Decision - Hearing of an allegation that a Councillor has failed to comply with the Code of Conduct for Members - Case BHC-015726
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Hearing of an allegation that a Councillor has failed to comply with the Code of Conduct for Members - Case BHC-015726
Decision Maker: Standards Panel
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
Investigation into an alleged breach of the
Code of Conduct for Members
3.1 RESOLVED – That Councillor Duncan:
(a) failed to comply with paragraph 3(1) of the council’s Code of Conduct for Members (‘You must treat others with respect’); and
(b) failed to comply with paragraph 5 of the council’s Code of Conduct for Members (‘You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute’).
3.2 The Panel considered the allegation that Councillor Duncan failed to comply with the Code of Conduct for Members, specifically paragraphs 3.1 ‘you must treat others with respect’ and paragraph 5 ‘you must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute’.
The Panel noted the facts of the allegation were not in question, and that both the tweet and the identity of the tweeter were in the public domain. The Panel was satisfied that it was reasonable for members of the public to assume that by issuing his tweet, Councillor Duncan was not acting solely as a member of the public but as a councillor, and therefore that the Code applied.
The Panel noted the unprecedented level of complaint the tweet of 28 June 2014 had generated, with widespread significant offence and indignation, and it appeared to be this that caused Councillor Duncan to switch off his twitter account.
Councillor Duncan offered no further submissions except to reiterate his contention that his right to freedom of expression was protected by Article 10. In relation to this point, the legal advice offered to the Panel was substantially the same as that given for item BHC-015722 in that Councillor Duncan’s tweet was both abusive and directed not specifically at politicians or public figures but to ordinary members of the community, namely the armed forces; and that for this reason, Councillor Duncan was unable to rely on his Article 10(1) rights to justify or excuse his tweet.
Although the Panel noted Councillor Duncan’s apology on 30 June 2014 for the offence caused, he restated his conviction to the Panel that ‘hired killers’ was an accurate description of the armed forces.
3.3 Sanctions to be applied
Having heard Councillor Duncan’s representation as to sanctions he considered appropriate in light of the Panel’s findings, the Panel considered the range of sanctions available to it and determined the following in respect of both breaches of the Code of Conduct.
Firstly, that Councillor Duncan be subject to formal censure by this Standards Panel for failing to meet the standards of behaviour required of all councillors under the Code of Conduct for Members, specifically for failing to treat others with respect and bringing the council into disrepute; and that this censure be made publicly available and reported to the meeting of full Council on 23 October 2014.
Secondly, that, in light of this censure and the Panel’s determination that it is inappropriate for someone who has repeatedly brought the council into disrepute to represent the council in the role of Chair or Deputy Chair of any committee, a recommendation be made to the meeting of full Council on 23 October 2014 that he be removed for the remainder of this municipal year from the role of Deputy Chair of both the Licensing Committee (Licensing Act 2003 Functions) and the Licensing Committee (Non Licensing Act 2003 Functions).
3.4 Right of Appeal
There is a right of appeal for the subject Member and any of the complainants against the decision of the Standards Panel.
If any of these persons wishes to exercise this right, they should write to the council’s Monitoring Officer*, stating they wish to appeal the Standards Panel decision, with reasons for doing so. The appeal request will only be granted if one or more of the following criteria are met:
(1) the hearing was procedurally flawed; a relevant consideration was not taken into account; or an irrelevant consideration was taken into account;
(2) new evidence or material has arisen with a direct and significant bearing on either of the allegations;
(3) the Panel’s decision was irrational, meaning it was so unreasonable that no sensible Standards Panel, having applied its mind to the complaints, could have arrived at that decision.
A request for an appeal must be received within 10 working days of 6 October 2014.
* Address: Brighton & Hove City Council, King’s House, Grand Avenue, Hove, BN3 2LS
Report author: Brian Foley
Publication date: 06/10/2014
Date of decision: 06/10/2014
Decided at meeting: 06/10/2014 - Standards Panel