK. And of course in the end, the balance of justice lies in the laws which are meant to protect our freedoms, and save us from the exploitation of power.

In the case of Jacqui Thompson the significance is clear: a fundamental principle is at stake. The freedom of expression, the rights of an individual to voice dissent, to challenge unaccountable authority, and, yes, to be impertinent.

A leading article, on Page Two of the Times yesterday, headed 'State versus Citizen' condemned the behaviour of Carmarthenshire County Council in pursuing this case against Mrs Thompson.

The article concludes that whatever the outcome of the case in the High Court, the council has 'acted arrogantly and defensively. It has wielded excessive official and financial power against a lone citizen and has thereby become a case study in how not to behave in an era of transparency and accountability.'

The article heavily criticises the authority's use of public money to support the counter claim of libel against Mrs Thompson by the Chief Executive. This means, of course, that Jacqui Thompson, as a local taxpayer, is paying for the legal costs of the person whom she alleges to have libelled her. The case is, as her counsel suggested yesterday, one of 'Catch 22 meets 1984'.

Mrs Angry is not certain if Carmarthenshire County Council, with its atavistic fear of the power of a mobile camera phone, is living in 1984, or rather in an early medieval world of angels, demons, and the fear of eternal damnation.

Mrs Angry is certain, however, that Jacqui Thompson is an admirable woman, and one of great courage and powers of endurance, who has displayed remarkable dignity in the face of an intolerable experience this last week. 

Now let us see justice done. 


Wednesday 20 February 2013

Can I get a witness? Day Five of the Caebrwyn libel trial

the arrest of Jacqui Thompson    pic Alex Murray Smith

Day Five, then. 

Is that all it is? Mrs Angry feels as if she has been in Court 14 since the beginning of time, and it ain't over yet.

Today brought the opportunity for Mr James to call his witnesses to give evidence. He had several witnesses lined up, in fact, but for some reason, not all were called.

First to take the stand today was Mr Martin Davis, the democratic services officer who had been sent to stop Jacqui Thompson, the blogger Caebrwyn, from filming on the first occasion she was alleged to have been engaged in such activity. 

Mrs Angry must stop here, and remind everyone of the dreadful accusation which is laid before Mrs Thompson: that she was using a mobile phone to film a few minutes of a public council meeting, in a public place, and thereby transgressing no law, no standing order, and merely exercising her right as a citizen, endorsed and encouraged by the Secretary of State, Mr Eric Pickles, to scrutinise and report the actions of her elected representatives.

Mrs Angry has sat through five days of this case now, and has tried very hard to report the details of the arguments with honesty, and in an objective way. But really: this is becoming more and more impossible.

Let us continue.

Let us listen to the evidence of Mr Martin Davies, under cross examination by Ms Michalos, acting for Jacqui Thompson.

After taking the oath, he was asked to state his name and age. He had to think momentarily about his age, which he concluded was 53.

He told the court about the alleged 'incident' in the public gallery where Mrs Thompson was accused of filming proceedings with her phone.

Ms Michalos, acting for Mrs Thompson, soon established that the statement submitted to the court had been preceded by an earlier version written by Mr Davies, a version for which no copies were now available, written before he had seen the police and heard the full allegations made by Mrs Thompson.

In Mr Davies' statement, additional information had been submitted, bracketed, and these additions were the subject of questioning.

These apparent discrepencies are crucial in establishing the credibility of Mr Davies' statement. 

Mr Davies says he was told someone might be filming in the public gallery. He was sent to tell her to stop filming. She denied filming. He was sent on the orders of the Chief Executive. He agreed Mrs Thompson could have been tweeting. Your evidence, said Md Michalos, was that 'she was moving between different things'. 

He said that when he went up she was leaning over with the camera over the parapet, which alone, he remarked, is a danger: she could have dropped it.

(Camera, in this context, means a mobile phone with a camera.)

Mr Davies claimed to have put his hand on front of the phone. 

You were in her personal space, suggested Ms Michalos.

