Peter Chegwyn wins High Court appeal against Standards Board

Last summer we reported that Peter Chegwyn, Lib Dem leader on Gosport Council, had been banned from being a councillor on both Gosport Council and Hampshire County Council for two years in a dispute over a local music festival.

However, Peter Chegwyn has taken that Standards Board ruling to the Hight Court and this week won a significant set of victories. The two-year disqualification from Hampshire County Council was quashed completely. The two-year disqualification from Gosport Borough Council was quashed and replaced by a two-month suspension, and the Judge ordered the Standards Board for England to pay Peter Chegwyn’s full costs.

The Judge also criticised the Standards Board and Adjudication Panel for the way they had handled the case.

Peter Chegwyn told us that he was delighted to have won his Appeal:

I always said that I had acted with the best of intent and the Judge acknowledged this.  It has taken me two years to clear my name but it has been worth it.

As the Judge described a Conservative Party leaflet attacking me as being “defamatory”, I think the Conservative Party owe me a great big apology.

Sadly, instead of apologising, the Conservative Party are continuing with their spiteful personal vendetta against me.  I face yet another Adjudication Panel hearing on March 15 following a quite ludicrous Conservative allegation that I somehow ‘bullied’ Gosport Council officers into accepting a lower Council tax rise in 2009 that that sought by the Borough Treasurer.

I will fight this latest nonsensical and completely false allegation as vigorously as I fought the last case.

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12 Comments

  • Ah, that would be the Conservative Party that is pledged to abolish the standards board.

    “We have also said we will scrap the Standards Board for England. This is the body that judges the
    performance of Councils and Councillors. That’s what the voter is supposed to do…
    All those quangos, like the Standards Board , that has just become a forum for pointless and
    vexatious complaint….we will scrap them.”

    David Cameron MP 2009

  • Mark, you don’t give a link to the Court of Appeal judgment – is it available electronically?

  • Well done Peter!

  • Thanks, Mark – I may well do that.

  • Having experienced (indirectly) the ability of the Standards Board to make entire mountain ranges out of molehills I am delighted to hear this

  • Peter Chegwyn 22nd Feb '10 - 7:04pm

    Tim / Mark – I’m still chasing a copy of the full written judgment myself. Will let you know when I have it. In due course it will appear on the web but I gather these things take time… the wheels of justice move slowly!

  • Peter Chegwyn 22nd Jun '10 - 5:52pm

    Before anyone rejoices about the forthcoming abolition of the Standards Board, can I please point out that both the Standards Board and the Adjudication Tribunals are still operating as normal right now… and have said they expect to do so for many months to come.

    I have another Adjudication Panel hearing tomorrow (Wednesday) on a quite ludicrous charge that I somehow bullied a Borough Treasurer in a private budget meeting 16 months ago (I didn’t). The Treasurer made no complaint but two Tories who weren’t even present at the meeting did complain and so I’m before another Tribunal while the rest of you are watching England play football.

    I fear it’s ‘payback-time’ following my High Court victory against the Standards Board and Adjudication Panel back in February.

    Several other Lib. Dem. Councillors across the land are also facing Standards Board investigations and Adjudication Panel hearings in the coming weeks which could see them suspended or disqualified from office for up to five years.

    While I’m delighted the new Government is abolishing these wretched undemocratic and unaccountable quangos, why couldn’t we also have suspended their activities forthwith and saved the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds?

    Cllr. Peter Chegwyn
    Leader, Lib. Dem. Group, Gosport BC
    and Member, Hampshire CC
    (At least until tomorrow!)

  • Peter Chegwyn 23rd Jun '10 - 5:31pm

    Success!

    Not sure anyone’s interested when the football is on but, just in case…

    I’ve won my latest Standards Board case – the Adjudication Panel found the case against me ‘not proven’… which must be a bit of a blow for the four Conservative councillors and three senior Council officers who gave evidence against me!

    This means I continue on both the Borough & County Councils as before. Good!

    It’s taken two years and cost me thousands of pounds to clear my name but hopefully this is the last time the Standards Board will be used against me.

    PC

  • Peter Chegwyn 28th Sep '10 - 12:57pm

    Sad to say our great reforming Government still hasn’t moved forward on actually abolishing the Standards Board which is still continuing to operate as if nothing has changed.

    While I’ve won all my cases other Liberal Democrat councillors are still being forced to spend thousands of pounds on protecting their own good reputations. Some are still being suspended or disqualified by Adjudication Tribunals. My own ward colleague faces another hearing of his own (unconnected to my own cases) on October 7th due to the continuing nasty and vindictive campaign by Conservative councillors and their fellow travellers in Gosport who, having failed to force me off the Council by underhand means, are now trying to get him off instead.

    Each Adjudication Tribunal hearing probably costs the taxpayer well over £10,000 a day. If our Government is so desperate to save money they could save money here by ‘freezing’ outstanding Standards Board investigations and Tribunal hearings until the future of the Board itself is determined.

  • Steve Rackett 14th Oct '10 - 9:35am

    Perhaps Peter can answer this, but there seems to me a variety of ways initial complaints are handled up and down the country.

    Does Gosport not have a majority of lay members on the local standards committee? Here in Watford we have a ‘first hurdle’ sub committee, with one councillor and 2 lay members drawn from a bigger committee… before committing any resources to an investigation, this panel looks at a series of criteria including ‘is the complaint politically motivated’ or ‘tit for tat’. Generally, the lay members I have sat with do treat any complaint from one politician about another with a degree of scepticism.

    The national Standards Board wasnt up to much, but a good local framework following clear guidance should be in place when it goes.

  • Peter Chegwyn 15th Oct '10 - 7:37pm

    Steve – No, sadly, Gosport does not have a majority of lay members. There are two ‘independent’ joint chairmen of the Council’s own Standards Board. One of them is an ex-Conservative councillor. Of the other 6 members 4 are Conservatives (inc. 1 Conservative-supporting Independent Councillor). Only 1 of the 6 is a Lib. Dem. 1 is Labour.

    Complaints against councillors are decided by a three-person sub-board, only one of whom is normally one of the independents. The other two are chosen by a Council officer. So if there’s a complaint against a Lib. Dem. councillor it can be determined by a sub-board consisting of two Conservative councillors and one ex-Conservative councillor. Hardly politically neutral, fair or democratic!

    The Conservatives use and abuse this system. Complaints from Conservatives against Lib. Dems. are NEVER settled locally. They are always referred up to the national Standards Board for England. It is estimated the Conservatives in Gosport have cost the taxpayer well over £100,000 by referring so many of their own complaints against Lib. Dems. that I’ve lost count of them.

    Having myself had to spend two years and many thousands of pounds winning cases before an Adjudication Tribunal and in the High Court I have good reason to dislike the Standards Board and the way it has been used by Conservatives (and, I regret, some Council officers) to try and settle scores against their Lib. Dem. opponents.

    Andrew Stunell is absolutely right to abolish the Standards regime and say that, instead, complaints of criminal conduct should be investigated by the police and all other matters are for the electorate to judge in democratic elections.

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