Alderman Derek Hussey (Derry City & Strabane District Council) has been disqualified for a period of 15 months following an Adjudication Hearing held in Belfast today (9 July 2019).
Acting Commissioner Mr Ian Gordon found that Alderman Hussey had breached Paragraph 4.2 of the Local Government Code of Conduct for Councillors (the Code) for his conduct which led to a drink-driving conviction in March 2016.
Paragraph 4.2 states that councillors must not bring their position as a councillor, or their council, into disrepute.
The conviction related to an incident in September 2015 in which the Alderman was involved in a road traffic collision in Castlederg. He later pleaded guilty and was convicted of driving with excess alcohol, driving without due care and consideration, and failing to report an accident. He was fined, ordered to undertake 100 hours of community service and banned from driving for five years.
The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Paul McFadden carried out an investigation after receiving two complaints that Alderman Hussey had failed to comply with the Code.
At a pre-Hearing meeting in June 2019, Alderman Hussey accepted the facts contained in the Deputy Commissioner’s investigation report and that he had breached the Code.
At the Hearing held today, the Acting Commissioner said that in considering what action to take, he had consulted the Sanctions Guidelines, relevant case law and submissions from both parties.
He noted a number of mitigating factors in the Alderman’s favour, including his previous good service and compliance with the Code, an apology, and his co-operation with the investigation from an early stage. This co-operation led to a reduction in the amount of time needed for the adjudication proceedings, resulting in a saving to the public purse.
However, the Acting Commissioner stated that the mitigating factors were substantially outweighed by a number of aggravating factors.
He noted that this was the Alderman’s third conviction for a drink driving offence. In this case the Alderman was aware that he was over the drink-driving limit but made a deliberate decision to drive, and caused physical harm to the other driver involved in the collision.
The Acting Commissioner was also not persuaded the Alderman had demonstrated sufficient insight into the seriousness of his actions, and the potential consequences for the public and the council. He added that he could not be satisfied the behaviour would not be repeated.
In considering the level of sanction to apply, the Acting Commissioner stated it was important to uphold public confidence in local democracy and the standards regime.
Given the seriousness of the Alderman’s conduct he therefore concluded that disqualification for a period of 15 months was appropriate.
The disqualification will begin on 16 July 2019.