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West Norfolk Council leader facing legal claim over leak row




A legal row has broken out over claims West Norfolk Council's leader defamed members of a rival political group during a meeting.

Jim Moriarty, an independent borough councillor, has accused Brian Long of falsely claiming independent members leaked information to journalists.

Both sides deny any wrongdoing and have involved lawyers in the row.

GV ofthe Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk, King's Court Hq, Chapel Street King's Lynn. (22770034)
GV ofthe Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk, King's Court Hq, Chapel Street King's Lynn. (22770034)

Briefings were held during the summer to inform all councillors about steps being taken to tackle coronavirus within the district.

But during a council meeting on July 9, independent group leader Terry Parish asked Mr Long why these briefings were stopped.

Mr Long said at the time: “The reason I stopped briefing the opposition group was that information that was imparted at a session within minutes of the meeting finishing appeared in the press.”

West Norfolk Council leader Brian Long. Photo courtesy of West Norfolk Council (42363691)
West Norfolk Council leader Brian Long. Photo courtesy of West Norfolk Council (42363691)

A letter, sent by Mr Moriarty’s lawyers Hayes+Storr, and seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), was then sent to Mr Long in August.

It said: “It is clear you are seeking to defame our client and the independent group by notifying the public of false allegations.”

But the council’s legal firm, Weightmans LLP, wrote back in October denying liability.

The letter, also seen by the LDRS said: “We do not believe there are sufficient grounds to pursue action against our client.”

Jim Moriarty.
Jim Moriarty.

Commenting on the row, Mr Moriarty said: “He hides behind the borough’s tax-payer funded lawyers.

“It’s absurd – it is not the council which has lied, it is just Mr Long.

“It is a disgrace and brings the council and the Conservative administration into disrepute.”

He added: “He must either apologise, as I have asked and make good the damage he has done, or he must prove his claims.

“I cannot allow these lies to remain unchallenged. I will not be intimidated or bullied into silence.

“Mr Long must admit he misled fellow councillors, officers and the public and accept the consequences, or he should prove his allegations.”

A council spokesman said: “Under the council’s insurance policy, conditional cover is provided where defamation claims are made against officers and/or councillors.

“The council has adopted the same procedure as it would in relation to any member against whom such a claim is made.

“As these matters relate to an ongoing legal claim, the council has no further comment to make.”

Mr Long was approached for comment.



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