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The Dragon Says: Justice Must Be Seen To Be Done

Published on: 8 Dec, 2016
Updated on: 11 Dec, 2016

Dragon Says 470We are all familiar with the maxim: Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done*.

But not at Guildford Borough Council (GBC), it seems to prefer its own forms of justice to be conducted in private.

While looking for something completely unconnected on the GBC maze, we mean website (soon to be improved I hear – hooray!), one of us came across a report headed: “Allegation regarding the conduct of a councillor,” submitted to a Hearings Sub-Committee of the Corporate Governance and Standards Committee which met on Monday, December 5 (2016).

Cllr Moseley, at the April 6th planning meeting

Cllr Moseley, at the April planning meeting.

It was clearly relating to the “Rabblegate” incident and the subsequent complaints against Cllr Marsha Moseley but ridiculously, considering the clear references identifying the specific case, her name was not allowed to be mentioned, instead it called her the “Subject Member”.

It had been necessary to refer the case to a sub-committee because those who had complained about her intemperate outburst: “It’s like dealing with a bloody rabble isn’t it?” at the end of a planning meeting she chaired in April, had all rejected her clearly reluctant and private apology offered on an unheaded note attached to an email. Is it any wonder?

An independent investigation had found that Cllr Moseley’s behaviour had brought the council into disrepute, in breach of the councillors’ code of conduct and, given the public nature of what the complainants considered an insult, an apology should be made and made publicly too.

Opinion Logo 2In view of the length of time this whole sorry saga has taken (at a cost of nearly £3,000, according to the report), even since the leaked investigation report was delivered in early August, it seems that an impasse was reached between the recently departed monitoring officer, Satish Mistry, and Cllr Moseley. Mistry, we believe, agreed with the investigation’s recommendation for a public apology but Cllr Moseley was too proud to acquiesce.

Within weeks of his departure his replacement as monitoring officer, Sandra Herbert, appears to have cobbled together a solution, the privately emailed apology, that Cllr Moseley was able to swallow. But the complainants, unsurprisingly, given its grudging, private nature, were not.

Of course, we have seen similar behaviour at Millmead before. GBC could not face up to its bungled handling of the complaints against former councillor Monika Juneja, subsequently convicted at the Old Bailey for forgery, deception and pretending to be a barrister. Nor could the council leader bring himself to apologise for the entirely false implication he tweeted that The Guildford Dragon NEWS was connected to the Guildford Greenbelt Group.

No doubt there has been a calculation at Millmead that the best way to deal with the whole issue was to quietly sweep it under the carpet and hope no one noticed. Surely everyone was fed up with the whole story by now and even if it was plain to practically everyone but Cllr Moseley that she should have simply apologised quickly and publicly, to avoid all the expense and embarrassment, she was not prepared to do so.

Well the council can carry on behaving like this if it wishes, it might be right that not many people will take notice, local politics is a minority pursuit, and as one councillor told us: “Who gives a s***? But for those of us who are watching, who do care, it simply confirms that nothing much has changed in the GBC culture.

Let’s return to the maxim. Why is it important for justice to be seen to be done? It seems to The Dragon that it is, at least in part, because we need to be able to trust and respect our council. If it cannot even deal with this kind of obvious, if relatively minor, misdemeanor properly how can we trust it elsewhere?

That kind of trust will only be engendered through real openness; respect will only be gained through a closer adherence to the high standards we rightly expect from our elected representatives.

It is high time all GBC councillors, most of whom might deserve our trust and respect, took note and demanded from their colleagues proper standards of behaviour. They need to demonstrate to us all that they truly understand what openness means.

*The origin of the maxim seems to stem from something said by Lord Chief Justice Hewart in 1924: “It is not merely of some importance, but of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should be manifestly and undoubtedly seen to be done”.

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Responses to The Dragon Says: Justice Must Be Seen To Be Done

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    December 8, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    I really do think that most councillors do not “give a s***”, at least the incumbent Tories.

    They are arrogant, detached from the reality of what their constituents want from them, and believe themselves untouchable, on the basis that you could pin a blue rosette on a dog, and it would be elected again and again in Guildford. Well.. maybe not next time!

    For all their promises of openness, transparency and accountability, this, and the Juneja fiasco just show just how much this is nought but lip service.

    Holding the public in such contempt will not be forgotten, or forgiven.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    December 8, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    If the council cares about truth it should show it. Seeking truth should be at the heart of justice and history and law. Unless truth is central to these activities they are just the perverted instruments of executive power.

    Without truth the law is just an enforcement arm of the state, history a collection of convenient myths and propaganda, and justice is available only to the System’s favoured followers.

  3. Jim Allen Reply

    December 9, 2016 at 12:04 am

    When is an apology worth the paper its written on? When it has a date as close to the event which caused offence. Eight months on no apology, however grovelling, is worth the paper it’s written on. An apology should have been formulated and offered within minutes.

    Yes we do need to trust our council whether it is to collect our rubbish or to formulate or approve effective and acceptable plans while rejecting those that are not.

    And we should be able to trust our councillors to answer questions openly and honestly without forcing us through the hoops of the Freedom of Information request system.

    Truth, honesty and openness are the basis of our democracy, eventually governments fall if they do not appreciate this.

    Sadly Guildford Borough Council keeps repeating the same mistakes and wonders why their reputation is severely bruised.

  4. Jules Cranwell Reply

    January 12, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    Congratulations GBC!

    The “Bloody Rabble” remark has made quote of the year in Private Eye.

    Any proper apology in sight?

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