April 27, 2018

Adjudication Decision

27 April 2018

Councillor suspended for six months following conviction for drink-drive offence

A councillor from Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has been suspended for six months at a hearing of the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards, held in Belfast on 26 April.

Councillor Patrick Brown was found to have brought both his position as councillor and his council into disrepute following a conviction in July 2017 for driving a motor vehicle with excess alcohol in his blood.

In reaching her decision, the Commissioner for Standards Marie Anderson considered evidence submitted by the Deputy Commissioner, as well as submissions by Councillor Brown, who accepted that his conduct failed to comply with the Local Government Code of Conduct.

The councillor referred himself to the Commissioner for an investigation into his conduct during the early hours of 5 March 2017 when he was stopped and breathalysed by police while riding a motorcycle with a pillion passenger. He was convicted of drink-driving, and sentenced to a twelve month driving ban and a £250 fine.

In his submissions the councillor set out a number of mitigating factors for the Commissioner to consider, including that he had apologised for his actions and had subsequently contacted a number of drink driving charities to express an interest in supporting them in an attempt to correct his wrongdoing.

The Commissioner ruled that as Councillor Brown’s conduct had resulted in a criminal conviction it had brought both his position and his council into disrepute. She was satisfied that his actions were likely to have diminished the trust and confidence of the public, and that any reasonable person, knowing all of the facts, would have come to the same conclusion.

Explaining the reasons for her sanction, the Commissioner stated that the councillor’s actions were sufficiently serious for her to rule out the less punitive options of no action or censure. However, as she had not been presented with any evidence that the incident had brought the council into serious disrepute, a disqualification was also considered inappropriate.

In order to preserve public confidence in the ethical standards framework and the wider public interest, and taking into account the mitigating factors, she determined that Councillor Brown’s conduct merited a six month suspension commencing 14 May 2018.

Notes for Editors:

1. Councillor Brown breached Paragraph 4.2 of the Local Government Code of Conduct for Councillors, which states:
‘You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your position as a councillor, or your council, into disrepute.
2. The Commissioner’s full written judgment will appear on the Commissioner’s website before 14 May 2018.

3. In accordance with Section 59 (14) of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014, Councillor Brown may seek permission of the High Court to appeal against the decision.

4. For more information, please contact the Commissioner’s Press Office on 02890897796.