Thursday, 4 December 2014

Libel costs - to be discussed by Executive Board

A few week's ago the council's policy and resources scrutiny committee met and on the agenda was a report detailing the cost of external legal advice and representation. I wrote about it here.

There is nothing in the newly published minutes which answers my query but there is something else, I have copied the relevant minutes below.
Before I pass comment at length, I will wait until I know what course of action, if any, they decide to take.

All I will say for now is that I will fight any attempt to recover costs and any move to do so will prove completely disproportionate and fruitless. In any event Mark James has already secured my share of the equity in my home with his personal charging order for over £30,000. There's nothing left. As for the specific costs of the counterclaim, it was unlawful, full stop.

For information, the Costs Order against me consists of £190,390 for the defence and £40,875 for costs of the counterclaim. It would seem, by the comments in paragraph 6, that my financial circumstances are now known. They must have asked Mark James.

The minutes record what the acting head of law, Linda Rees Jones said (my underlining);

"Reference was made to the recovery of costs and whether the Council had succeeded in recovering all the monies. 
"The Head of Administration and Law confirmed that the Council had not recovered all the monies and that a report was due to be considered by the Executive Board in relation to the recovery of costs that had resulted from advice and representation in defending the Defamation case. ... 
"Responding to a question in relation to the £28k spent on advice from Tim Kerr QC and who was responsible for instructing him, the Head of Administration and Law informed the Committee that originally he had been instructed in relation to the Pay Supplement and that this had been a joint instruction with Pembrokeshire County Council, who had suggested him. 
"In terms of the indemnity case, she had instructed him as he was an expert in employment law. 
"Responding to a comment that the decision to indemnify the cost of the well documented libel action was unlawful, the Head of Administration and Law stated that she believed the decision to be lawful and that a differing view existed between the Council and the Wales Audit Office. 
"In response to a question relating to the steps taken to recover costs from an individual, the Head of Administration and Law informed the Committee, that in the case being referred to, the report to the Executive Board explained that the other party’s financial status was not, at that time, known. 
"However she added that the other party was insured and asked to obtain top up insurance in relation to her defence of the counterclaim, so there had been every prospect that the Authority would recover its costs if successful on both its defence of the claim brought against it and the costs of the counterclaim. However, because of the strength of the findings made by the judge, the insurance company had reneged on the cover."

I don't know when this will be discussed but the next meeting of the Executive Board is on the 15th December.
I have made several previous statements on this blog, including this, in June 2013 in which I mention the issue of costs; 
Libel Case - further comment


Unrelated to the above, the agenda for next Wednesday's Full Council has been published. Barring any late amendments to it, Mr James' pay-off is not listed, so far.
Back in October council leader Kevin Madge said that it would be a matter for full council as it would be a six-figure sum, and that it might even be decided at November's full council. It wasn't, and it doesn't seem to be at December's either. 
Perhaps Mr James has decided to linger a bit longer, there is after all a general election in May for which he can expect a generous fee as Returning Officer....or maybe he's just decided to go without a penny? I suspect the former rather than the latter. Or they could be waiting for yet another legal opinion from Mr Kerr QC...

1 comment:

Redhead said...

The sensible thing would be to write them off and learn from the whole sorry mess.