Council worker feared she was being spied on

Christine Laird thought her emails were being spied on while she was managing director of Cheltenham Borough Council and asked Gloucestershire police and GCHQ to investigate, a court was told yesterday.

Mrs Laird is being sued in London’s High Court for £982,000 by her former employer for fraud and negligence for failing to disclose she was depressed when she applied for the job in 2002.

After collapsing in courtroom 36 of the Royal Courts of Justice at the end of Tuesday’s proceedings, Mrs Laird was again present with her husband Hugh.

Her solicitor John Dagnall concentrated on the events leading up to Mrs Laird’s suspension in June 2004.

The court heard that Mrs Laird was convinced that her emails were being read and that some were being deleted without her knowledge.

Fearing she was due to be suspended, she asked an officer to retrieve politically sensitive emails, who discovered a virus that gave access to her email account.

Mr Dagnall read an email from Christine Laird which said: “I was relieved to dis$I wasn’t imagining it, that emails were missing.”

Mrs Laird downloaded the contents of her hard drive to disc and sent it to Gloucestershire police for investigation, said Mr Dagnall.

He quoted an email from a member of the council’s IT department saying he had also been in contact with GCHQ about Mrs Laird’s email.

Mrs Laird denies she acted fraudulently and is not liable for the £982,000 the council is claiming against her.

Mr Dagnall questioned borough council solicitor Sarah Farooqi about whether the invoices for legal advice in the matter were reasonable.

She said: “I have just added up all the invoices we have received. I haven’t made an assessment as to whether the costs are reasonable.”

Mr Dagnall suggested the council were guilty of ‘double counting’ as it is claiming in damages both Ms Farooqi’s salary for her work in the dispute and also the fees charged for locum support to cover Miss Farooqi’s work.

Miss Farooqi said: “That’s your opinion.”

The case continues.