Tuesday 11 July 2017

CPS discontinue blog 'harassment' case

Later post 17th July; CPS decision - Cneifiwr's analysis. And a complaint to the Wales Audit Office

I was informed, late yesterday afternoon (10th July) that the CPS have discontinued the case against me for the alleged non-violent harassment of chief executive Mark James. It's been dropped. I was due to attend court on Thursday 13th.
I am waiting to have this confirmed in writing - I understand a discontinuance notice has been posted to me by the CPS.
It was a police decision to charge and a CPS decision to throw it out.

After what has amounted to 18 months of indescribable stress I am, of course, relieved and I will update this post and write in detail about this whole episode as soon as I can.

In light of all this, I intend to challenge, again, the 'warning letter' (Police Information Notice) issued to me last August. It is still on the record.

* * *

BBC Wales Online have reported that the case has been dropped here; Criminal case against blogger dropped

The CPS have issued a statement to say that I had been charged with a harassment offence as
"Following a review, prosecutors were no longer satisfied there was a realistic prospect of conviction due to insufficient evidence and therefore made the decision to discontinue the case."

The council did not give a comment as they said it was a private matter for Mr James, which is odd as it appears copious amounts of 'insufficient evidence' were sourced via council computers.

The Carmarthen Journal have also reported on the matter; Harassment case against Carmarthenshire blogger dropped

The Carmarthenshire Herald features an excellent and detailed piece on these latest developments (print only) and for those who like a bit of satire, 'Carmarthenshire's Most Wanted' by Herald columnist and barrister Matthew Paul is well worth a read.

* * *

My comment

I'm not sure where to start with this, it has been a very difficult 18 months. I have spent most of the time wondering if the police were going to make an unexpected visit, wondering if I was going to be arrested or if they were going to seize my computer etc. I had no idea what to expect. I have continued the blog with trepidation but also with an element of defiance that what I was writing was, and is, legitimate comment.

I'll start with some background.
The chief executive, Mr Mark James, reported me to the police last year alleging harassment via this blog. There was nothing else, there never has been, it was just the blog. No action was taken but I was eventually issued with a warning letter in August. I refused to sign for it and I denied harassment but as this letter (a Police Information Notice - 'PIN') had no legal force I was not able to counter the allegations.

An additional complaint by Mr James, after the finding in the libel judgement that I was guilty of perverting the course of justice, was also investigated last year, then dropped. The police report issued after I challenged the warning letter noted, in relation to this other allegation; "It was also considered that Mr James could be looking at having 'two bites of the cherry' in making a criminal allegation as the civil case was finalised some three years ago and the timing of the allegation when Carmarthenshire Council and Mr James are actively pursuing Mrs Thompson for the outstanding monies from the civil action must be questioned"

In April 2016 Mr James then instructed solicitors to threaten me with a High Court action with regards to the blog, and later on, in October 2016 he instructed them to force sale of my home.

I challenged the PIN (which stays on record for 14 months) as far as my resources and ability allowed, arguing that what I had said did not constitute criminal harassment and that the notice should be removed from the record.

I also believed there had been a conflict of interest given that Dyfed Powys Police had recused themselves from an earlier investigation into Mr James himself due to their 'close working relationship', handing the task to Gloucestershire police instead.
Neither of my complaints were upheld.

I have already mentioned the substance of the first batch of complaints in earlier posts eg, the lumpy carpets.

Mr James then made another complaint in mid-December last year. This is the case that has now been thrown out.

It appears to have been triggered by the attempt by elected members to bring about a resolution to the county court action to seize my home, brought by Mr James for his damages. Or, as Mr James saw it, pesky politicians meddling in his 'private affairs'.

This 'private affair' arose from the unlawful use of public money to fund his counterclaim. My only 'crime' was to have asked my MP and AM for help.

I am left in no doubt as to Mr James' opinion of Adam Price AM, Jonathan Edwards MP, and Plaid Cllrs Alun Lenny and Cefin Campbell for attempting to bring their motion forward. If their ears have been burning, I know why. Must have been on fire.
It is quite telling that the proper democratic process should be deemed as harassment by Mr James. I can't imagine what was said in County Hall in mid-December but Cllr Lenny's Facebook post ridiculing the notion that this was a 'private' matter soon disappeared..

