January 31, 2007

Yet another BNP councillor keeps job despite assaults

Civic leaders have reacted with anger after a BNP councillor who assaulted his estranged wife and a police officer as well as shouting racist abuse kept his job.

Coun Brian Turner, who was also convicted of football-related violence, was cleared of bringing Burnley Council into disrepute after the Standards Board for England (SBE) said the convictions related to his private life. But the decision has angered Burnley's MP, council leader and a domestic violence group. They said Coun Turner's conduct was not fitting for a person holding a public office.

Coun Turner, who represents Cliviger with Worsthorne, said he was pleased at the decision and that he was standing down as a councillor in May's local elections.

The decision of the SBE was made following a High Court ruling last year that the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, did not abuse his position when he called a Jewish photographer a concentration camp guard after he was photographed leaving a social event.

Council leader Gordon Birtwistle said: "If you can beat your wife up and a police officer and still be a fit and proper person to be a councillor there is not a lot we can do about it. It is the decision that has been made, It is not the one I would have made. I hope this is the end of it all now."

Burnley MP Kitty Ussher said: "Whatever the standards board have said it does not alter the facts he has been convicted of beating up his wife, a police officer been banned from football grounds and racially aggravated public order."

Sarah Heselwood, manager of Pendle Domestic Violence Initiative, said: "The fact that it was in his private life does not matter. I do think that if somebody is in the public eye and have a position of responsibility it is giving the message to people this is okay. It is almost justifying it which is something I do not like."

Coun Turner, 44, of Athletic Street, Burnley, became a councillor in May 2003 and is a member of the community safety partnership steering group.

Last June he was given a maximum 300 hours unpaid community order and a four-month curfew after he was found guilty of a racially aggravated public order offence when he abused a group of Asian men in the town centre on a night out. In September 2005 he was given a three year football banning order at Manchester Magistrates' Court for a public order offence. The same month Coun Turner was also ordered to undertake 100 hours unpaid work for common assault and police assault after he was convicted of attacking his estranged wife Melanie Turner in front of their children.

The SBE - which oversees the conduct of councillors - launched investigations in October 2005 and June 2006 following the convictions. Coun Turner was facing two counts of bringing his office or authority into disrepute. If the matter had been passed to the Adjudication Panel for England he could have been banned from office for five years. However, Coun Turner, was cleared after the SBE found the incidents did not fall within its code of conduct because his actions were in a private capacity.

Coun Turner said: "I am pleased with the outcome. I did not think they would take any action because it was private matters which were carried out not while I was acting as a councillor. It was over last year as far as I am aware. I am just carrying on until my time is up. I won't be standing again, I think I have done my bit."

Hamid Qureshi, co-ordinator for religious group Building Bridges, based at Clegg Street Mosque, Burnley, and chairman of Lancashire Council of Mosques said he did not have a problem with Coun Turner staying in office.

He said: "As a social group we would not hold something against anybody. We would prefer to engage with them and enter into a debate to try and improve the situation so it does not happen again. I do not have a problem with him being a councillor."

Lancashire Telegraph

No comments: