Councillor – Disrespect towards another councillor

Decision issued:
Complaint type: Social media
Code section: 3 General Conduct
Allegation: Disrespect towards other Councillors

Allegation

The complainer alleged that Councillor A had acted disrespectfully by posting comments on Facebook which were critical of a councillor from another local authority (Councillor B).

Evidence

Councillor B posted comments on Twitter comparing the impact of Brexit on Scotland to other events including ‘the 3-day week, miners’ strike, poll tax, Mrs Thatcher, Tory sleaze, Blair’s illegal war, the IRA bombings and horrendous 80’s inflation.’

Councillor A posted a response on Facebook which criticised the comparison of Brexit to IRA bombings. The comment attributed to Councillor A read: ‘innocent victims blown to pieces by murderous terrorists is second fiddle to the ongoing trade agreement negotiations. Just let that sink in for a moment.’

The complainer alleged that Councillor A’s comment was intended to stir up hatred among those reading it and to gain political leverage against Councillor B, who represented a different political party.

Councillor A refuted the allegation claiming they were devoid of fact and based on political considerations and that the response on Facebook amounted to fair political comment on what was an already highly charged political post.

Conclusions

The Commissioner found that:

  • the words used by Councillor A were neither excessive nor offensive
  • the context in which the exchange occurred was political in nature
  • Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which affords greater latitude to freedom of speech in political expression was likely to apply
  • in such circumstances, the comments made by Councillor A could not be regarded as disrespectful.

Therefore, Councillor A had not breached paragraph 3.1 of the Code.
 

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