On a brief lighter note, Mr James' witness statement gives us a surprising insight into the previously unknown, and extensive legal expertise of veteran councillor, Eryl Morgan. You may recall his, erm, Chairmanship of the Council and his confusion over such quaint terms as abstentions and amendments... Who knew that the elderly gentleman he had memorised Tugenhat's judgment with such clarity and was able to use it to reject the Motion on the spurious grounds that everyone would be in contempt of court?
I nearly choked on my cornflakes...

The complaints also included a reference to the Private Eye 'Shit of the Year' award made to Mr James in January 2017. The alleged harassment arose because I posted the article on this blog. The article was not written by me and it was also published online by Private Eye itself, the Herald, and elsewhere online. I understand that Private Eye have never had so much as a whiff of a complaint from Mr James.
I knew someone in primary school like that, they never took the dinner money off the big boys, just the little kids...

Another complaint concerned an article written by the Carmarthenshire Herald about the Pembrey Country Park scandal. I had reported on the article on the blog.

There is reference to the peaceful 'pound of flesh' 'Shylock' demo, from last December, this was a few people who have been kind enough to support me, on their own initiative, exercising their legitimate right to protest against the actions of a council.

My comments that I found Tugendhat's judgement to be a miscarriage of justice and my continued defence over the contents of my blog were both deemed harassing by Mr James. In what world are we not allowed to disagree with a judgement?  Too right I disagree with it but, it's still there and I can't do a lot about it but the findings of perverting the course of justice (Mr James' police statement was deeply and deliberately misleading on this point), and harassment, which have now both been subject to 18 months of criminal investigations, have failed the test.
In that respect I feel vindicated.

I was questioned by the police in March about all this, (under threat of arrest if I didn't agree to interview) I was particularly struck by the accusation over the Eye article, and the rest of it for that matter. I gave no comment at the time but indicated in a statement that I would be pleading not guilty.

The police decided to report me for summons in May. Advised, I believe, by the CPS.

In the past week, the case appears to have gone up the chain of command in the CPS for review, and has now been discontinued.

The police time and resources which have been wasted over all this, on and off for 18 months must be considerable.

As I have said, this action against me was misguided and ridiculous. The complaints, within Mr James' sworn witness statement, ranged from the weirdly self-absorbed to the downright absurd. The statement was deliberately misleading and economical with the truth.

Over the past couple of months Mr James has reneged on a promise to his employers (that's without the 'gutter' comment from his lawyer) at the forced sale hearing in March. Where clearly not even the judge saw it as a 'private matter', and in an unusual move threw open the doors to the public and press. Mr James is now under fire for using public resources to support his criminal legal case. I will be pursuing that issue with the appropriate authorities.

I intend to return to the issue of the PIN as that is still hanging over me and also, in due course, challenge the monthly instalments of £250 I'm paying to the chief executive for the next fifteen years, it was never means tested in any shape or form, and believe me, it needs to be.

I also intend to continue with the blog, it will be business as usual.

My thanks as ever to those who have supported me and special thanks to barrister Matthew Paul who has been dealing with this matter for the past few weeks.

It's the first 'proper' meeting of full council next week since the local elections so I'm sure there'll be plenty to write about.

Carmarthenshire Herald 14th July 2017


Anonymous said...

Excellent news Jaqui.I wonder what prompted this.
The questions being asked of whether council computers were used to trawl through your blog perhaps.

Jac o' the North, said...

There needs to be an independent investigation of this absurd allegation against you. And by independent I mean someone other than the thoroughly discredited Public Service Ombudsman for Wales, Nick Bennett.

Despite being a lifelong believer in Welsh independence and doing things for ourselves, public life in Wales has become so corrupt and incestuous that I would welcome someone from outside of Wales who could approach the issue with an open and honest mind.

Dafis said...

