Maldon councillor removed from office
Public Law and Judicial Review
A member of Maldon District Council whose disruptive behaviour at a Council meeting in November went viral has been removed from office after being given a suspended prison sentence.
The meeting in November 2021 had been due to discuss what sanctions to impose on Chrisy Morris after the Council’s Joint Standards Committee had earlier upheld six complaints of bullying against him. That meeting had to be abandoned as a result of Mr Morris’ persistent interruption – including with a megaphone – which also saw the police being called into the Council chamber.
This incident was widely reported. Commenting to the BBC, Jackie Weaver condemned Mr Morris’ behaviour as inappropriate.
Following the Joint Standards Committee’s decision, the Council received a wave of further complaints about Mr Morris’ behaviour at subsequent Council meetings, at least one of which had also been abandoned due to his disruption.
The Joint Standards Committee had been due to consider a second investigation report about these further complaints in February 2022. However, that meeting was postponed following Mr Morris’ conviction by a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court for breaching a non-molestation order.
On 28 February 2022, Mr Morris was given an eight-month prison sentence (suspended for 18 months) by HHJ Timothy Walker. Under section 80(1)(d) of the Local Government Act 1972, this meant that Mr Morris was automatically disqualified from being a member of the Council.
A by-election for the Heybridge West ward has been announced by the Council and is expected to take place on 14 April 2022.
Matt Lewin, a member of Cornerstone Barristers’ Public Law team, acted as the external investigator for both sets of complaints. He is regularly instructed to investigate complaints against local government councillors and to advise Monitoring Officers on standards and governance issues.