Jacqui Thompson arrest: Allow council filming says Tory

Jacqui Thompson is led away in handcuffs from the council meeting Jacqui Thompson was led away in handcuffs from the council meeting

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A leading Tory councillor says the public should be allowed to film council meetings in Wales following the arrest of a blogger in Carmarthenshire.

Rene Kinzett, Conservative group leader in Swansea, has complained to Dyfed-Powys Police after Jacqui Thompson was held after filming on her mobile phone.

Carmarthenshire council said it did not allow filming in its chamber and she refused repeated requests to stop.

The Welsh Government said it was a matter for each council.

Start Quote

Rene Kinzett

There should be no objection to a taxpayer filming the proceedings of those we elect to spend hundreds of millions of pounds of our money at a local level”

End Quote Rene Kinzett Swansea councillor

Mrs Thompson 49, of Llanwrda, was arrested for a breach of the peace.

She runs a local politics blog in which she has been critical of the authority.

Mr Kinzett, who was involved in a row for using Twitter during council meetings to comment on proceedings in neighbouring Swansea, said the issue was of "real importance".

He said UK Government Communities Secretary Eric Pickles had told councils in England they should allow bloggers to film their meetings and the same should happen in Wales.

Mr Kinzett said: "As long as the filming itself does not interfere with the good order of the meeting, then there should be no objection to a taxpayer filming the proceedings of those we elect to spend hundreds of millions of pounds of our money at a local level.

"The involvement of the police and the arrest of a member of public and her removal from the public gallery in handcuffs is a deeply worrying development.

"The United Kingdom is a democracy and the right of electors to watch their democratically elected representatives at work, from the House of Commons, to the Senedd and down to our county and town halls, is a hard won right."

E-petition

He said he would be seeking assurances from the chief executive at Swansea council that the authority would not seek the removal of anyone from the its public gallery for filming meetings.

Mrs Thompson has said her arrest was "very upsetting, very distressing" and "a dreadful over-reaction."

She was released from custody later in the day without charge.

At the start of the month she opened a petition on the Welsh assembly's e-petition page calling for all councils to be required to make recordings of their meetings available on their websites.

It also calls for members of the public to be allowed to record or film meetings and to be able to re-use the material freely.

Carmarthenshire council said she had refused repeated requests to stop filming proceedings and then to leave the public gallery.

"The chair was left with no other option other than to call the police to remove her from the gallery so that county council business could proceed," it added.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said local government was a devolved issue so Mr Pickles' directive did not apply in Wales.

She said it was a matter for the individual councils in Wales whether to allow filming.

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