Sex offenders and yobs barred from town halls?

Former councillor Joe Shaw
Former councillor Joe Shaw
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Registered sex offenders and convicted yobs should no longer be allowed to be elected as councillors, politicians in Wigan have been told.

Bankrupts, former jailbirds and those related to town hall employees are automatically disqualified from holding office, under current legislation.

Curiously there are no restrictions though on convicted sex offenders or those found to be acting anti-socially by the courts.

The government is now undertaking a national consultation on closing these loopholes and extending the criteria for bans.

Councillors in Wigan are set to endorse the two proposed extensions, which have been drawn up by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

But those debating the proposed changes, sitting on Wigan’s audit committee, did note that the proposed changes were not being extended to cover MPs.

Councillors were also told that, if the plans become law, any serving elected members who were currently subject to either criteria, would not have to immediately step down.

One former councillor who could be affected by the consultation in future would be ex-Wigan West Labour representative Joe Shaw.

The former Greater Manchester Transport Authority member was convicted in 2009 of downloading more than 2,000 indecent images, after his daughter found the child porn on his computer.

He was also found with an illegal gun and ammo in his home. A crown court judge, as well as jailing him for six years, ordered him to sign the sex offenders register for 10 years.

Part of the DCLG consultation makes it clear that the sex offenders amendment would only apply to those placed on the register following a caution of conviction.

This would also apply to any convictions or cautions imposed abroad.

The guidelines for anti-social offences is slightly wider, with criminal punishments and civil enforcements such as injunctions or closure orders.

There is an ongoing debate over whether this should just cover individual sanctions, so any order taken out against a business or collective group would not necessarily apply.

Brendan Whitworth, the council’s assistant director of legal services, said in a report: "Some anti-social behaviour orders can be made against businesses or premises but the proposals only relate to orders against individuals."

Another possible criteria, those who have been given a sexual risk order, is not being put forward as this does not involve the imposition of a conviction or caution.

The government consultation was instigated after a number of high-profile convictions of sitting or former councillors for sex offences.

A former Reading councillor was jailed at Lincoln Crown Court for sharing child sex images in June and a parish councillor in Saddleworth was urged to quit after being found guilty of similar matters earlier this year.