Agenda, decisions and minutes

Standards Committee - Friday, 23rd June, 2023 10.00 am

Venue: Council Chamber - Council Offices. View directions

Contact: Matthew Stembrowicz  Email:

No. Item




Apologies were received from Cllr H Blathwayt as the Subject Member was known to him.



To determine any items of business which the Chairman decides should be considered as a matter of urgency pursuant to Section 100B (4) (b) of the Local Government Act 1972.


None received.



Members are asked at this stage to declare any interests that they may have in any of the following items on the agenda. The Code of Conduct for Members requires that declarations include the nature of the interest and whether it is a pecuniary interest.


Cllr N Dixon stated that the Subject Member was known to him, but it was not relevant to the hearing in any way that would prejudice his judgement.



To pass the following resolution:


“That under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraphs 1 and 2 of Part I of Schedule 12A (as amended) to the Act”.


       i.          The MO introduced the item and stated that the Committee were required to determine whether the meeting should be held in public or private session. She added that she would assist Committee Members with advice when deliberating, but would not seek to influence any decisions and gave an overview of the hearing process.


      ii.          The Chairman sought the opinions of the Investigator, Independent Person and Subject Member on whether the meeting should proceed in public or private. The MO advised that the papers of the report did refer to third parties by name, and whilst some of those individuals were in attendance and had stated that they were happy for the meeting to proceed in public, other individuals referred to by name in the report should not be mentioned to protect their identity. The MO added that preference should always be for meetings to take place in public, unless there was a legally justifiable reason for information not to be disclosed. It was noted that the Complainant, two witnesses, Investigator, Independent Person and Subject Member had all stated their preference for the meeting to proceed in public.


*Members retired to determine whether to continue the meeting in public.*


     iii.          The Chairman stated that the Committee had agreed to continue the meeting in public session as the debate remained in the interest of the public. He added that those in attendance must refrain from mentioning any names of third parties that were not in attendance.




To hold the Hearing in public.



Members are asked to determine whether there has been a breach of the Catfield Code of Conduct and if so, whether any sanction should be imposed.

Additional documents:


Investigator’s Introduction


       i.          The Investigator introduced their report and sought to outline key points including the legal position, a summary of evidence, their findings and recommendations. She added that the complaint contained two allegations, one relating to a comment from the Subject Member to a parishioner following a meeting, and the second relating to the Subject Member’s conduct during that meeting. It was noted that the Investigator had not found enough evidence to support the second allegation, and therefore sought to focus on the first allegation, where supporting evidence had been found to determine a breach of the Catfield Code of Conduct.


      ii.          The Investigator stated that the legal backdrop of the complaint included the principle of freedom of expression, which was a fundamental human right to uphold opinions and receive and impart information without interference by public authority, regardless of frontiers. She added that this was enshrined within article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act under English Law. It was noted that this was a qualified right however, which meant that it could be restricted to protect the rights and freedoms of others. The Investigator stated that this was relevant to the standards regime as it was underpinned by the Localism Act, which allowed a Councillor’s freedom of expression to be restricted. She added that politicians were allowed an enhanced freedom of expression to enable to debate and challenge. However, personal abuse or false statements were not afforded enhanced protections, which meant that close and careful consideration should be given to the allegations to determine whether there had been a breach of the code.


     iii.          The Investigator referred to the second complaint and noted that it was an accusation of inappropriate behaviour to a parishioner during a Parish Council meeting. She added that a potential breach had only been found on the first complaint, having reviewed the minutes and recording of the meeting and not found any evidence of actions outlined in the complaint. It was noted that none of the representations received had made reference to verbally abusive language, and consequently a breach had not been found.


    iv.          On the first complaint, the Investigator noted that the Complainant had reported that an offensive statement had been made in reference to a parishioner’s mother following a meeting of the Parish Council. The Subject Member had admitted the statement, but stated that it was made during a private conversation between two adults, and the words used were common parlance used by public figures. It was noted that the Subject Member had also stated that the comments made had nothing to do with the parishioner’s mother being female, and that his comments would have been the same regardless of who it was directed at. It was noted that the Subject Member had also stated that it was late and he was tired after chairing a four hour meeting, and he did not wish to speak to the parishioner.


      v.          The Investigator stated that in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.