When robust scrutiny becomes unfounded abuse

By Michael Burton | 10 August 2021
  • Michael Burton

The case of Sandwell MBC which lost its High Court attempt to have an injunction issued against a local blogger raises a much wider question about how much abuse a council officer should be expected to endure, if any, from so-called ‘citizen journalists’ or members of the public with bees in their bonnets about their council.

In this particular case the council intervened after a series of critical blogs and social media posts targeted against one of its directors who went public about her mental health issues. Dismissing the council’s case, the judge said the blogger’s comments were ‘puerile’ but nonetheless ‘trenchant criticism’ and therefore legitimate journalistic expression. The limits of criticism against ‘non-elected public servants’, he added, were wider than those applied to private individuals. Or in other words, if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.

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