Page last updated at 17:35 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 18:35 UK

Libel victory for vandal witness

A woman labelled "potentially violent" after complaining to a council about a vandalised flowerbed has won £12,000 in High Court libel damages.

Jane Clift, 43, sued Slough Borough Council and public protection chief Patrick Kelleher over their reaction when she complained about the vandal.

The 2005 incident happened in the Rest Gardens. The council had denied libel.

A jury found in favour of Ms Clift, of Birmingham, but rejected her claim Mr Kelleher had been malicious.

I am not, and never have been, violent as the jury have confirmed today
Jane Clift

Mr Justice Tugendhat ordered the authority to meet the costs of the action and that £50,000 should be set aside to cover any appeal costs.

The court heard the council and Mr Kelleher had argued that a November 2005 entry about her on its Violent Persons Register and an email informing people about it were "substantially true".

They said in court that Ms Clift, of Bottetourt Road, was obsessed with achieving the sacking of the council's anti-social behaviour co-ordinator, Fozia Rashid.

Ms Rashid gave evidence Ms Clift scored "nine and a half out of 10" on the scale of difficult members of the public she had encountered.

'Frustrated and angry'

The court heard Ms Rashid say she tried to be helpful and establish a rapport but Ms Clift called her "stupid" and terminated the call.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Ms Clift, said the former care worker had been following the council's own poster campaign about reporting anti-social behaviour and was "understandably furious, frustrated and angry" with Ms Rashid.

After talking to Ms Rashid, she then sent a letter, in which she wrote: "I felt so filled with anger that I am certain I would have physically attacked her if she had been anywhere near me."

Mr Tomlinson QC said the council's reaction to her "turn of phrase" was "completely ridiculous".

'Never violent'

"She is trying to be a good citizen, report anti-social behaviour, do the right thing and is being told it is all her fault," he added.

But John Beggs QC, representing the council, said: "She shoots from the hip as soon as someone doesn't deliver exactly what she wants."

Following the hearing, Ms Clift said in a statement: "I'm delighted, my character and reputation have finally been vindicated.

"I am not, and never have been, violent as the jury have confirmed."

A council spokesman said: "The jury found that what we recorded about Ms Clift was not true, but they were not prepared to find that we acted in bad faith.

"We are pleased about that because at all times our staff acted in good faith.

"Nonetheless, we recognise what the jury has found and will reflect carefully on how we need to respond."

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