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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This is the new site Mr Monkey Returns
Mr Monkey previous sites, click on image to view.
Another story illustrating the alarming sense of humour loss by those who spend someone else’s money (Ours!!) taking it out on a blogger because they don’t like it when embarrassing stories about them are published online!
This particular example comes from South Tyneside, where an anonymous blogger started a blog called Mr. Monkey chronicling some of the hidden nooks and crannies in the Borough that needed a little light thrown upon them, just like Rotherham and this blog in fact, although we are not an anonymous blog.
He seems to have got under the skin of Labour leader Iain Malcolm, David Potts, the former Conservative leader serving as an Independent, Labour councillor Anne Walsh, and Rick O’Farrell, the council’s head of enterprise and regeneration.
Mr Potts said: “This is a deeply tawdry, perverted and seedy little blog that has been in existence for quite a while. It’s no longer active, as I understand, but the information is still on the internet for all to see. This was a blog that didn’t just affect councillors; it also affected council officers. We have a duty of care, as any employer does whether public or private, to defend not only our commercial interests, but also the interests of our employees. That’s why we took the action, that’s why we’re pursuing it so aggressively, and I have no doubt that we will get there, and we will win. There have been many, many disgusting claims, which I won’t repeat in order to protect my family and friends – allegations of corruption, sexual deviancy, of drug use.”
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “This legal action was initiated by the council’s previous chief executive and has continued with the full support of the council’s current chief executive. The council has a duty of care to protect its employees and as this blog contains damaging claims about council officers, legal action is being taken to identify those responsible.”
Pursuing this case is already proving expensive! Some £75,000 has already been spent and this is only just the beginning!
One has to wonder whether this is a reasonable expenditure from the public purse in the first place? Those claiming defamation should be spending their own money on this project, Not Ours!!
Charlotte Linacre, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, added to the debate when she said:
“Taxpayers will be concerned at the price they are having to pay for the council to take legal action that protects some individual staff by attempting to silence others.
South Tyneside Independents have a view on this as well! Click on image to read!
“I am unaware of any other occasion where somebody from this country has actually gone to America and launched proceedings in a Californian court to force Twitter to release the identities of individuals.
The implications are that people who have had their name released can actually now go to California and begin proceedings.
Local authorities cannot sue for libel and, if individual councillors have been defamed, they should take proceedings at their own cost.”
Previously on attacks on bloggers: Jacob Rees-Mogg bashes blogger into submission!.