|High Court For 'Freedom of Speech' Councillor|
Benjamin Dennehy takes case to judge for review
An Ealing Councillor who was told to apologise for comments made about Southall on his personal blog, is taking his case to the High Court today (12th Dec).
In May, the council’s standards committee found against Councillor Benjamin Dennehy- a former Conservative who was expelled from the party - after his critical blog which said that ‘criminality is endemic in Southall’ and the high number of illegal immigrants in the area was a ‘constant on the public purse’.
The Standards Committee found Cllr Dennehy had breached the code of conduct by failing to treat others with respect and bringing the office into disrepute.
Mr Dennehy (UKIP) wants the High Court to overturn the Council's ruling.
He said: '' This is as Orwellian as it gets. The council have effectively punished me for expressing a lawful and legitimate opinion. In a free and democratic society an elected representative must not fear expressing an opinion, no matter how politically incorrect. The code is designed to regulate behaviour not opinions.''
Cllr Dennehy says his legal battle could cost the Ealing taxpayer tens of thousands.
A council spokesperson said:
'' When legal action is taken against the council it has no choice but to provide a defence. In August we provided the court with an estimate for costs for in-house legal staff and external barristers of £5,790. This amount covers work up until a decision was made on whether Councillor Dennehy would be given permission to take the proceedings to High Court. However at that point when the estimate was given, it was not anticipated that a hearing would be required.
''Actual costs incurred for external legal advice were approximately £500 by October this year. Council solicitors are not allowed to speak in front of a High Court judge which means we will have to instruct a barrister and therefore legal costs will rise significantly when this case goes to court. If the council’s defence is successful we will always aim to recover public money on behalf of local taxpayers.”
The judge decided to reserve judgement on whether a full review should be held, a decision will be made next week.
13th December 2013