Banned Mostyn councillor will have to wait for appeal decision

Published date: 07 April 2014 |
Published by: Staff reporter
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A COUNCILLOR banned from holding public office will have to wait to see if he can return to public life.

Cllr Patrick Heesom of Mostyn appealed against the ruling and Mr Justice Hickinbottom reserved judgement at the end of a four day appeal hearing in the High Court against the two-and-a-half year ban imposed for breaches of the councillors’ code of conduct.

Cllr Heesom, a county councillor who had represented Mostyn for more than 20 years, claims the ban is in breach of his freedom of speech and political speech and infringes Article Ten of his Human Rights.

His lawyers argued he did nothing more than argue forcefully on behalf of his constituents and that it was a very serious matter to interfere with the democratic process, depriving the constituents of Mostyn of the representative they had elected – and had re-elected after the complaints against him were made.

If a sanction was necessary at all then a two-year ban, rather than a temporary suspension for example, was totally disproportionate, they claimed.

But lawyers for the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales say his rights and his special status to comment as a councillor were fully taken into account by a panel which considered the case.

They say he was found to have breached the code in serious ways, including bullying, harassment and bringing the office of councillor into disrepute.

He appeared to think he was all powerful to the extent he felt he could behave as he wished in terms of officers, it was claimed.

His involvement in housing matters went far beyond his remit as a councillor and he sought to influence officers to act contrary to approved policy of the council in housing matters.

Had the officers so acted, it would have had serious consequences.

There had been 14 breaches of the code of conduct over a two-year period, involving nine different sets of circumstances.

The panel had found his evidence had not been “full, frank and honest”.

He had attacked the honesty of a number of officials, and described some of them as being “liars, fantasists or seriously deluded”.

The length of the disqualification had been totally proportionate to the breaches that had been found proved.

Cllr Heesom took the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales to the administrative court of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court to challenge the decision to disqualify him from sitting as a councillor for 30 months.

A tribunal panel sitting last summer found him guilty of 14 breaches of the councillors’ code of conduct.

The panel found that Cllr Heesom had made a number of threats to council officers, attempted to coerce officers, sought to involve himself in housing allocation decisions in respect of his constituents contrary to statutory provisions, acted in an intimidating and aggressive manner towards officers, harassed one officer and adopted bullying behaviour towards three officers.

The appeal, dealt with by submissions from barristers without witnesses being called, ended on Friday.

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