Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Labour Councillor - Homophobic attack

A senior councillor who hurled a 'homophobic' insult at a political rival's mother has been cautioned by police.

Deputy leader of Barking and Dagenham council Liam Smith is said to have told the 60-year-old 'shut up you f***ing fat dyke' and 'go back to the farmyard' after a trivial argument in the council chamber.

The Labour councillor lost his temper after watching the Conservatives snatch a seat in a by-election last month.

When Sue Connelly, mother of local Tory councillor Neil, got into a minor row with him at the count he verbally abused her in front of shocked onlookers.

Mrs Connelly, a married grandmother of eight who is not gay, was shocked by the tirade.

She said: 'I was so stunned that I didn't know what to say in reply. To be spoken to like that in the council chamber in front of so many people was awful. I felt humiliated.

'I am not a lesbian but I have nothing against them and that word should not be used to insult anyone. It was vicious, nasty and homophobic. He should step down or be told to go.'

The abuse happened after a Conservative candidate won a by-election in the Chadwell Heath ward on 3 July, claiming only the party's second seat on the Labour-controlled authority.

The Tories have struggled to win seats on the council where the British National Party is now the official opposition with 12 councillors.

The insult was reported to police and investigated by officers as a hate crime. A file was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service but lawyers decided Mr Smith should receive a conditional caution rather than being prosecuted.

He was ordered to write a letter of apology to Mrs Connelly and warned about his future conduct.

Mrs Connelly, of Romford, works as the constituency secretary for Conservative shadow home affairs minister Andrew Rosindell.

Mr Rosindell, MP for Romford, said: 'This was a totally inappropriate way for the deputy leader of a council to behave in public.

'To insult awoman of Mrs Connelly's age, a grandmother, like that was outrageous. Mrs Connelly is a nice woman who is very popular locally and she did not deserve this.

'It is bizarre that an elected representative from a party that professes to be tolerant of people whatever their lifestyle should use language like that.'

The council's standards board was alerted to the comments but Mr Smith remains the deputy leader. He declined to comment on the row.

A CPS spokeswoman said it 'takes homophobic crime very seriously but in this case, we decided the word 'dyke' was not being used in a homophobic way against Mrs Connelly.'


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