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Journalists like to be spoon fed, they don’t have the time to wade through
reams of paper so this is a summary of the key points that led to Kent Police’s
perverse decision to refer Councillor Maxine Fothergill’s harassment complaint
to the Crown Prosecution Service. If you see the opportunity to direct
influential people to it please link to
• I first became aware that Councillor Fothergill had agreed to pay libel damages to Hayley Warnes and Ray Robson on 21st October 2017. There was no documentary evidence so nothing could be reported on Bexley-is-Bonkers.
• The first hard evidence of a Court appearance came on 13th November when the case was listed in the Queen’s Bench Division.
Later that day Councillor Fothergill rang me on my home phone, one of the very few Councillors I had ever given the number. She asked that I meet up with her with a copy of an email she believed Mr. Robson had sent me. At 21:05 the same evening she emailed to ask that I delete that day’s blog which referred to the hearing due next day.
20 minutes later I replied that Mr. Robson’s email had been sent from Dehli and was totally corrupt on arrival. I also told her that since the Court listing was publicly available elsewhere there did not seem to be much point in removing it from Bonkers.
At 21:37 Councillor Fothergill emailed again requesting removal of the Court listing. There were no more emails until 19th November, six days later.
• Following the Court hearing on 14th November neither of the two litigants provided any information. Nothing was forthcoming apart from a comment by a third party who was in Court. BiB put out a holding blog to that effect.
• The 15th November also failed to bring forth any hard information. Without documentation to prove the case BiB will not publish anything. Instead it could only put out another apologetic holding message. It debated the pros and cons of publishing the news, the balance that must be struck between “troubling” Councillor Fothergill and “not making her situation worse and [at the same time] providing solid facts”.
• By late afternoon of 16th November the long awaited litigants’ Press Pack arrived; it was huge though for reasons unknown failed to include a copy of the principal libel. A blog was nevertheless prepared.
It began by saying that on balance BiB considered censoring the news was not acceptable but it was essential everything must be backed by documentary evidence. A letter from Councillor Fothergill alleging that “Hayley Warnes and Ray Robson had conspired to damage our [Councillor Fothergill’s] business” was published. It was an important part of the libel claim although perhaps not the biggest one.
• One of the most disturbing things about this case was that Kent Police were so very enthusiastic about prosecuting Hayley Warnes on the false evidence provided by Councillor Fothergill. When Ray Robson tried to warn Kent Police that they were making a big mistake and provided evidence to that effect they warned Ray that he might be charged with Perverting the Course of Justice. The blog dated 17th November was devoted to criticising Kent Police who it should be said eventually came to their senses. There was no criticism of Councillor Fothergill in that blog.
• On 18th November 2017 BiB provided details of the likely Court costs as estimated by the barrister Mark Lewis.
• On 19th November 2017 I emailed Councillor Fothergill to tell her that I had concluded the previous day that I regarded the story as complete and it was time to move on.
I stated that I did not believe I had ever suggested she was dishonest, apart from the libel itself which she had agreed in Court was untruthful. “I really do think it is time to pause if not stop reporting. One of your emails to me was probably in itself libellous bearing in mind the Court ruling. Best probably to draw a line don’t you think?”
In a handful of days there had been three holding blogs which said almost nothing, one listing the estimated Court costs, another criticising Kent police and just two which addressed Councillor Fothergill’s libel directly - with supporting documentation where necessary.
Believe it or not I was sympathetic to Councillor Fothergill, she had probably been abused by the Tory leadership and Bonkers had supported her. I had respected her request that our meeting on 16th September 2016 be kept secret and the secondary request not to be seen with her in the Council offices.
All correspondence to and from Councillor Fothergill was very civilised.
Councillor Fothergill replied by email later the same day to again ask for all the blogs to be removed. She said if we met she would be able to tell me the truth of the matter.
She also suggested I had made something up. I provided the evidence that I had not.
I did not want to be further involved, the property business is complex and the only thing of interest was the accuracy of the Court reporting. Except that Councillor Fothergill’s Court agreed apology was distributed at the end of the month the Fothergill story was finished.
Councillor Fothergill wanted to extend the public discussion and defend herself with what she called the truth. I was determined that the news item was ended. Her ‘truth’ had not been accepted in Court. The case had been reported accurately and it was in no one’s interest to carry on.
• It was with considerable surprise that on 8th December I opened a letter from Councillor Fothergill’s solicitor which at first reading looked to be threatening. However more careful study showed that not to be the case. It merely asked for a link to UKIP Bexley’s website to be removed. In the solicitor’s opinion UKIP’s site was libellous, Bexley is Bonkers was not. The solicitor recognised that BiB had practiced simple news reporting, It would appear that Kent Police believes that to be criminal.
• Because Councillor Fothergill had reopened the subject of the dubious behaviour that had led to the libel claim Bexley is Bonkers posted another blog on 9th December, 10th December and 11th December. They were not entirely complimentary but nevertheless argued that contrary to UKIP’s assertions Councillor Fothergill had been foolish, not corrupt.
• On 12th December the subject was closed down for the second time despite a good deal of unflattering material remaining unpublished.
• Councillor Fothergill chose to go to the police. A month after rejecting BiB’s first offer to close the subject down.
• It is probable that Councillor Fothergill is attempting to include the reports of her guilty verdict by the Code of Conduct Committee in 2015. However each of the reports has long been prefixed by a notice that makes it clear that she was the unfortunate victim in that case.
The compromise arrangement instituted on BiB’s initiative in the late Summer of 2016 was formally agreed with Councillor Fothergill at a clandestine meeting - where I bought all the drinks! - on 16th September 2017.
With minor clarifications it (see below) has been there ever since without complaint. Suddenly it becomes harassment!