Councillor banned from public office

A DISGRACED former councillor has been banned from holding office for four years after he was found guilty yesterday of a gross breach of trust in downloading child pornography.

A DISGRACED former councillor has been banned from holding office for four years after he was found guilty yesterday of a gross breach of trust in downloading child pornography.

The Adjudication Panel for England, sitting in Ipswich, imposed the punishment on David Smith, a former Suffolk Coastal district councillor and member of Felixstowe Town Council, after hearing how he had looked at indecent pictures of children.

Claire Lefort, on behalf of the Standards Board for England, said Smith had been charged by police with downloading indecent pictures of children under 16 at levels one and two on a scale of up to five – the higher levels being the most serious.

These could have included naked and semi-naked children, children in suggestive poses and sexual activity between children.

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Ms Lefort said: ''In my submission society does not accept this type of behaviour. It is abhorrent for adults to behave and treat children in this way. Whether it is level one or level five, it is unacceptable and it is even more unacceptable for a person who is trusted by the public to represent them to behave in this way.

''It is extremely serious in that there was a gross breach of trust that the electors are entitled to place in him. In my submission he has put himself in a position where his honesty and integrity were in question.

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''It shall stand as a mark on his conduct and prevent anybody else thinking of conducting themselves in this way.''

Sally Lister, chairman of the case tribunal, ruled: ''Mr Smith made no written representations regarding the reference and did not attend the case tribunal."

She said Smith, who at the time of the offence was 39 and living at Grange Road, Felixstowe, had failed to comply with both councils' codes of conduct by bringing them into disrepute.

He had done this after admitting offences of making indecent photographs of children under 16. Smith had accepted a police caution on January 12, 2004, in relation to two offences.

She added: ''Mr Smith has also been placed on the Sex Offenders' Register for five years from that date. The case tribunal finds that this conduct could reasonably be regarded as bringing his office and also his authorities into disrepute.''

David Billing, a member of the panel, said: ''If he was here he might have pleaded some mitigation.''

Smith was unavailable for comment. He resigned from the district and town council, and as a governor of Langer Primary School in Felixstowe, last February, nearly four weeks after he had accepted the police caution.

Smith was once regarded as a high flying Conservative politician. He said at the time he had not downloaded the images intentionally.

''The fact that I have received a caution underlines that the images were at the very lowest end of the scale of seriousness.

''The thought of child pornography abhors me just as much as it does anybody else and my case shows the dangers that exist on the internet, especially with spam emails and message boards where the content is unknown. I made a very serious but genuine mistake,'' he said.

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