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Sex offenders set to be barred from public office

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Sex offenders will no longer be able to become councillors or mayors under new rules proposed by the Department for Communities & Local Government.

Anyone with an anti-social behaviour injunction or a criminal behaviour order will also be barred from public office. A criminal behaviour order is aimed at tackling the most serious and persistent offenders.

The proposals are outlined in a consultation published by the DCLG today.

LGC has previously highlighted a case in Rotherham MBC where a councillor was convicted of indecent assault on a woman at a council event, but as he did not receive a custodial sentence of three months or more the council had no mechanism by which to make him stand down.

Local government minister Marcus Jones said: “Councillors hold an important position of trust and authority in communities across England. We need to hold them to the highest possible standards.

“The current rules are letting residents and councils down by not preventing people who should never be considered for such roles from standing for election.

“The changes the government is proposing would help make sure anyone convicted of a serious crime, regardless of whether it comes with a custodial sentence, will not be able to serve as a councillor.”

An LGC survey of council legal teams, carried out in association with Lawyers in Local Government earlier this year, found 60% of respondents did not feel they had the tools they needed to keep councillor behaviour in check following the abolition of the Standards Board five years ago. 

Under current rules, anyone convicted of an offence carrying a prison sentence of more than three months is banned from serving as a local councillor for five years. Other barriers include being employed by the authority or being subject to a bankruptcy order.

However, all of these restrictions were implemented in 1972 before the sex offenders register and other non-custodial orders existed.

The rules would apply to councillors and mayors in parish, town, local, county and unitary councils, combined authorities and the Greater London Assembly. It would mean a ban on standing to be elected or being forced to stand down if convicted once in the role.

The consultation runs until 8 December.

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