Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

News and Other Busyness

Gypsys In Huge Libel Struggle

Squall 13, Summer 1996, pg. 12.

THE ANIMOSITY BETWEEN HUGHIE SMITH, head of the National Gyspy Council and Britain’s other major Gypsy organisations is finally coming to ahead in court.

Hughie Smith has been the object of considerable criticism ever since he became president for life of the National Gypsy Council in 1974.

His organisation runs over 13 private gypsy sites mainly in the North of England, and is planning to expand this operation further. His organisation has been one of the very few Gypsy organisations to be supported with a grant by the Department of the Environment.

As a result of publicly aired criticisms of him and his organisation, Hughie Smith has resorted to the libel court.

In one huge court case, he is suing: Tommy Docherty from the Society of Travelling People, William Nicholson from the Northern Gypsy Council, Eli Frankham from the National Romany Rights Association, Peter Mercer from the Gypsy Council for Education, Welfare and Civil Rights and the presidium of International Romany Union. Charles Smith and Anne Bagehot from the Gypsy Council for Education, Welfare and Civil Rights. Author and gypsy activist Dr Donald Kenrick and Paul Winter a teacher of travellers.

It is a testament to the dissatisfaction felt about the way Hughie Smith runs the National Gypsy Council, that so many prominent Romanies and Gypsies are being sued by him.

Originally, the libel suit also included three members of the Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group, but after deciding they could not afford to fight the case, they apologised and paid £3,000.

The case is currently in its pre-trial stages and a fund has been set up to help defend the case because the defendents have very little money.

It is vitally important to the health of the Gypsy community in Britain that this case is heard properly and that the lack of available funds is not a hindrance to the court disclosure of the truth.

Send donations to “The Hughie Smith Libel Fund” c/o Julian Pheby (Solicitor), Ison Harrison & Co, 31, Bishopthorpe Road, York YO2 1NA.