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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71132
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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My parish councillor is spreading lies about me, threatening

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My parish councillor is spreading lies about me, threatening me and writing to others to suggest they should not associate with me. I now feel anxious and intimidated and that they want to marginalise me for asking awkward questions at council meetings. Is this allowed>
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
What type of thing is he saying please?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

At first he said in a public finance committee meeting in front of a witness "the person going around the village spreading malicious lies and rumours that we are going to close the allotments, flog off the land and build on it will"

  1. get their just deserts

  2. they won't know what's hit them

  3. wait until they find out what's coming to them

  4. they are going to get their face slapped.

This was in a conversation that felt threatening

He then writes to another resident to tell them I am that person.

One of the business men on the High Street told me he could not risk building me a web site following a visit from this councillor who had implied his business would suffer if he got involved

He later wrote to the Secretary of my Allotment Association saying "I believe Mrs Norton has her own political agenda" this is referring to my calling a Parish Meeting from which a Parish Poll was called by 14 members of the public. He then goes on to say "I can't advise your committee what to do, but as a body of strong minded and independent committee members I ask you to reconsider whether you wish to be associated with an action which is going to cost the Council Tax payers of XXXXXX some £2000 (how will that gain their support when they find out" This is referring to my use of my democratic right to call a Parish Poll as pointed out to me by the Ministry of Communities and Local Government when I asked their input on the problem.

In another correspondence to another resident (sec of a local community group of which I am chairman) asking "doesn't it make you feel uncomfortable and make you wonder what kind of people you have got in with?"

In public meetings he has identified my by clear inference and direct confrontation in numerous humiliating attacks which have steadily got worse since taking up the right to record these meetings using audio video equipment.

I recently went to put a community questionnaire into the local library for a constituted community group and was yet again met with hostility by a librarian I do not know. She told me she knew "all bout you and your friend (the secretary of the group) and your group." inferring that this information had come from the County Councillor *the one in question) and how I was putting their jobs at risk. This was in response to wanting to nominate the library as an asset of community value and interest for inclusion on the District Council's register in line with the Localism Act 2011.

The sarcasm, ridicule, humiliation and denigration of my attempts to actively engage in community projects, and network with other organisations has been in public and he actually confirmed my belief that it is him that is interfering with this networking t the last meeting when he said in public "and they wonder why other organisations back off when they contact them"

Sections of various of my sentences are taken out of context, linked together and read out at meetings and erroneous details of my actions together with implied knowledge of my reasoning are published in minutes of their meetings, and in the Parish Newsletter which they have editorial control as well as in the press.

The public humiliations take place with the approving nods, and occasional comments and staged conversations between councillors as they hide behind Standing Orders where the public are not allowed to speak. At the last meeting another councillor glares menacingly at me during the said councillor's vilifying attack and then puts two fingers up at me before turning away.

A lot of this stuff would sound petty on it's own. Ther inferences and references would be lost on those without the background knowledge but I doubt that the hostility would be. Family and friends of the council have asked leading questions that allow the councillor, and his colleagues to launch into these attacks which sometimes have no bearing on the agenda topic at all. I have also been publically proclaimed as being the person who complained to the auditors about the local skate park which was built this year and costing the rate payers "yet another £500" due to the extra work they had to do. I had no idea that any such complaint had been made. I feel I am being offered as a scapegoat for their bad reputation in the village.

I have been threatened in the High Street by a complete stranger to me and told that if I don't back off I won't live to regret it. The police are aware of this.

I am in the process of considering if it is worth going to the police with this as I am becoming full of anxiety, feel fearful and emotional. My sleep is disturbed and it is only the support of many parishioners who tell me they think this is disgraceful behaviour from the councillors that helps me to persist in my attempts to make this council open, honest, accountable and accessible.

But what I need to know is what is he saying that is untrue?
This would seem to amount to generic threats. What is he saying about you that is false?
Just a brief summary will be fine. Please don't put yourself to detail.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

He is accusing me of saying things that I have not said as well as applying his perceptions of what my supposed motives are for saying these things. eg, that I called the council chairman a bitch, that I said that all the parish councillors should be drugged like psychiatric patients were in the past. That I spread a rumour that he was walking his dog when he should be at a meeting, and that I am inducing others to put notices around the village full of false information and implying that I induced someone to make a Nazi salute to the council. Added to that there is the claim made to residents that I am "devaluing their property". He has repeatedly claimed in public that I put a recording of the disruption of the council meeting on youtube. He also proclaims to all and sundry that I am using this as a political platform with no regard to the damage I am causing to others.

I have also been publically declared as "the person" who cost the rate payers money because I supposedly asked the auditors to take a look at the accounts in regards ***** ***** building, opening, maintenance of the local skate park. I put all three options as I don't know what the reason was because I didn't do this any more than did the other things.

These comments may be defamatory. Defamation takes two forms. One is slander which covers the spoken word. The other is libel which covers the written.
You have to prove that the words are defamatory, that they would be understood to refer to you and that they have been published to a 3rd party.
Comments made directly to a person about themselves are not published and so cannot be defamatory however bad or untrue they are. If such contact were to continue it might amount to harassment.
Under the new law there is a set definition of defamation and that is the statement must cause or be likely to cause 'serious harm' to the reputation of the claimant – S1 Defamation Act.
An opinion, however, is not generally defamatory. People are entitled to an opinion under the human rights act and, indeed, under the common law generally. However, a person cannot hide behind the argument that a defamatory comment is just an opinion. For instance, if the person were to say “in my opinion, X is a liar with 15 convictions for theft" then that would be defamatory unless it were true. The opinion must be fair with some basis for it. It must be shown that it was a reasonable comments in all the circumstances.
Similarly, foul abuse is not defamatory although there might be other actions open to an aggrieved person.
Truth is a defence to defamation. The defendant would have to prove that it was the truth and that is reasonably hard to do so this defence is not often relied upon.
Honest opinion is also now a defence under S3 Defamation Act replacing the old 'fair comment' defence. It really doesn't change much. A defendant relying on this section has to prove that an honest person could have held the opinion on the basis of any fact which existed or anything else asserted.
The real difficulty with defamation actions though is that they are very expensive. Unfortunately they are the domain of the very rich. That is not to say that you couldn't send a letter from a local solicitor for reasonable cost warning this person of the laws of libel and slander.
Also, you may want to consider other alternatives. This may amount to harassment which you can report to the police or sue at the civil courts much more economically. It might also be a malicious communication and you can report that to the police.
Hope this helps. Please let me know if you need any more information.
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