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Plaid leader Lindsay Whittle hits out at legal costs of Twitter case

Published in News at 16:39, Friday March 11th, 2011.


Lindsay Whittle, Plaid Cyrmu’s leader on Caerphilly Council, has hit out at the potential tens of thousands of pounds a councillor is facing in legal costs over a false allegation made on Twitter.

Caerphilly councillor Colin Elsbury has agreed to pay Independent town councillor Eddie Talbot £3,000 compensation but faces a much heftier legal costs bill which could run into tens of thousands of pounds.

Councillor Whittle said: “Colin has admitted he made a mistake and is paying a very heavy price. But I do have concerns about the potential level of legal costs which will inevitably have a serious impact on Colin, his wife and two children. They dwarf the actual compensation agreed.

“As a Plaid group we will be holding a special meeting to rally around Colin at this very difficult time. I can guarantee that this very sad episode will not have any impact on Colin’s political career. Since being elected nearly two years ago, he has worked tirelessly for people in the ward.”

Cllr Whittle added: “With Twitter, Facebook and blogs now a part of everyday life it may be necessary for advice on using social media to be provided for young and new politicians.

“And this case provides a salutary lesson not just to politicians but to everyone in Wales who uses social media sites – be careful what you say at all times because a mistake could change your life.”


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  • Andrew David

    It does appear that freedom of speech is under attack from all angles these days. If it's a genuine mistake, as in this case, it appears that even an apology is going to cost tens of thousands of pounds! People will end up being afraid to question anything and then where will we be?!

  • Sue Jones

    Whilst I do not entirely agree with Councillor Elsbury's politics I feel desperately sorry for him and his family. I live in St Martins Ward and know he works tirelessly for us as constituents. I had no idea who my local councillor was until he knocked on my door to introduce himself! He has also helped me in opposing a planning application and although we weren’t successful he argued passionately on my behalf and even came to see me on Sunday just gone to update me on the building timeline. We need councillors like him and I hope he continues with his good work.

  • Mr D. Williams

    For what seemed like years the residents of warren drive and mountain rd were plagued by a loose and noisy drain cover that clattered every time vehicles went over it. The council blamed the builders and said they couldn't do anything. Colin Elsbury got involved and within a month the problem was solved and we could all get a decent nights sleep. He'll get my vote every time!

  • Mike Evans

    Keep up the good work and try to help Colin Elsworthy,he is one of the very best councillors we have ever had in the town.

    Shame on greedy solicitors and the people who persecuted Colin.

  • Sion Evans

    He saved the footbridge over the railway line from being removed and not replaced. Top bloke. Enuf said

  • David Trevor Smith

    Dear sir.

    As a former councillor on Caerphilly county council.I was shocked to see how much Councillor Elsworthy has to pay in costs to greedy solicitors.He made a mistake,and it is right he was willing to settle the case.we live in a funny world.If you knock some one down in a car, you might have to pay a few pounds, this man has to pay 53000.Best of luck i hope it does not affect his life for to long.keep your chin up.all the best to you and your family.

    David Smith.

  • Derek Havard

    It is sad to see Plaid Councillor Elsworthy so heavily punished. In the heat of election fever we all say things which are over the top and it behoves us all to check our facts thoroughly before going public, but I understand that he offered an honest apology and the only people to gain are, as usual, our dear friends the Lawyers.

  • Cllr Hefin David

    Derek is right. Politics is about debating the issues we care about and doing the best for the people we represent. Although we in the Labour Party disagree with his political point of view, Cllr Elsbury is an honourable man. I hope that the debate will go on and that Colin will have the chance to fight for his seat in the future.

  • Trefor Bond

    Is`nt it funny, most people will say, "it is about time, when Politicians make mistakes they should be big enough to apologise for those mistakes".

    What appears to happened in Councillor Elsbury`s case is that until he was forced, in law, to do so he demonstrated no intention of doing so. I wonder what the legal costs would have been had he done so as soon as he realised his mistake, if that is what it is, as I understand it he was asked to acknowledge that mistake by the Councillor he defamed, and he failed to do so, even when after lawyers became involved, I am told it took him almost two years to do the right thing and offer an apology.

    Public representatives have to act in a way which is above reproach, the highest of personal standards, in incidents when they are realise they have not done so an apology often serfices, no need for lawyers and no need for the courts to become involved.

    But when lawyers become involved, and I presume Councillor Elsbury also involved lawyers to defend the indefensable, once he realised his error, then who can they blame? not the person who was defamed thats for sure.

  • Richard Williams

    I was an independent candidate for a seat on the Town Council in this 2009 by-election. Throughout the camapign I refrained from making any personal remarks or malicious statements directed at my opponents and they did likewise.

    I follow advice from my late father who said "Honesty and courteousness cost nothing and may save pounds." I hope this case is a saluatory reminder to political candidates that these are wise words.

    Regarding legal costs this is, in my view, a red herring. Councillor Elsbury chose this, expensive, legal route after being given ample opportunity to apologise. In the event he also chose to pay a lawyer to make his apology, on his behalf, in The High Court.

  • Karen Curtis

    Colin Elsbury had every opportunity to apologise to Cllr Eddie Talbot over the last 2 years and not once has Colin Elsbury made any effort to apologise for the offensive remarks

  • James Fussell

    Cllr Colin Elsbury made every effort to offer settlement to Mr Talbot, without the need to go to court and incur such punitive legal fees. It's Mr Talbot who wanted the court action for maximum cost and publicity in the possibility that Mr Colin Elsbury is made bankrupt.

    Colin Elsbury was more than prepared to pay £3000 to charity, but this option was not acceptable. Perhaps we may know through this channel what charitable cause the damages will be put to?

  • Trefor Bond

    Cllr Whittle added: “With Twitter, Facebook and blogs now a part of everyday life it may be necessary for advice on using social media to be provided for young and new politicians.

    “And this case provides a salutary lesson not just to politicians but to everyone in Wales who uses social media sites – be careful what you say at all times because a mistake could change your life.”

    These are the wise and measured words of a wise, experienced politicain. Yet the comments made by Councillor James Fussell, the boroughs dirst citizen, (MAYOR) and which appear on this site appear to disagree with Lyndsey.

    Clearly he is completely out of step with his leader and his leaders advice. And I think it outragously confident to make such statements, which implicate highly paid, high profile lawyers, and a High Court Judge, in his unequivical statement, that the case for defamation which Colin Elsbury lost, was no such thing, it was, according to the Caerphilly County Borough Mayor, a case based on a false premise, a case which was based on malice and with the only possible intention to "make Colin bankrupt",.

    I sincerely hope he can justify his words.

  • Derek Havard

    Trefor has rightly pointed out to me that Colin's apology was not immediately forthcoming and that was a contributory factor to the extemely high costs.I didn't say that Eddie was not due an apology and I believe, of course, that he was.