No more than any member of the public.,

Ms Michalos suggested he was leaning across, and that he could not do that without leaning against her. He must have had physical contact. No, he said.

You said you could see her clearly typing into twitter ...

You don't have very good eyesight, observed Ms Michalos ... she stated that he had been peering closely at the documents she had asked him to look at. Mr Davies, who wears glasses, agreed: 

I do need an eye test, he said.

And you mentioned two phones?

He explained he had meant changing 'between modes'.

You are reconstructing events, aren't you?


It's not right when you say you were moving between modes.

He said, in reference to twitter, that he had seen 'little faces on the phone'.

Mr Davies demonstrated how he had tried to stop her 'filming', by cupping her hand with his.

You accept you touched her, asked Ms Michalos.


In the statement, he had claimed there had been no physical contact.

That is not what you said, she observed. 

He repeated the hand on hand gesture. Ms Michalos asked him if he was in regard to his statement, aware of Section 9 of the Criminal Justice Act, and the liability to prosecution if his statement was not true.

You signed a statement that was not true, she suggested.

No, no, he said.

He claimed that after covering the phone with his hand, he had carried on 'making light conversation' with Mrs Thompson, until she 'decided to leave'.

He denied holding her phone or touching the screen. He said he could have sat there all day. Nothing else to do, asked Ms Michalos? He admitted that in fact his office was busy. Were you under pressure? No.

Had he indicated to people in the chamber that he was having trouble, with raised hands, and shrugged shoulders?

The meeting, he said, carried on as normal.

(Remember at this point that allegations were made earlier in the week that Mrs Thompson's alleged behaviour was 'disruptive'.)

How many times, asked Ms Michalos, did you hold on to the lady's mobile phone?

Only the once. That was referring to the occasion when I ... he stopped there.

You are not telling the truth in your statement, said Ms Michalos.

You can't really remember the detail, can you?

It was two years ago. Can more or less describe ...

The detail?

Not second by second. 

Next up was another officer, a Mr Ian Llewellyn.

He stated that he could not be '100% certain that Mrs Thompson was filming. He had heard 'playback', but in answer to Ms Michalos he agreed that he could not be certain that it was the proceedings of the meeting in question.

He also testified that the atmosphere in the gallery was 'quiet'.

Another officer Bethan Lovery gave evidence next. She agreed that from where she was sitting, she could see little more than heads, and could not hear conversations. She thought Mr Davis' mannerisms were calm. She could see the back of his head. The sound she claimed to have heard re playback, she had heard noise but was it the meeting? She admitted that it was difficult the events of two years ago.She had nothing to add to her statement.

David Lyn Thomas gave evidence next. He is the retired head of the legal department of  Carmarthenshire County Council.

He was referred to the matter of the mysterious document which Mrs Thompson believes indicates that Carmarthen County Council paid the legal costs of Mr Bowen, the planning officer who was the subject of an earlier libel case. He sent an email stating that he had lost count of the number of times he had denied that had paid who he referred to as 'Eifion's' legal costs. Checks had been made for documents, in financial records, and an investigation by the Audit Commission.

At the meeting where Mrs Thompson was first alleged to be filming, he said the Chief Executive had asked him to get an officer because of a woman filming or recording. That was the suspicion, anyway.  He admitted he just see Mrs Thompson and Mr Davis. Their heads, and 'a bit more, probably'. 

It was difficult to recall. Mr Davis would have ... held his hand out (to cover the phone) ...

In reality, you can't remember, it was suggested. 

In an email, Mr Davis had stated about Mrs Thompson: 'She wasn't being co-operative, and this was tricky' ... what did 'tricky' mean? It was she said, completely different ... to the witness statement ...'

There was now a reference to an article in the Western Mail newspaper which referred to 'high handed tactics' and libel actions. There was local controversy, observed Ms Michalos. Yes, admitted Mr Thomas.

