Conduct committee dismisses claims that March and Fenland councillor Kit Owen made a racist remark
PUBLISHED: 12:59 05 October 2017 | UPDATED: 12:59 05 October 2017
A councillor has been cleared of making racist comments after a conduct committee ruled there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations.
Fenland District Council conduct committee dismissed claims that Councillor Kit Owen had brought himself and March Town Council into disrepute.
Cllr Owen had claimed the allegations – by Labour town councillor Martin Field- were “vexatious and politically motivated”.
The complaint stemmed from a meeting of the March Christmas lights committee.
Cllr Field had claimed that during a discussion on refreshments for helpers Cllr Owen had quipped that “we should ask a Muslim because they all have knives”. Cllr Owen denied the allegation.
Councillor Chris Boden told the conduct hearing at fenland Hall today that he “thought the alleged comments were offensive but to say that it was racist is wrong.
“Islam is a religion, and for it to be said that something is anti-Muslim is racist is so culturally insensitive I was taken aback.
“Cllr Owen claimed there were witnesses at a full council meeting who said that Cllr Field had made a different account and changed his story.
“We have one party saying the comments were said in the meeting and another saying they weren’t.”
Councillor Andrew Donnelly said: “There’s no love lost between Cllr Owen and Cllr Field. They both banter off each other and I think this is a continuation of it.
“Cllr Owen said he didn’t make the comment but did apologise if he had offended anyone.”
Councillor Rob Skoulding, who gave evidence at the meeting, said: “I was at the lights meeting. Outside, Kit was talking to Sylvia, Bernard Keane’s wife, and she was talking about giving up the catering.
“She said something along the lines of ‘all councillors have got wives, they can do it’ and Kit replied ‘they certainly haven’t all got wives’.
“Inside the meeting Councillor Mark Purser was to my left, Cllr Owen to the right and beside him was Cllr Field. I stayed there all through the meeting.
“Kit doesn’t know how to talk quietly; when he speaks we all here it. But there was nothing said about knives or Muslims in that meeting.”
At today’s hearing, Cllr Boden questioned whether it would be appropriate for the committee to take Cllr Skoulding’s comments into account.
The committee’s legal representative replied that Cllr Skoulding’s factual account from the meeting in question was useful for other members to hear.
The conduct committee dismissed the case, stating there was a lack of enough evidence to support the allegations.
Cllr Boden said the main issue was whether Cllr Owen was acting as a councillor when the alleged statement was said.