Belfast Telegraph

Alliance councillor 'wrongly suspended' from role, court told

By Alan Erwin

An Alliance councillor was wrongly suspended from his elected position following a drink-driving conviction, the High Court heard.

Lawyers for Patrick Brown claimed the six-month sanction should not have been imposed because the offence had nothing to do with his public role.

The Newry, Mourne and Down councillor is appealing his suspension after being found to have breached the local government code of conduct.

He was held to have brought the council into disrepute by riding his motorbike while under the influence of alcohol in March last year.

But his barrister, Kevin Denvir, argued that the conviction was not covered by a code of conduct confined to matters of public life.

He told the court: "There's nothing in it which would alert the reasonable person to the possibility that a drink-driving offence would fall within the scope of the code."

Mr Brown is challenging the sanction imposed by the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards.

Earlier this year he referred himself to the watchdog after being fined and banned from driving.

In a statement at the time he described his actions as a "a complete error of judgement and entirely out of character for me both as a person and a public representative".

Following an investigation the Commissioner imposed the six-month suspension on the grounds that his conduct had resulted on a conviction and was likely to to diminished public trust and confidence.

Mr Brown, who is reportedly continuing in his role as a councillor pending the outcome of his appeal, was not in court for the hearing.

However, his legal team argued that the penalty was incorrect and should be quashed.

Censuring the councillor for his behaviour would have been a more appropriate sanction, they contended.

Tony McGleenan QC, for the Commissioner, countered that the code of conduct applies at all times - even within a councillor's private life.

Following submissions Mrs Justice Keegan reserved judgment on the challenge.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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