FORMER councillor Andy Harrison has been cleared of the allegations that he advised a resident to break the law to deal with anti-social behaviour from youngsters in Penhill.
Andy Harrison, who was a Lib Dem member for Penhill at the time, was found by Swindon Council’s standard’s committee panel last year to have breached the members’ code of conduct and that he had “advocated behaviour which would have been unlawful.”
Mr Harrison was told, as a punishment, to either provide the complainant with a written apology within 14 days or be suspended for one month, but the sanctions were put on hold as he appealed to the First Tier Tribunal, which recently overturned the original decision.
The complaint was brought by Iain Selwood and relates to discussions he had with Mr Harrison at Mr Selwood’s council house in Penhill in July 2010.
The tribunal, led by judge Karen Aldred, agreed with the standards committee’s core findings of fact but disagreed that this amounted to a breach of the code or that Mr Harrison was actually advocating illegal activity.
The tribunal found that the pair discussed/suggested the setting up of a mechanism involving fishing wire and paint with the intention that if any intruder might disturb this, he would be marked and this would aid his identification and arrest by police.
They discussed/suggested Mr Selwood using a weapon within the house to defend himself against an intruder. They also talked about fact that the security camera fitted did not record sound and, also how to catch visually perpetrators of anti-social behaviour.
The report concludes: “The standard’s committee’s findings are expressed as being matters that were ‘discussed’ or ‘suggested’ within conversation. That being the case, it is difficult to understand how that equates to the appellant having ‘advocated’ behaviour that if acted upon could be unlawful’.”
The tribunal also found that the activity discussed was not unlawful, pointing out that general discussion of what to do if attacked and by way of reasonable and proportionate self-defence is different from acquiring a weapon to be used to attack.
Mr Harrison, who did not seek re-election in May due to health issues, said: “I’m elated. My name has been cleared. It means it was not in breach of the members’ code of conduct, I didn’t advise someone to do something unlawful.
“A lot of people will say what was the point of carrying it through because I’m not a councillor so the council can no longer punish me. The fact is that anyone who has their good name tarnished because of an allegation and a finding should rightly be able to clear his name.”