Saturday 19 September 2015

The 'Libel indemnity clause' - The council's dilemma

Regular readers will be aware that I have a particular interest in the unlawful 'Libel indemnity clause' currently languishing in suspended animation in the council's constitution.
The unlawfulness of the clause, and its use, also formed part of the trial in February 2013, and the appeal last year.
The offending item has been suspended since the Council held the Extraordinary meeting to discuss the pension and libel indemnity scandals, 20 months ago.

If the recent council bluff and bluster about 'culture change',were to be believed, which it isn't, let alone the recent 'review' of the constitution, you might have expected this oppressive but legally impotent clause to be quietly airbrushed from history.

As it hasn't been airbrushed anywhere, I thought I'd ask Ms Rees Jones for an update on its fate;

Dear Ms Rees Jones, 
Following the recent amendments to the Constitution I was surprised to see that the  'libel clauses' remain, albeit in suspended form in Part 3 of the Constitution. 
I understand that as the clause is currently 'withdrawn', it cannot be used. However, you are fully aware that the legal position was clarified long ago and you will also agree that the clarification determined the clause to be unlawful, both in theory and in practice. Furthermore, it cannot ever be legally reinstated. 
Will you please explain why this 'suspended' clause remains and what steps are now being taken to remove it completely from the Council's Constitution. 
I look forward to your reply,
Thank you
Jacqui Thompson

A mere 48 hours later, and after (I detect from the tone of the first paragraph) a hasty consultation with Mr James, I received this reply;

Dear Mrs. Thompson, 
You persist in saying that “libel indemnities” are unlawful, but only a Court can determine whether they are still lawful following the 2006 Order or not. I am of the view that they are still lawful and nothing that Wales Audit Office had to say on the matter has persuaded me otherwise. As you will know, Council “agreed to disagree” with Wales Audit Office’s view, just as I have to agree to disagree with your own view. 
The “libel clause” remains on the face of our Constitution but is marked “withdrawn“This is because I have kept the Constitutional amendments arising from the Constitutional Review Working Group’s consideration of the recommendations in the Peer Review Report separate from any other amendments to the Constitution. The Constitutional Review Working Group will continue to meet and any other amendments required to the Constitution will follow. But no libel indemnities can currently be granted, and I am not aware of any proposals to resurrect the ability to grant them.
Yours faithfully,
Linda Rees-Jones Head of Administration & Law & Monitoring Officer

Of course, what all this does is put the council, by which I mean Ms Rees Jones and chief executive, Mr James, in something of a dilemma. If they remove the clause completely, then Mrs Thompson would have won a small but significant victory - they would be conceding that it should never have been there in the first place. They would also be agreeing with the Wales Audit Office.

If they leave it in the book, in its 'withdrawn' state, never to be used, then it looks ridiculous and serves no purpose within the constitution; a permanent reminder of professional incompetence, arrogance and unlawful behaviour.

Hence the continuing state of frosty denial and talk of courts.

Finally, I asked Ms Rees Jones if the Constitutional Review Working Group, (the 'long grass') would be considering its removal. A terse one-liner came back to say that they would be looking at the 'matter', though she didn't say when, which is significant as they are only due to meet once a be advised by her good self and Mr James of course.

It's time for the Working Group to refresh their memories and have another read of the Wales Audit Office report. Or perhaps we'll all have go back to court.

(For further background, please search this blog, or Google. For example, Played them like a fiddle or WAO reports - a year old today


Anonymous said...

Until protests and demonstrations against this disgraceful council, it's incompetent councillors, it's dictatorial CEO Mark James, nothing will change. Clearly Ministers in Cardiff are comfortable in turning a blind eye, which they have done for years. Wales with its village mentality is what it is. No one wants to tread on anyones toes no matter what the conduct, criminal or otherwise. Obvious why.

Anonymous said...

"If they leave it in the book, in its 'withdrawn' state, never to be used, then it looks ridiculous and serves no purpose within the constitution."
I think most people would agree with the statement above.

They should admit defeat and remove it.

Anonymous said...

A eunuch is still a eunuch even if he speaks with a deep voice.
This kind of embarrassing, legalistic bullshit should be exposed for what it is - well done.

Anonymous said...

11.3 Functions of the Monitoring Officer
(a) Maintaining the Constitution.
The monitoring officer will maintain an up-to-date
of the Constitution and
will ensure that it is widely available for consult
ation by members, staff and the

What doesn't she understand about the words "up-to-date"?

caebrwyn said...

Quite right anon 11:35.
Probably the same difficulty she has with understanding the next paragraph of 11.3 Functions of the Monitoring Officer; "Ensuring lawfulness and fairness of decision making"

Anonymous said...

"Ensuring lawfulness and fairness of decision making" So long as it complies with their wishes...

What hold does the dark lord have over these people???? Maybe it is that simple and they are easily manipulated. Hardly surprising I guess. Bunch of incompetents in high paid positions. Who else would employ such morons?

Indeed, I've just answered my own question. Perhaps we should rename them to the mushroom farm; kept in the dark and fed on sh1t!

Anonymous said...

Please do not assume that senior employees are incompetents and morons in high paid postions. This is grossly unfair! There is a CE who totally holds the reins of power. You cross him at your peril!

Anonymous said...

One answer required to anon @ 00.12 If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen!

Anonymous said...


If these senior employees were not so incompetent and had the ability to stand up to james then our council would not be providing so much material for this blog.

The very fact that they [you] can be so easily manipulated (cross him at your peril - so lame) by him demonstrates very clearly how all of you, including james, should not enjoy the positions you are all so clearly incapable of holding.

Anonymous said...

From my personal experience the "Management" structure in CCC is far too top heavy anyway.
And many of the so called "Managers and Heads of Departments" have no realistic idea of what is happening in their own sections.
It really needs looking into, it would save CCC many many thousands of £'s per annum.
But with each one having ambiguous titles it is difficult find out who does what.
Maybe a Councillor (or two) could do some homework and surprise themselves.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10.59

I did!