Another Green councillor under investigation – for speaking out about policing of EDO protest

Posted On 04 Nov 2010 at 9:59 am

Another Brighton Green councillor is facing a complaint under the standards regime just as one has been cleared.

The complaint is being investigated despite the government describing the standards regime as so discredited that it is about abolish it.

Ben Duncan, who sits for Queen’s Park on Brighton and Hove City Council, is to be investigated in his capacity as a member of Sussex Police Authority.

Councillor Duncan represents Brighton and Hove on the police authority.

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He is to be investigated just as Standards for England – formerly the Standards Board – cleared fellow Green councillor Jason Kitcat in a hearing at the Hilton Brighton Metropole hotel yesterday.

And the investigation comes just weeks after Eric Pickles, the Conservative Communities and Local Government Secretary, announced that he was scrapping the standards regime.

He said that too often it was being used to pursue petty party political complaints and preventing councillors from doing their jobs by speaking out on behalf of voters.

Councillor Duncan appears to be under investigation for comments that he made about the way that Sussex Police handled the EDO protest in Brighton on Wednesday 13 October.

Two days later he wrote on his blog: “I myself am subject to another standards board complaint – as a member of the Sussex Police Authority rather than Brighton and Hove City Council – my sixth in two and a half years.

“I have been told it vaguely relates to something I’ve said on this blog regarding EDO protests in Brighton.

“But in a Kafka-esque twist I’m not allowed to know either the detailed nature of the complaint – or who made it – until after a committee has examined it.

“Natural justice at work? You decide!”

Councillor Duncan’s most recent blog entry on the EDO protests criticises the style of policing, comments made by the force about the protesters and the cost of the operation.

In his entry, which can be read by clicking here, he called the £200,000 cost of policing the protest an outrageous waste of money in the face of government spending cuts.

He wrote: “The decision to spend so much money was one taken by the police themselves.

“But, as ever, it’s the protesters who are singled out for blame, for not telling the police of their plans in advance.

“This logic is not only naive and a little simplistic, it’s vastly counterproductive.

“If the police want to reduce costs for future demonstrations, they must take the lead in building trust with the protest movement.

“Blaming it for the cost of police operations does exactly the opposite.”

He added: “The cost of policing protests and demonstrations is a necessary cost of living in a democracy.

“If it’s costing too much, we must decide, as a society, whether to restrict our democratic rights to take non-violent direct action or whether to make the police spend less money on them.”

He also called on the police to investigate whether EDO MBM Technology, the weapons components manufacturer based in Home Farm Road, Moulsecoomb, was breaking the law itself.

He said that Sussex Police should “investigate whether crimes are being, or have been, committed at the factory itself”.

He said”Do the weapons components made there have the correct export licences?

“Is enough done to ensure they don’t end up in the wrong hands and aren’t ultimately used to commit unlawful violence, or against civilians?”

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