Report Date

12/07/2023

Case Against

Caerphilly County Borough Council

Subject

Promotion of equality & respect

Case Reference Number

202203322/202203379

Outcome

Referred to Standards Committee

The Ombudsman received a complaint that a member (“the Member”) of Caerphilly County Borough Council and Penyrheol, Trecenydd & Energlyn Community Council (“the Councils”) had breached the Code of Conduct.

We received 4 complaints that the Councillor had breached the Councils’ Codes of Conduct.  The complainants were concerned about a photograph and caption that the Councillor had posted on Facebook.  The photograph was of the Councillor standing on a beach holding a rifle.  The accompanying message he posted said “Ogmore-by-Sea tonight for a quick swim and make sure there wasn’t (sic) any English people trying to cross the channel”.

We found that the Councillor posted the message on Facebook and deleted it 2 weeks or so later when the national media, politicians and members of the public were concerned about the appropriateness of the post.  At this time the Councillor posted an apology if he had offended anyone, and he said his post was ill-judged.

We found that the Police had received allegations that the Councillor had posted a malicious communication and that the Councillor had agreed to the restorative justice process to resolve matters.  The Councillor made a full admission to the crime of a racially aggravated Section 5 Public Order offence.  He signed a Police statement where he explained he had not intended to cause offence but to have a friendly joke with his English friends.  He accepted with hindsight that it may have been capable of upsetting others, he had voluntarily disclaimed ownership of the air rifle (which was not operative) to the Police, and he had issued an apology on Facebook.

We found that the Councillor had been suspended by his party, Plaid Cymru, pending their investigations and he had subsequently been reinstated.

Overall, we concluded that the Councillor’s conduct was suggestive of a breach of paragraph:

  • 6(1)(a) of the Councils’ Codes of Conduct. This says that councillors must not conduct themselves in a way which could reasonably be regarded as bringing their office, or that of their authority, into disrepute.

The report on this investigation has therefore been referred to the Monitoring Officer of Caerphilly County Borough Council, for consideration by the Council’s Standards Committee.

The Council’s Standards Committee found that the Member had failed to comply with paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Code of Conduct.

The Committee decided that the most appropriate sanction to be applied was a censure, with a recommendation for further training in respect of the Members’ Code of Conduct, with a particular emphasis upon the use of social media in order to prevent breaches arising in the future.