Trust that this is true, not fake news. That being the case we rejoice in the decision at last someone is showing a little bit of sense though it took a long time to flicker into life. The final judgement on Mr James is yet to come.

Anonymous said...

Utter disgrace. It should not have been allowed to proceed in the first place. If it IS found that the CEO of CCC DID have Council employees using Council owned equipment in his personal pursuit of you that would surely be deemed maladministration in public office. For far too long many people in Carmarthenshire have had their lives ruined by the unacceptable behaviour by some Council employees who have considered themselves to be above any law and answerable to no one.

caebrwyn said...

@Anon 16:28
Yes, good news. An interesting idea regarding the council computers, an issue in itself which I will be pursuing, but I think this decision probably had more to do with protected political speech than anything else.

I hope it's true! There's no fake news on this blog anyway!
And yes, I agree.

Anonymous said...

Thankfully it seems that someone human and sensible has finally seen sense and put an end to this nonsense. I am so pleased and relieved for you. I do hope all the years of stress havent greatly affected your health through all of this.

Redhead said...

Justice when you least expect it - so pleased for you! The CCC CEO must be very unhappy. Good.

Lesley said...

I am so pleased to hear this news but furious that this bloody-minded and vindictive action should ever have got so far. It is outrageous that the CPS took this matter seriously in the first place.

It must surely be the case that proceedings have screeched to a halt because the trawl of your blog by someone in CCC became public knowledge and explaining that in court would have been awkward, to say the least.

I agree that there should be an independent investigation into this - it's clearly been a waste of police time and resources as well as being a vile harassment of you personally.

Let's hope you can have a less stressful life from now on.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the decision has anything to do with 'someone human and sensible' finally seeing sense.
I think it's more to do with the fear of opening a can of worms. Someone needs to investigate the prolonged waste of taxpayers money.

Mrs Angry said...

So pleased for you, Jacqui. But it is the only possible just outcome from what was a ludicrous situation.

Your strength and dignity throughout this latest ordeal have been inspiring, and I hope now that this marks a point of change in the course of events in Carmarthenshire.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 11 July 2017 at 19:15

Fair comment I think perhaps I should stand corrected in hindsight. A wobbly, large, intricate web of dominoes at risk of being toppled is probably the case. One topples and we know the rest.


Anonymous said...

Maybe plod can bring charges against james for wasting their time.

While they're at it, perhaps you can bring charges against him for harassment, causing undue stress through his personal vendetta against you and the potential misappropriation of council staff and equipment.

He has become the stain that simply won't go away.

Anonymous said...

If this doesn't prove it was a just a malicious exercise nothing does.

Ken Haylock said...

Great news!

Is it possible to gain access to the evidence that was going to be used against you & the basis of the initial charging decision & the decision to withdraw?

If the CPS decided to proceed, & then decided to drop it all on their own, that's one thing - they made a flawed charging decision. If the reason it is being dropped is because a prosecution witness (i.e THE prosecution witness) suddenly withdrew his statement at the 11th hour, then that is surely another can of particularly smelly worms entirely?

caebrwyn said...

Ken Haylock

I am still waiting for the discontinuance notice to arrive, it should come in the post later today. That may, or may not, elaborate on the decision to withdraw the charge.
I also have the prosecution evidence and will be providing more detail, and comment, later on today

Tessa said...

The tort of Misfeasance in Public Office is an intentional tort that can be committed only by a public official and the core concept is abuse of power. This in turn involves other concepts, such as dishonesty, bad faith, and improper purpose.
Power is granted to a public official for a public purpose. It is an abuse of that power for him to exercise it for his own private purposes, whether out of spite, malice, revenge, or merely self-advancement.

Lesley said...

Nicely put, Tessa. I wonder if anyone can pursue it? We need another Gabrielle Sheppard, sadly deceased, who had the nerve to put her savings and her house on the line during the St Catherine Street fiasco by going for a Judicial Review of the council's refusal to hold a referendum on whether the street should be closed. The proposal was entirely for the benefit of the developers of the new shopping precinct and would have caused traffic chaos in the town. Against all the odds, she won - which gives hope for the Davids who might want to fight this particular Goliath once again.

