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SENIOR WORCESTERSHIRE TORY CLEARED OF MISCONDUCT OVER BURQA TWEETS

Worcestershire County Council have rejected a ‘misconduct’ complaint against senior Cabinet member Ken Pollock over a series of tweets poking fun at the burqa and niqab worn by some Muslim women.

Simon Mallinson, the council’s head of legal and demoncratic services, investigated the complaint raised by Worcester resident Tom Piotrowski following an exchange on Twitter.

After a review, conducted using his delegated powers, Mr Mallinson concluded the councillor has no case to answer and the issue will not be referred to the council’s Ethics and Standards Committee.

Councillor Pollock, the Conservative council’s Cabinet member for economy and infrastructure, said he was “very pleased” to be “cleared of any breach of our code of conduct.”

But complainant Mr Piotrowski said he was not going to let the matter lie and is considering pressing for further action.

“I will be writing to both the Equality and Human Rights Commission  and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to express my deep worry that such public comments are permitted at the time of heightened community tensions in Worcestershire.”

He added: “I am mindful that Councillor Pollock’s comments were made not in the political and social vacuum. Quite to the contrary, they were made at the time when EDL (English Defence League) plans a national rally in Worcester, while disturbing racist and anti-religious graffiti is discovered in the city centre and the levels of hate crime directed towards both ethnic and religious remain alarmingly high.”

As reported by Wyre Life last week, Councillor Pollock decided to tweet his support for under-fire Tory MP Boris Johnson by repeating comments about Muslim women who wear the niqab looking like “letterboxes”.

His tweets, sent earlier this month, also referred to the burqa as a good disguise for bank robbers. In later tweets, he suggested the comments by Johnson, repeated by him, were no different to ridiculing someone for wearing a kilt, or a bishop’s gaiters, or a Morris dancer with bells on their socks, and were a reflection of freedom of speech.

The council has now written to Mr Piotrowski saying it has decided Councillor Pollock has no case to answer and the case will not proceed to formal investigation.

In his written judgement, Mr Mallinson said:

“The comments made, whilst I can see they are capable of causing a degree of offence, are not particularly extreme, not aimed at specific persons, and fall well within the legally protected freedom of expression.”

He concluded: “It does not matter whether I, the complainant or anyone else agrees with the views or not – the question is whether Dr Pollock is prevented by the Code (of Conduct for Councillors) from expressing them.

“I do not view it as a borderline case but a clear one, protected by freedom of speech.  The statements within the complaint are clear and self-contained, and I conclude that the complaint does not amount to a breach of the Code.”

In a series of further tweets following the decision, Councillor Pollock said:

 

He goes on:

In his complaint, Mr Piotrowski had said: “I believe Councillor Pollock’s deliberate choice of words shows a clear and reckless example of showing no respect for Muslim women choosing to wear niqab, burka or hijab as an expression of their adherence to cultural and religious beliefs and values.”

He also added: “We can a have a debate about free speech and I would be happy to debate Ken Pollock on this at his convenience, but one thing which strikes me is that he confuses freedom of speech with the dehumanising narrative used by some politicians, both past and present, to prey on minorities in order to score political points.”

The tweets were condemned as “shameful” by the Worcester Muslim Welfare Association.

The Conservative Party has yet to conclude its investigation into Boris Johnson’s original newspaper column which first proclaimed the observations which were then repeated by Councillor Pollock.

The original story is repeated below for context and background:

EXCLUSIVE: SENIOR WORCESTERSHIRE TORY COUNCILLOR FACES INTERNAL INVESTIGATION OVER BORIS ‘BURKA’ TWEETS

Jane Haynes
Former newspaper journalist and news editor, turned public sector PR, now studying for a Master's in multiplatform journalism. Wyrelife is a new, local investigative news website for Kidderminster, Bewdley, Stourport and Wyre Forest. My aim is to hold people and organisations to account to try to make my little bit of England a better informed, better place.
http://www.janerockhouse.wordpress.com

One thought on “SENIOR WORCESTERSHIRE TORY CLEARED OF MISCONDUCT OVER BURQA TWEETS

  1. The conclusion reached by Mr Mallinson must come as no surprise to most people! Yet more use of a heavy coat of white paint 🎨 on behalf of his Tory paymasters?

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