The new print edition of Private Eye, Number 1290 10-23 June 2011, carries an update on the outrageous and ongoing saga of Mr Monkey and South Tyneside Council. The Rotten Boroughs section includes a reminder of the law since 1993 and a House of Lords ruling that provided clarification which said:.
“It is of the highest importance that…. any governmental body should be open to uninhibited public criticism. The threat of a civil action for defamation must inevitably have an inhibiting effect on freedom of speech.”
I should also make the following legal points, Councils cannot sue for libel, nor can they fund any libel action brought by any individual councillor or officer!
The order, ‘local authorities (indemnities for members and officers) 2004’ is quite specific on this point, I quote, “No indemnity may be provided under this order in relation to the making by the member or officer indemnified of any claim in relation to an alleged defamation of that member or officer…”
Why did they stop surcharges? They were designed to put a brake on this kind of unjustifiable use of taxpayers money by getting the money back from those who mis-spent or mis-used public money!
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