Councillor Brian Coleman must apologise for ‘abuse’

Brian Coleman has been found in breach of Barnet Council’s code of conduct for the second time in two and a half years, but remains unrepentant vowing he must continue the fight against anti-Semitism in the borough.

Conservative Cllr Coleman, also chairman of the North London Waste Authority, went in front of the council’s standards sub-committee to answer charges of having offended four residents on Monday.

The committee found that he had breached the code of conduct in two of four cases and ordered him to he write letters of apology.

In an email he had written in reply, Cllr Coleman called a resident anti-Zionist and said: “In my book anti-Zionism is just a modern form of anti-Semitism, I suppose 70 years ago you would have been in the blackshirts.”

In another he made personal comments calling someone a “disloyal” Israeli and added it “doesn’t take much to flush you out”.

In September 2009 he called a blogger an “obsessive, poisonous individual” and was found in breach of the code.

The comments were in response to emails from the public questioning bids from an international company for upcoming contracts with the North London Waste Authority, which controls waste services for seven boroughs.

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The complaintsl about Cllr Coleman were made in January and February last year.

At the hearing, investigator Keith Stevens said Cllr Coleman’s email response: “Went well beyond the high, but reasonable, limits of genuine political expression in democratic society.

“(It) was rude and personally offensive, unfair and unreasonable, and amounted to an expression of anger and personal demeaning abuse.”

Cllr Coleman defended himself saying the emails sent to him were part of a large and orchestrated anti-Semitic campaign.

He said: “If there is anything I’m committed to in my political career it is to fight anti-Semitism in the borough. I don’t apologise for it and I don’t regret it.”

During the hearing Cllr Coleman’s lawyer, Stephen Hocking, said it was not Cllr Coleman that was on trial but Barnet Council itself, questioning its procedure for ensuring freedom of speech.

Cllr Coleman has 14 days to write two apology letters.

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