Search

Romford councillor’s Alzheimer’s comment amounted to ‘freedom of expression’, standards panel finds

07:00 14 May 2014

Cllr Damian White did not breach any code of conduct

Cllr Damian White did not breach any code of conduct

Archant

A councillor who publicly proclaimed that a Conservative colleague had become “very confused because her husband has Alzheimer’s [disease]” did not breach Havering Council’s code of conduct, a standards panel found.

Cllr Georgina Galpin was told she was confused about the selecion processCllr Georgina Galpin was told she was confused about the selecion process

Instead, the comment, made to the Recorder last February by Tory councillor Damian White about Cllr Georgina Galpin, whose husband suffers from the brain disease, amounted to freedom of speech under the Human Rights Act, according to the council’s deputy monitoring officer Stephen Doye.

Cllr White’s words came on the back of the decision made in January last year by the Romford Conservative Association (RCA), of which Cllr White is deputy chairman, to replace Cllr Galpin as a candidate in the Hylands ward in this month’s borough elections.

But Cllr Galpin, who has stood in Hylands for more than a decade, claimed she was only made aware of the decision in a small announcement entitled “So long, farewell!” as part of RCA leaflets distributed throughout Hornchurch.

When contacted by the Recorder at the time, Cllr White said Cllr Galpin didn’t understand that plans made for her to run in a different ward prevented her from standing in Hylands.

He said: “She has become very confused because her husband has Alzheimer’s.”

The comment sparked complaints from four people to the council, including by Cllr Galpin and by Residents’ Association member Cllr Barbara Matthews.

They claimed that Cllr White’s statement caused offence because it: amounted to “disability discrimination”; “questions Cllr Galpin’s mental state”; was “highly offensive to everyone caring for someone suffering from this condition”; “crossed the line in decency”; “suggests that Cllr Galpin has somehow ‘caught’ her husband’s dementia”; and “bullies and belittles Cllr Galpin”.

But the standards sub-committee, which heard evidence in March, disagreed.

Instead, the members backed Mr Doye’s findings that Cllr White had not been acting in his capacity as a councillor when talking to the Recorder, so did not break the council’s code of conduct, and that even if he had been, the comment was “not unlawful” and was his freedom of expression.

Mr Doye said: “I think it is also noteworthy that Cllr White cannot see that there is anything offensive in the statement.”

Cllr White did not want to comment on the report.

Read more:

Hornchurch councillor Georgina Galpin hits out at ‘Alzheimer’s’ comment by deputy Tory chairman

Deputy leader slams Romford Tory for turning up to full council two hours late

Havering councillor Damian White claims his election was valid amid investigation

Havering Council hearings panel finds Cllr Damian White has not breached members’ code of conduct

Latest News Stories

The three wise men are travelling around Harold Wood

Look out for the three wise men as they make their journey across Havering this Christmas.

Yesterday, 13:07
Ambulances outside Queen's Hospital's A&E (Picture: Sandra Rowse)

Hundreds more patients are being made to wait more than 30 minutes in ambulances queued outside A&Es at Queen’s and King George, according to new figures.

Yesterday, 07:00
The international space station flies overhead tonight

An astronomy enthusiast and rocket builder spotted the International Space Station (ISS) from his garden.

Tue, 17:11
Police tape

Police have made an arrest following reports of a man threatening his landlord with a knife.

Most read news

WW100

Click on the banner above for full coverage of the centenary commemorations of the outbreak of the First World War.

News from your area

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Romford Recorder e-edition today E-edition

With YouTube as a partner, the movie will have one of the most widespread releases in history.

There’s a whole load of such streets, and Royal Mail has told us all about them.

They planned to host a Christmas lunch for the homeless at the office building, which they dubbed Love HQ.

Five people remain in hospitals across Glasgow after the crash in the city’s George Square.