Thursday, May 26, 2011

Labour councillor in custody over sex charges

Mark Burton

A COUNCILLOR has been remanded in custody and suspended by his party after being charged with two sexual offences.
Mark Burton was arrested only days after this month’s council elections and was charged with two offences, one against a child.

Councillor Burton was re-elected to serve the Harrowgate Hill ward on Darlington Borough Council for a second four-year term on May 5.

The 42-year-old Labour councillor was arrested three days later and charged with an offence of sexual assault and a second for sexual touching of a child.

He later appeared in front of magistrates in Newton Aycliffe, where he was remanded in custody until his next hearing on June 15. No pleas have yet been entered.

He has been suspended by his party pending the outcome of the investigation.

New council leader Bill Dixon referred The Northern Echo to the party’s regional group yesterday.

A Labour North spokesman said: “Coun Mark Burton has been placed on an administrative suspension from the Labour Party and Darlington Labour Group pending the outcome of police inquiries. “He is unable to hold any position with, or represent, the Labour Party during his suspension. “It would be inappropriate to comment further until police investigations are complete.”
A spokeswoman at Darlington Borough Council said: “Coun Mark Burton has been charged with two offences of a sexual nature.
“The case is still being investigated by the police and the usual child protection procedures are being followed. "We understand that he is currently remanded in custody. “The councillor has been suspended from the Labour group and has therefore not been put forward for seats on any of the committees. “At this stage, the council does not have powers to take any action to suspend him.”
She added that ward matters in Harrowgate Hill would be dealt with by the two other Labour councillors – John Vasey and Marjory Knowles.

Coun Burton was first elected in 2007 when he polled 706 votes. In this month’s election he topped the polls across the borough with 1,261 votes in a keenly-fought contest.

The councillor, who is a warehouse operator at Glaxo- SmithKline, in Barnard Castle, has a reputation for working hard on behalf of constituents.