Anonymous said...

Saying that matter has been dropped following review by more senior people in CPS doesn't hold water. The file would have been examined by senior CPS people at the outset I would have thought. I think they were probably hoping for a quick guilty plea and for you to buckle. I for one was looking forward to the report of the evidence being revealed and examined. If the case was as you indicate, a number of reprinted press reports and fair comment on other issues then It would have been chucked out as no case to answer. Very embarrassing for all concerned in bringing this matter this far and I hope they have a post morgen to learn lessons from it.

Ken Haylock said...

Which raises the possibility that the evidence used to be more extensive than it now is... & some of it was suddenly withdrawn at the last moment. I think I'd want to understand how linking to a bunch of press articles alone _ever_ led to a charge...

Wavell said...

They could have sent the notice by first class post at least !!!

Or do the CPS use the same attitude to the public "they are only commoners, next week will be fine".

caebrwyn said...

Well Wavell, it still hasn't arrived, fortunately my solicitor, and the BBC have reconfirmed the CPS decision today, which is just as well as I was due in court tomorrow morning.

Anonymous said...

Bad form not to reference your source!

"The tort of Misfeasance in Public Office is an intentional tort that can be committed only by a public official and the core concept is abuse of power. This in turn involves other concepts, such as dishonesty, bad faith, and improper purpose.
Power is granted to a public official for a public purpose. It is an abuse of that power for him to exercise it for his own private purposes, whether out of spite, malice, revenge, or merely self-advancement."


Further reading may be found here, which provides a better explanation in as much that 'a public officer acting as such wilfully neglects to perform his duty and/or wilfully misconducts himself to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder without reasonable excuse or justification

I doubt very much james will be prosecuted under the above, no matter how bad he is made to look. The prosecution needs to be brought by the crown on instruction of the police and given the cosy relationship between plod and james there are better odds of Lee Waters being elected prime minister.

Tessa "Pound of Flesh" Finch. said...

@anon 12-7-17 23:04 - yes fair point, I should have put my source. However I do include my name.......

Ken Haylock said...

I think that if the 'evidence' is as described, you have good grounds for complaining to both the IPCC & utilising the CPS complaints process. I think both Dyfed Powys police & the local CPS have questions to answer about the appropriateness of their conduct in this case, because there would appear to be no objective basis for criminal charges at all, & the police should not even be initiating an investigation of a journalist [which is effectively what a blogger is] unless an incredibly high bar is reached.

It's also fair to ask - if linking to Mark James 'Shit of the Year award' in your blog is evidence of a crime that should be prosecuted, what was writing that column or publishing it in their internationally famous magazine? Why didn't Dyfed Powys police interview Ian Hislop under caution & threat of arrest?

Obviously that would have been grossly inappropriate & a media/legal firestorm of unimaginable proportions would have engulfed Dyfed Powys police had they even tried, but if you genuinely regarded linking to that article on a blog, as evidence of a criminal offence of harassment, you'd have to treat writing it in the first place far _more_ seriously, right?

That implies that the thing that distinguishes Jacqui's blog from Private Eye in this scenario is who wrote it. Which is another way of saying that this was personal. But why might the police have it in for Jacqui personally, let alone the local CPS? It seems unlikely that they would, although if they do that's a serious matter. But maybe somebody with undue influence over the activities of _both_ organisations does?

I'm pretty sure that, hypothetically, leaning on the police & CPS to settle your personal scores with a journalist (which is what a blogger is) by prosecuting them for writing about events you'd rather they didn't write about would be something you might expect to see in Putin's Russia rather than Carmarthenshire, so if that hypothetically explains why the Police & CPS were so zealous in their attempt to not just silence Jacqui but get her locked up, then surely Misfeasance in Public Office would be the _least_ of it?

ray said...

great news, jaqui.

keep up the good work.
your blog inspired me to go public- https://gwyneddsfailingcouncil.blogspot.co.uk/