June 11, 2021

Former councillor disqualified for 5 years following sexual assault

Former councillor Brian Duffin (Antrim and Newtownabbey Council) has been disqualified for a period of 5 years at an Adjudication Hearing held on 9 June 2021.

Acting Commissioner Mr Ian Gordon found that Mr Duffin had breached Paragraph 4.2 of the Local Government Code of Conduct (the Code) following his conviction at Antrim Magistrate’s Court on 19 June 2018.

Paragraph 4.2 states that councillors must not bring their position as a councillor, or their council, into disrepute.

In June 2018, former councillor Duffin was convicted at Antrim Magistrates Court of sexually assaulting a teenage girl in June 2016. In August 2018 he was sentenced to four months imprisonment, was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for a period of 7 years, and made subject to a five-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).

Mr Duffin lost his Appeal against conviction in November 2018. On 14 May 2019 his sentence was reduced, on Appeal, to four months imprisonment, suspended for three years. The SOPO was also removed. He was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for 7 years.
An investigation was held into Mr Duffin’s actions after a complaint was made to the Local Government Ethical Standards Directorate.

He denied that he had failed to comply with the Code and claimed his conviction was wrong.
At the Hearing held on 9 June, 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 his previous good service, compliance with the Code and his co-operation with the investigation.

The Acting Commissioner, however, stated the serious nature of the conviction and the aggravating factors substantially outweighed the mitigating factors.

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 former councillor’s conduct, he thought that disqualification for a period of 5 years was a proportionate and appropriate sanction.

The disqualification began on 9 June 2021.

Notes:

The Respondent may appeal to the High Court against this decision in accordance with the provisions of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014.

The Acting Commissioner’s full written decision will appear on the Commissioner’s website at nipso.org.uk/nilgcs/

ENDS

For further information contact Andrew Ruston on 07503640551 or communications@nipso.org.uk