Fringe Box



Letter: Councillors’ Criminal Records Should Be Made Known

Published on: 24 Mar, 2016
Updated on: 24 Mar, 2016

criminal record checkFrom David Roberts

In a recent opinion piece the question was posed: “Should a criminal record bar political activity?”

Common sense says: yes, of course. Monika Juneja’s conduct is an affront to all law-abiding residents. The ruling party’s tolerance of a twice-convicted drink-driver as leader of the council was equally wrong.

In practice, however, depriving criminals of political privileges is tricky. Some countries do it but here it would require legislation. That would raise problems of scope (e.g. when is an offence “spent”?) and fundamental human rights under the European Convention.

Two years ago I asked the council to consider putting together a register of councillors’ criminal records. Simple – you just ask them politely to declare any past offences.

Alas, it was mission impossible for GBC. Council officers said they lacked the powers. A couple of desultory committee discussions wandered off into the issue of criminal records checks for paedophiles etc. No conclusion was reached.

So I then proposed that each councillor, or each party group, should make a voluntary declaration. Even simpler. Any councillor making a false declaration would be in breach of the code of conduct, while any failing to make a declaration would have to face the obvious inference.

At present, there is no way of knowing whether or not your local councillor has a criminal history or not. If councillors themselves won’t do anything about a voluntary register, perhaps the press should – by popping the question to each of them individually and publishing the answers (or lack of): “Have you ever committed a crime?”

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Responses to Letter: Councillors’ Criminal Records Should Be Made Known

  1. Tony Edwards Reply

    March 24, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Far too many politicians, both local and national, commit ‘crimes’ of avarice, arrogance, smugness, conceit, ignorance, intolerance, and many other human frailties which are not likely to warrant an appearance at the Bailey.

    But then there are the others who should, perhaps, be asked a direct question about a criminal past. Perhaps our local councilors might show the way towards a new era of clarity and transparency by showing a lead.

  2. Dave Middleton Reply

    March 24, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Perhaps better wording might be, “Have you ever been convicted at court of a crime, or received a formal police caution?”

    As an aside (and perhaps someone more knowledgeable than me may be able to advise), I was always under the impression that unspent court convictions are a matter of public record? Albeit that the only way you could discover them is to apply to the issuing court in respect of an individual, a rather slow process when dealing with a large number of individuals and of course, rather difficult when not perhaps knowing which Court the conviction was issued at.

  3. Susan Parker Reply

    March 25, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Guildford Greenbelt Group are happy to support David Roberts’ proposal and make voluntary declarations of any criminal record or past offences.

    I have no criminal record, and understand that the same is true of [GGG councillor colleagues] Mike Hurdle and David Reeve, the other GGG councillors – so I am pleased to say that GGG have “nothing to declare”.

    Susan Parker is the leader of Guildford Greenbelt Group

  4. David Roberts Reply

    March 25, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    I look forward to hearing from the other political parties at Guildford Borough Council.

  5. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 25, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    I hope we will have similar openess from the other parties.

  6. Stephen Mansbridge Reply

    March 27, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    I would not disagree with the point that those seeking or holding public office should be open about any criminal offences that they have committed. Openness, in this respect is vital in establishing public trust and should not be hidden.

    However, someone seeking political election with a past conviction should not be discriminated against. Mr Roberts implication, inevitably myopically focused on the Juneja case, is that anyone who has a conviction is unfit or less fit to hold public office is simply wrong and utterly discriminatory.

    Mr Roberts, former deputy ambassador to Chile, needs to recall his own or related email correspondence, where Cllr Parker makes it clear that not only is he a greenbelt movement supporter, but that he has attempted to use his previous authority to attempt to discover the confidential discussions between Government Ministers and local Guildford politicians.

    His correspondence on this website engenders public probity, but people have thus far failed to kick back. Purity is perfect, until it is not.

    Again, as with many previous comments, note those who comment – the intimidators of our place, in my view.

    • David Roberts Reply

      March 31, 2016 at 12:29 am

      Not for the first time, Mr Mansbridge is indulging in a wild public attack on a private resident.

      OK – I confess. I support the Guildford Greenbelt Group. But I am not an active campaigner and have never belonged to a political party. I also retired six years ago from my job in public service. The idea that being a diplomat in South America 20 years ago gives me secret access to his confidential conversations would be libellous if it were not so paranoid. Has he got a bit carried away watching The Night Manager?

      My argument is that Guildford has more than enough honest, public-minded individuals to run local government. Mr Mansbridge and Ms Juneja had their chance and blew it. People with criminal convictions should step aside.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      March 31, 2016 at 3:56 pm

      One thing bothers me about these ‘confidential discussions’ between government ministers and local Guildford politicians.

      Government ministers should not be hiding their plans from the public and local Guildford politicians are voted for and elected by the people of the borough. Neither should be playing hide and seek with the community of Guildford.

      So one must now ask: What was discussed, under what regulation was it kept secret, did it involve money or housing numbers? And why did any honest politician feel what he was discussing was not suitable for adult and educated ears?

      In short there should not be secret discussions between central and local lovernment; they should be open and honest with a complete display of future plans available to the public. Secrecy is for MI5 and MI6 not the DoE, CLG, SCC and GBC.

  7. David Roberts Reply

    March 31, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    I should add that I’m very happy to see anything I have ever written put in the public domain.

  8. A Atkinson Reply

    March 31, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Mr Mansbridge is very quick to accuse but very poor at proving his claims. People are still waiting to see the “lever arch file” he said existed under oath, in court.

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