Belfast Telegraph

UUP's Hussey disqualified from council over drink driving

Ulster Unionist councillor Derek Hussey
Ulster Unionist councillor Derek Hussey
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

Ulster Unionist Party councillor Derek Hussey has been disqualified from sitting on Derry City and Strabane District Council for 15 months over his drink-driving convictions.

Alderman Hussey, who represents the Derg District Electoral Area in Co Tyrone, appeared at the Local Government Commissioner for Standards Office in Belfast yesterday following complaints from two families whose loved ones were killed by drink drivers.

Acting commissioner Ian Gordon found that Mr Hussey (70) had breached the local government code of conduct for councillors, specifically a paragraph which says councillors "must not bring their position as a councillor, or their council, into disrepute".

The conviction related to an incident in September 2015 in which the alderman was involved in a crash in Castlederg.

Mr Hussey, who served as deputy mayor last year, pleaded guilty and was convicted of driving with excess alcohol, driving without due care and consideration and failing to report an accident.

At the hearing yesterday, acting commissioner Ian Gordon "noted a number of mitigating factors in the alderman's favour, including his previous good service and compliance with the code, an apology and his co-operation with the investigation from an early stage".

However, Mr Gordon said the "mitigating factors were substantially outweighed by a number of aggravating factors".

He noted it was the alderman's third conviction for drink driving. Mr Hussey had known he was over the limit but made a deliberate decision to drive and caused physical harm to the other driver involved in the collision.

Mr Gordon said he "was also not persuaded the alderman had demonstrated sufficient insight into the seriousness of his actions and the potential consequences for the public and the council". He said he "could not be satisfied the behaviour would not be repeated".

In 2004 Mr Hussey was convicted of drink driving for the first time.

In 2011 he was banned from driving for three years after admitting drink driving again.

A judge warned him that he could face jail should he be convicted again.

Last year the UUP man, a former schoolteacher, stood down as chair of the policing and community safety partnership following pressure from families who had lost loved ones to drink drivers.

Despite his convictions, Mr Hussey was elected back into office in May, retaining his seat in Castlederg.

His council disqualification will begin on July 16.

He told the Belfast Telegraph he would appeal the decision.

Alexander Redpath, from Peter Bowles and Co Solicitors, representing Mr Hussey, said his client had co-operated with the investigation from the outset. "At no time has he sought to justify or defend his actions," he added.

"Drink driving is unacceptable and a sanction in this case was inevitable.

"However, we are very disappointed that a disqualification was handed down.

"We believe this is out of line with recent similar cases before the commissioner which resulted in suspension.

"Alderman Hussey will be appealing the decision and we are in the process of preparing his application."

A UUP spokesperson said the party would ensure the Derg area was "well represented".

"We have always been of the view that drink driving is unacceptable and the decision reflects that view," they said.

"We will be taking steps to ensure that the people of Derg are well represented in alderman Hussey's absence and will make no further comment at this time."

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