The High Court has delivered an important ruling about how a local authority must investigate or take action against a councillor accused of misconduct.
In R (Harvey) v Ledbury Town Council  EWHC 1151 (Admin), Mrs Justice Cockerill held that the defendant council lacked the power formally to investigate, determine or impose sanctions in relation to a misconduct allegation under its grievance procedure. The Council would have been able informally to investigate the matter, but no more. Accordingly, action taken in response to the allegation (including preventing the councillor’s contact with particular staff) was ultra vires.
The Court also held that the action taken would in any event have been substantively unlawful (including under the Human Rights Act) and procedurally unfair. The action taken was disproportionate to the conduct alleged and had been imposed following a process in which the councillor had not meaningfully been able to participate. All three grounds of the councillor’s judicial review succeeded.
The judgment is essential reading for local authority monitoring officers and those acting for councillors, and is of wider interest for those practising in disciplinary or constitutional law.
It is intended to hold a briefing on the case at 11KBW in the near future. If you are interested in attending please contact RSVP@11kbw.com.