Councillor's racially offensive remark
By John HowardCAMPAIGNERS called last night for a county councillor to resign after a tribunal ruled he made a racially offensive comment.The demand came after the Adjudication Panel for England decided yesterday that Keith Myers-Hewitt had made the remark to a member of staff at Stowmarket Library.
By John Howard
CAMPAIGNERS called last night for a county councillor to resign after a tribunal ruled he made a racially offensive comment.
The demand came after the Adjudication Panel for England decided yesterday that Keith Myers-Hewitt had made the remark to a member of staff at Stowmarket Library.
But the panel concluded Mr Myers-Hewitt, the Conservative county councillor for Stowmarket South and a member of Stowmarket Town Council, had not broken a code of conduct.
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Hamil Clarke, chairman of the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality, said it was dismayed that Mr Myers-Hewitt, who lives in Stowmarket, had not been punished and made an example of.
Mr Clarke felt racial incidents were not being taken seriously enough by many authorities and the comments made by Mr Myers-Hewitt had been derogatory.
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“Obviously the standards board apparently have a very dim view of racial incidents. Even if it was not permanent, an example should have been set, he could have been suspended for a period of time,” he said.
“Other people would refrain from such comments if there were a punishment, that would send a message out.
“If someone in public life made such comments, the general public will think they can do it. He should have resigned from public life.”
Mr Myers-Hewitt, a Korean War veteran, appeared before the Adjudication Panel after a complaint was made to the Standards Board for England about the comment he made in Stowmarket Library.
Ursula Scott, an inquiry officer at the library, told the panel that Mr Myers-Hewitt had visited shortly after it opened on July 7 last year.
She said he seemed to have been rather annoyed because there had been a fine to pay on one of his wife's books.
There were few people in the library at the time, but there were two Afro-Caribbean men and an Asian couple using the computers.
Mrs Scott said Mr Myers-Hewitt had glanced towards the people on the computer and said: “Have aliens landed or is it an invasion of darkies? I suppose they are e-mailing their friends.”
The panel said Mr Myers-Hewitt had had no clear recollection of what had happened in the library, adding he had been discharged from hospital the day before and his wife felt he had not been in a fit state to have left his bed.
It added Mr Myers-Hewitt had claimed to have paid an earlier visit to the library, when it had been full and he had made reference to “the dark side” and “aliens” in a science fiction context, following recent discussion with his son on the subject.
But the panel said his evidence had been “vague, contrived and contradicted”, ruling he had made the racially offensive remark.
However, Simon Bird, chairman of the panel, said Mr Myers-Hewitt had not breached Stowmarket Town Council's code of conduct by bringing his office or authority into disrepute and would not face further action.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Myers-Hewitt said: “This has been running for a year and I'm glad it's over. I am really relieved. I want to put this behind us.
“I will continue with my service to the community, it's business as usual. I do not want to have a go, but I never said those things. I was misheard.”
Mr Myers-Hewitt, who is in his 70s and is a former chairman of the Bury St Edmunds Conservative Association, insisted the library staff had misunderstood him when he visited on an earlier occasion.
His son, a science fiction enthusiast, was staying with them and he had commented to his wife about the number of people using the computer terminals.
Mr Myers-Hewitt said: “I said 'Have the aliens landed, they've come from the dark side', meaning the dark side of the moon.”
A Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said it was waiting to see the panel's full judgment before making any comment.