THE HERALD can disclose that a claim made by Carmarthenshire County Council Chief Executive Mark James CBE is – at best – mistaken.
Mr James told Wales Online that he had never received any offers of settlement in respect of a judgement for damages in his favour, following a libel action against Carmarthenshire blogger Jacqui Thompson.
The case against Mrs Thompson made headline news across Wales, after the Wales Audit Office ruled that the Council acted unlawfully in offering Mr James an indemnity against his costs spent in defending a libel action brought against him by Mrs Thompson and a countersuit the Chief Executive launched against the blogger.
In the article on Wales Online, Mrs Thompson set out how she had been visited by High Court Enforcement Officers, seeking to establish whether she had the wherewithal to pay off Mr James’s judgement against her.
She claimed that she had made offers to settle Mr James’s claim by payment of instalments.
Mr James is quoted as telling Wales Online: “Regrettably, Jacqui Thompson is once again not telling the truth unfortunately.
“She has refused point blank to pay anything. She has responded to my solicitor in writing saying she will never pay any of the damages and costs that the High Court awarded against her.
“Had she offered to pay in instalments, this action would not have been necessary. “Perhaps she will share with media written proof of her offer to pay in instalments? I would be most interested to see it.”
Herald columnist Cadno contacted Mrs Thompson and asked if she was prepared to back up her offers of instalments with proof they were made.
Mrs Thompson replied by sending Cadno two communications which made offers to pay off Mr James by instalments.
The first document – a copy of a letter dated March 22, 2013, is from Mrs Thompson’s then solicitors Simons Muirhead & Burton to Slater & Gordon.
That letter and its enclosure details Mrs Thompson’s financial affairs and makes an offer to pay Mr James £75 per month, which the letter describes as an offer which would ‘not create the inevitable risk of default’.
The letter acknowledges that a lump sum would be preferable, but states that Mrs Thompson’s ability to pay such a sum would be dependent on third party assistance, which could not be guaranteed.
That offer was an offer made in open correspondence. The second communication is an email to Messrs Ungoed Thomas and King of Carmarthen dated January 22, 2015.
That letter says: “I am unable to offer either a lump sum payment or anything more than token monthly instalments of around £20 per month. I have no income, no savings and am unable to obtain a loan or a mortgage.
“I believe your client is generally aware of my financial circumstances and that I am unable to discharge this debt to his satisfaction.”
The letter continues by stating: “Although I have very little to offer, I am more than happy to enter into negotiation, as invited by your client.”
We asked the Council to confirm that the statement from Mr James in Wales Online was accurately reported. We were sent a copy of Mr James’ statement to Wales Online by return and it is as one with as reported on the internet news outlet.
As both the content of the letters to Mr James’ solicitors are inconsistent with his account to Wales Online and repeated to us, Mr James’s position of absolute certainty that offers to settle were never made is in tatters.
As our columnist Cadno points out: ‘It matters not one ounce whether Mrs Thompson subsequently withdrew or amended those offers: Mr James’s claim is that they did not exist in any event … not that he rejected them, but that they were NEVER made’.