Confusion over private hearing

Coun Bob Brierley
Coun Bob Brierley

A STANDARDS committee hearing went ahead behind closed doors causing an outspoken councillor to claim he was denied a fair trial.

Proceedings on the conduct of Coun Bob Brierley continued in his absence after he and the panel were locked in a bitter dispute.

Chair Coun Charles Rigby had earlier announced that the committee would be exercising its right for the hearing to be closed to the press and public so that witness identities could remain private.

But that decision prompted discussions which dragged on for more than two hours about who would be allowed in the hearing and if recordings would be permitted.

Coun Brierley and his advisor ex-councillor Peter Franzen were called in and out of a meeting room at the Investment Centre almost a dozen times while the panel discussed how to proceed.

Having started at 9.30am, it was close to midday before the case was heard.

Coun Brierley had asked for the proceedings to be open to the press and public and wanted to make his own recording. Both requests were denied, leading to his walkout.

The hearing found that the Hindley independent had breached the members’ code relating to allegations he was rude and intimidating toward staff and volunteers at the Pelican Centre in Tyldesley in 2012.

He called yesterday’s events an “absolute disgrace”.

Mr Franzen added that the decision would be sent to judicial review.

He said: “In spite of our objections the press and public were excluded from the hearing.

“We were denied the fundamental human right to a fair hearing, to record the meeting, to remain present, and to present damning evidence that would disprove the allegations.”

John Mitchell, assistant director of legal services, said: “When Coun Brierley left the meeting, the panel considered whether the hearing should go ahead in his absence. Although it is not ideal, the panel had to consider the position of the complainant and the witnesses who are entitled to have it resolved and who had already arrived for the hearing.

“Reluctantly, the panel considered it was in their interests to continue.”

Coun Brierley’s sanctions will be determined when all six of his upcoming standards hearings have been heard, a council spokesman said.