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Hare v Marcar

DATE: 30 Jan 2006

The appellant (H), an independent elected member of a local authority, appealed pursuant to the Local Government Act 2000 s.79(15) against a decision of a case tribunal suspending him from being a local councillor for a period of six months. The complaint that led to H’s suspension arose from a dispute between the local authority and a local resident (X). H had informed the local authority that he would be representing X in a private capacity and not in his capacity as a councillor. However, H made references to information contained within a confidential report, which he had only been able to access in his capacity as a councillor, in support of X’s claim. The local authority solicitor (F) wrote to H seeking confirmation that he would not continue to use or communicate any information obtained in confidence. H’s written response contained a number of serious accusations against F and several local authority officers. The tribunal held that H had failed to comply with the local authority’s code of conduct by not treating others with respect and a sanction of six months’ suspension was imposed. H contended that (1) it had been wrong for the local authority to make submissions regarding the sanction; (2) he should not have been suspended, or the period of suspension should have been for a shorter period than six months.

Held, dismissing the appeal, that (1) there was nothing wrong with the stance adopted by the local authority especially as it made fair and even-handed points, which were worthy of consideration by the tribunal. Furthermore, the local authority was correct to draw the attention of the tribunal to the decision of Sanders v Kingston (No.2) [2005] EWHC 2132, [2006] B.L.G.R. 111 and it was clear that it had been properly understood by the tribunal, Sanders considered. (2) The penalty imposed had to take into account all the circumstances, which varied greatly from case to case. In the instant case, H’s letter made a number of repeated and serious accusations addressed to F and his fellow local authority officers. The fact that one of the named local authority officers had not complained did not lessen the seriousness of H’s conduct in making extremely serious and unjustified allegations for which he had not apologised. The tribunal had not erred in attaching importance to the risk of H failing to comply with the code of conduct in future. Guidance made it clear that the crucial factor when considering the punishment for a local authority member who had behaved as H did was to impose penalties “directed towards upholding and improving the standards of conduct expected of members”. In the circumstances, H had failed to show that the order of suspension of six months imposed on him was “plainly wrong”.