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Councillor who described homosexuality as 'unnatural, perverted, immoral and wrong' suspended

Councillor Graham Down

A councillor who said homosexuality was 'unnatural, perverted, immoral and wrong' has been suspended.

Graham Down was found to have breached the code of conduct while at Monmouthshire County council after he emailed the chief executive, Paul Mathews, homophobic statements.

Two emails were sent, one in February 2016 and another in October 2016, containing the comments.

In the emails, Cllr Down referred to the rainbow flag as a 'ridiculous flag' and compared homosexuality with paedophilia.

He wrote, 'Both homosexual and paedophile acts are unnatural, perverted and immoral. In that sense both are, therefore, I contend, comparable in substance.'

The councillor went on to say he was offended that the council was 'promoting homosexuality' through events and said the authority had no duty to do so.

In investigating the allegations against Cllr Down, the tribunal had to balance whether he had broken the code of conduct rule to 'show respect and consideration for others' with sections of the European Convention on Human Rights including article 9 - freedom of thought.

Cllr Down said the emails were meant for the chief executive and not for a wider audience and he had made 'no secret' of his views on homosexuality.

He added that it was not only his view, it was also the mainstream teaching of, 'virtually every major world religion.'

In the ombudsman report, Cllr Down said he would not have used the same language when addressing a wider audience or someone of the 'homosexual persuasion' and that the comments should have been seen in the context of them being meant for Mr Mathews only.

During his evidence, Mr Mathews said he thought the emails were 'totally at odds with what MCC was all about' but he was not personally offended.

While Mr Mathews felt a comment comparing homosexuality and paedophilia was 'outrageous and abhorrent' he did not refer the matter and there was no internal action taken.

However, he did then make a referral after the second set of emails.

The tribunal was told Cllr Down said his views had 'not changed and that it would be against his conscience to recant.'

Despite agreeing that people can do what they like in the privacy of their own homes, he did not expect it to be demonstrated in public and celebrated

He appreciated that paedophilia is unlawful, whereas homosexuality is lawful

– Ombudsman report

Cllr Down had not stood for reelection in 2017 and is now a community councillor for Mathern Community Council.

The tribunal found he had failed to comply with his former council's code of conduct and he was suspended from Mathern Community Council for a period of two months or, if shorter, the remainder of his term of office.

The tribunal also advised Cllr Down use the period of suspension to 'seek code of conduct and equalities training.'