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Brian Coleman ordered to apologise for email remarks
Monday, 05 March 2012
Slapped wrist: Brian Coleman was found to have disrespected constituents in emails
A SENIOR Tory councillor who was found to have breached the members’ code of conduct after accusing members of the public of anti-Semitism has refused to apologise, despite being ordered to do so.
Brian Coleman vowed to appeal the decision taken at the standards sub-committee hearing this afternoon, an event he described as a “farce”.
During the meeting at Hendon Town Hall, in The Burroughs, the committee ruled that the cabinet member for environment had shown disrespect to a member of the public when he alleged that she would have been a member of the fascist blackshirts 70 years ago. His comments came in a reply to an email lobbying him to exclude the company Veolia from bidding for a contract with the North London Waster Authority – a body on which he represents Barnet Council - due to its involvement in the building of a light rail system linking illegal Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem to West Jerusalem. In another email on the same subject he labelled Israeli-born, Ron Cohen “disloyal” for criticising his nation’s human rights record.
External investigator Keith Stevens, was asked to look into complaints from four members of the public who had emailed Mr Coleman in January and February 2011 on the subject. Mr Stevens rejected two complaints, finding that the Totteridge councillor had acted within his rights to exercise freedom of political expression, but in the other two cases he ruled Mr Coleman, who is also a London Assembly member, had failed to act with respect.
In one case he replied to a woman saying: “In my book anti-Zionism is just a modern form of anti-Semitism. I suppose 70 years ago you would have been in the blackshirts.”
When Mr Cohen contacted the councillor about Veolia he replied: “I will not entertain this anti-Israel nonsense.” When Mr Cohen informed him that he was Israeli he replied, “a disloyal one at that”. Mr Coleman concluded the heated correspondence with “doesn’t take much to flush you out.”
At today’s hearing Mr Coleman, whose request for the complainants to be cross-examined by his lawyer was denied, fiercely defended his comments, which he said were made in the face of racist and anti-Semitic attacks against Israel. He added that he believed there was a “rising tide” of anti-Semitism in Barnet that needed to be stopped.
“If there’s been anything worth doing in my career, it has been to fight anti-Semitism in this borough and in my constituency,” he told the committee. “I don’t apologise, I don’t regret it.”
His lawyer argued that Mr Coleman had reacted proportionately to the incendiary accusations of the complainant.
Stephen Hocking of DAC Beachcroft, whose request that Labour’s Claire Farrier excuse herself from the sub-committee on the grounds of bias was rejected, pointed to the fact that both complainants’ had likened Veolia’s association with Israel to complicity in war crimes.
“There can be no more serious charge to lay against Veolia than complicity in war crimes,” he said. “This is serious gloves-off street fighting politics that the complainants are involved in.”
He added that the committee risked infringing on Mr Coleman’s rights, as set out in the European Convention On Human Rights.
“You can only make a finding of misconduct if it’s necessary for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others,” he said. “A right not to be insulted is not a right known to the law.”
But the committee agreed with Mr Stevens that in both cases Mr Coleman had been personally offensive and that his words were not protected by laws on freedom of expression, although, it rejected the view that the councillor had brought the authority into disrepute.
Mr Coleman was ordered to submit written apologies to the complainants within 14 days. A request to suspend the sanction until a judicial appeal had been lodged was denied by the committee.
This is the second time Mr Coleman has been censured for breaching the code. In 2009 he was found to have disrespected blogger Roger Tichborne, who he called "an obsessive, poisonous individual."
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Comments on this news item:
5 comments on this news item
Posted by : Jonathan, London | Wednesday 07/Mar/2012 | Report this comment
Someone - let’s call her Dr Charlotte Sago - emails the following to a Councillor: ’All Muslims are potential terrorists because the Koran teaches hate and violence’. The Councillor responds: ’I suppose 30 years ago you would have been in the National Front’ Should the Councillor have to apologise for this response? If your answer is ’No’ - how does this differ from the Coleman case?
Posted by : Mrs, Broken | Wednesday 07/Mar/2012 | Report this comment
Jonathan: or Mr Hoffman? If you read the report, you will see that your comments are completely unfair: both complainants state clearly and firmly that they SUPPORT the state of Israel. You have been misled, and used, and you as well as Brian Coleman owe them an apology.
Posted by : Mike, Mill | Wednesday 07/Mar/2012 | Report this comment
Coleman was not defending the State of Israel, he was using Israel as a shield for his boorish behaviour, backed up it must be said by a bunch of useful idiots with placards who clearly never have had to use Coleman’s idiotic parking system in Barnet. Roll on May when Coleman’s reign of terror on the GLA at least will end.
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