June 15, 2021

Ards and North Down Borough councillor suspended for 6 weeks

Councillor Colin Kennedy (Ards and North Down Borough Council) has been suspended for a period of 6 weeks at an Adjudication Hearing held on 11 June 2021.

Acting Commissioner, Mr Ian Gordon, imposed a 6 week suspension in respect of Councillor Kennedy, having previously found on 2 March 2021 that he had breached the Local Government Code of Conduct (the Code). This arose from an incident which occurred at the Signal Centre in Bangor, Co Down, on Wednesday 30 November 2016.

During the meeting Councillor Kennedy remonstrated and raised his voice towards another councillor who was also present. Councillor Kennedy followed the other councillor after she left the venue, with the disagreement continuing into the adjoining car park area.

Councillor Kennedy was described as being angry and intimidating towards his colleague. The incident was witnessed by a member of the public who had also attended the meeting. The witness noted that the other councillor, who was the recipient of the conduct, was “clearly distressed”, ‘evidently upset and shaking’.

Following the incident a complaint was made to the Local Government Ethical Standards Directorate which commenced an investigation

During the investigation the other Councillor involved in the incident had described Councillor Kennedy as very aggressive and intimidating during the exchange.

Councillor Kennedy denied that he had failed to comply with the Code. He acknowledged his Councillor colleague’s interpretation of their exchange insofar as she was offended and upset, however, at no time did he intend to come across in a bullying or intimidating fashion,

Paragraph 4.2 of the Code states that councillors must not conduct themselves in a way which could reasonably be regarded as bringing their position as a Councillor, or their Council, into disrepute. Paragraph 4.13 states that councillors ‘must show respect and consideration for others’ and ‘must not use bullying behaviour or harass any person’.

The Acting Commissioner found there was sufficient evidence to show that the other councillor felt intimidated and offended by the behaviour of Councillor Kennedy, which was bullying and harassing in nature.

The Acting Commissioner was satisfied that Councillor Kennedy’s conduct was likely to diminish the trust and confidence the public places in his position as councillor. He also determined that a member of the public, knowing all of the relevant facts, would reasonably consider that the Respondent’s conduct was such that it brought his position as Councillor into disrepute.

At the Hearing the Acting Commissioner said that in considering the sanction he had consulted the Sanctions Guidance document and submissions from both parties.

He noted a number of mitigating factors in the former councillor’s favour, including that Councillor Kennedy did not bring council into disrepute, that there had been some cooperation with the adjudication process, and that there had been no further incidents since the one under adjudication.

It was also noted that Councillor Kennedy had a previous good record as a councillor, he had been willing to apologise, and that there was no ongoing bad feeling between him and the other councillor.
The Acting Commissioner, however, noted the incident’s serious nature and deliberate conduct, with a lack of insight by the councillor as to his actions.

Given the seriousness of the councillor’s conduct, he thought that suspension for a period of 6 weeks was a proportionate and appropriate sanction. The suspension will commence on 18 June 2021.