CODE : Integrity
CODE - No evidence of breach
The Ombudsman received a complaint that a Member (“the Member”) of Gwynedd Council (“the Council”) had breached the Code of Conduct when he shared material on his Facebook account which cast doubt on the existence of COVID-19 and about the vaccine, and when he appeared on a television show to discuss his views on COVID-19 and the vaccine.
The Ombudsman reviewed the member’s Facebook activity and his appearance on the television show. The former Chief Executive of the Council was interviewed and comments were sought from the Member.
The Ombudsman found that the Member was entitled to freedom of expression and to hold and express his views regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the COVID-19 vaccine (under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998). The Member’s right to free speech allowed him to say things that may have been shocking or offensive to some people. The former Chief Executive’s evidence suggested that the Member was not representing the ‘Council’s position’. The Member did not issue directions to members of the public in contravention of the public health measures in place at the time. Therefore, the Ombudsman did not consider there to be evidence that the Member breached the Code of Conduct.