Belfast Telegraph

Alliance man admits drink-driving 'stupidity' following his suspension

By Victoria Leonard

An Alliance councillor suspended by the Local Government Commissioner for Standards for six months after being convicted of drink-driving has said he can "make no excuse" for his "stupidity".

Patrick Brown, a member of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, was stopped and breathalysed by police while riding his motorbike with a pillion passenger in the early hours of March 5, 2017.

In July last year, he was convicted of drink-driving and sentenced to a 12-month driving ban and a £250 fine. Councillor Brown referred himself to the Commissioner for Standards for an investigation into his conduct.

At a hearing in Belfast on Thursday, Commissioner Marie Anderson found that Councillor Brown had "brought both his position as councillor and his council into disrepute".

In reaching her decision, she considered evidence from the Deputy Commissioner, as well as submissions by Mr Brown, who accepted that his conduct failed to comply with the Local Government Code of Conduct.

In his submissions, the councillor set out a number of mitigating factors for the commissioner to consider, including the fact that he had apologised for his actions and had contacted a number of drink driving charities to express an interest in supporting them in an attempt to correct his wrongdoing.

However, the commissioner ruled that, as Mr Brown's conduct had resulted in a criminal conviction, it had "brought both his position and his council into disrepute".

She was "satisfied that his actions were likely to have diminished the trust and confidence of the public, and that any reasonable person, knowing all of the facts, would have come to the same conclusion".

The commissioner stated that the councillor's actions were "sufficiently serious" for her to rule out taking no action or censure. However, as she had not been presented with any evidence that the incident had brought the council into serious disrepute, a disqualification was also considered "inappropriate".

In order to preserve public confidence in the ethical standards framework and the wider public interest, and taking into account the mitigating factors, Commissioner Anderson determined that councillor Brown's conduct merited a six-month suspension, commencing on May 14.

In a statement, Mr Brown described his actions on the night as "a complete error of judgment and entirely out of character for me both as a person and a public representative".

He said: "I referred myself to the Local Government Commissioner for Standards because they fell short of the high standards I set myself and which are set for me by the public. I am thankful no-one was hurt as the result of my stupidity and I make no excuse for my actions on the night in question.

"I have learned from this experience, will never repeat it and will use it to warn others never to do the same."

The Alliance Party said Mr Brown had underwent "internal party disciplinary proceedings" and believed he "should be able to continue to represent his constituents in future".

A spokesman said: "Patrick has fully accepted the seriousness of his lapse in judgment and offered no excuse, but has taken full responsibility for his actions.

"Alliance takes any instance of drink driving incredibly seriously and, as a result, Patrick went through internal party disciplinary proceedings, t he sanctions from which he fully complied with and are now completed."

Belfast Telegraph

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