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Regional daily barred from Mayor’s standards hearing

A regional daily has been prevented from attending a standards hearing investigating the conduct of a Lord Mayor, after councillors voted to hold it behind closed doors.

The Oxford Mail has been unable to cover the hearing which will look into alleged inappropriate comments made by Lord Mayor Alan Armitage to a schoolgirl.

The standards investigation was held in secret at Oxford Town Hall on Wednesday after a number of councillors voted in favour of holding it without the press and public present.

The Mail had previously objected to the plan to hold it in private, which was made by Oxford City Council’s legal team to prevent the identification of individuals.

In a letter opposing the decision, the Mail gave an undertaking not to name the schoolgirl involved and said the matter was of significant public interest.

Following the decision to excludethe press, Mail editor Simon O’Neill tweeted: “Oxford City Council is investigating one of its own behind closed doors today. Quite disgraceful

“Have to say our city council are generally pretty open with us, so it’s all the more surprising and disappointing.”

A leader comment published in the paper yesterday said:  “Oxford City Council has turned an embarrassing incident into a full-blown scandal with its hamfisted handling of the Alan Armitage affair.”

An investigation was launched last July after complaints were made about alleged comments made by Mr Armitage at a Sports Oxford event in June.

He denied the allegation when the paper questioned him about it at the time. The results of the hearing will be announced after the meeting.

An Oxford City Council spokeswoman told the paper last week: “The standards committee has been asked to consider this particular matter in private as information disclosed to and discussed by it could lead to the identification of individuals.

“It would not be in the public interest to make these discussions public, and could constitute a breach of the Data Protection Act. It will be for the committee to decide if the hearing remains in private.”


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  • January 18, 2013 at 9:27 am

    If the schoolgirl is underage – which I presume she is – surely her identity would be protected by other means such as the PCC code anyway? And surely a confidential briefing could have been issued containing any personal details, so none such detail would have to be mentioned at the public hearing? That would, in my opinion, be much preferable to banning the press altogether from a matter which is inescapably of huge public interest. Disgraceful

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  • January 18, 2013 at 10:28 am

    How the hell could it be a breach of the Data Protection Act?

    What absolute tosh.

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