'The law doesn't work': MP Yvette Cooper calls again for changes to council powers after Alex Kear case

A Labour MP has repeated calls for local authorities to have the power to promptly sack councillors guilty of serious crimes.

Monday, 24th August 2020, 3:51 pm
Kear was sentenced at Leeds Crown Court last week.

Kear, who refused to resign, was eventually removed from public office on Friday after he was sentenced to six years in prison at Leeds Crown Court.

The court heard how he'd fantasised about having sex with a baby and arranged a meeting to abuse a fictional toddler, which turned out to be an undercover police sting.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak was Local Government Secretary when he gave the government's backing to a law change in 2018.

It's understood that Ms Cooper, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford has yet to receive a response from the government to her letter, which was sent in mid-July.

Meanwhile, The Ministry of Local Government did not comment directly on the case when approached by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

But a spokesman referred to a 2017 consultation in which the government expressed support for the banning of any councillor forced to sign the Sex Offenders' Register.

The Local Government Secretary at the time was Rishi Sunak, who is now the Chancellor.

Ms Cooper first wrote to the government about the issue last month.

Sources at the department suggested this may take place "as soon as parliamentary time allows".

However, this particular change would not have affected Kear's case, as he was only placed on the Register for life at his sentencing, and not straight after he admitted the offences.

Speaking after Kear's sentencing on Friday, Ms Cooper said: "This was a truly awful crime and it is terrible to think of the impact on children from cases like this.

"The sentence also means that the perpetrator can finally be removed from Wakefield Council.

"But given how serious the offence was, Wakefield Council should have been allowed to suspend him as soon as he was charged and to remove him completely as soon as he pleaded guilty.

"The law on this doesn’t work, and I am calling on the government to change it so that councils can take immediate action in a case like this. Children’s safety must be the absolute priority."

In the 2017 consultation, 83 per cent of those who took part said those on the Sex Offenders' Register should be barred from standing for election.

A total of four per cent said they were against that idea, with the remaining 13 per cent responding 'don't know'.

Those who took part in the consultation were a mixture of councils, public bodies and members of the public.

Responding to the consultation a year later, Mr Sunak said the government believed those on the Register, "Should be barred from standing for election, or holding office, as a member of a local authority, mayor of a combined authority, member of the London Assembly or London Mayor.

He added: "Their disqualification period would end once they were no longer subject to these notification requirements."

Local Democracy Reporting Service