He had felt it necessary to respond, claiming their headline was 'misleading'. She put it to him strongly that his statement to the newspaper was itself misleading, stating as it did that there had not been a change in council policy (in regard to the indemnity for libel actions). Mr Thomas asserted that they had had an indemnity against claims since 2006. 

Turning to the matter of Mr James' response to the blogpost on the Madaxeman blog, the subject of Mrs Thompson's libel action, Mr Thomas admitted he did not know which blog the post was from. 

Ms Michalos listed the issues which Mr James had been asked about by the writer of the blog, Martin Milan, ie whether or not Jacqui Thompson had 'disrupted' the meeting, whether or not filming was prohibited by standing orders, whether the minutes of the meeting were accurate, and if she should have an apology.

Mark James' letter to Mr Milan, which Mr Thomas had approved, did not address these issues.  Did he consider whether his response did so, or was he just assessing the wording?

He had primarily assessed for content. 

At the meeting in June 2011, where Mrs Thompson had been arrested, she had said that she wasn't doing anything wrong, and she was not shouting, was she?

He said she was 'not complying with what the Chair had asked her to do.

You knew she wasn't shouting.

Yes, he admitted.

An example, then that he had not checked the facts.

After the arrest, there was a lot of media interest, lots of enquiries, the new Statesman, the Daily Telegraph ... the letter to Martin Milan was an example of the questions being asked?


The response that was sent to Mr Milan, vetted by Mr Thomas was sent to all 74 of Carmarthenshire County councillors only after being forwarded to Mr Milan, Ms Michalos reminded Mr Thomas. Mr Thomas said he did not know if they had read the post, and he seemed not to feel that he needed their approval before such a response was sent.

Mr Speker commented on Mr Milan's assertion that the council was not 'fit for purpose' and was 'well overdue for sweeping reform'. What effect did this have on his considerations? Mr Thomas thought that it has been 'quite important to put matters in perspective'. 

Last up was Mr Eifion Bowen, the planning officer. He was asked if he had been told that Mr Thompson had returned home rather than visit his house. He agreed that he had.

The court adjourned now, as the next stage will be the closing speeches, beginning tomorrow morning with Mr Speker for Mark James, and Ms Michalos for Jacqui Thompson.

Mrs Angry will not be able to be in court for at least some of this part of the trial, but hopefully there will be a report of the morning's session tweeted by someone else.

It has been very difficult to write about this trial without comment, as Mrs Angry is not naturally inclined to withhold her opinion on any given subject, but it is to be hoped that the reporting of the evidence presented is enough for readers to gain a fair impression of the issues at stake. 

And there are very serious issues at stake: the outcome of this trial may set a precedent in law which would have extremely serious repercussions for every blogger or journalist who seeks to challenge the actions of those in public office, and to raise matters in the public interest.

The right to freedom of expression is one that lies at the core of our democracy, and this right is itself challenged by the arguments laid down in defence of Mr James' action

That Mark James' action is being funded by his employers, and indeed the tax payers of Carmarthenshire in this way is,  as has been agreed in court, a highly controversial matter and one which poses another fundamental question of principle. 

Listening to the evidence of witnesses at times in this trial it would be easy to lose perspective of the incident which began the whole process: a middle aged woman using a mobile phone to film a few minutes of a public council meeting, involving her elected representatives going about their duties on her behalf. 

As a result of this absurdly trivial act, she was arrested, put in handcuffs, her shoes, socks and wedding ring removed, put in a police cell and detained until she agreed not to film any more meetings. 

She had not broken any laws, nor even breached any of the council's standing orders. She has not received an apology for her treatment from the council, nor, as far as we are aware, from the police.

And here she is now, at the mercy of the judicial process, at the High Court in London, awaiting the outcome of a libel action, and a counter claim against her, funded by herself.

But look: the mainstream press have at last woken up to what has been going on in Court 14 these last few days.   

In tomorrow's Times, there is a leading article headed 'State versus citizen' declaring that 'Carmarthenshire council is behaving with arrogance and defensiveness'. 

Mrs Angry suspects that very few people would argue with that statement.