Appendix B - Guidance on the press and public at hearings

1. Initial Considerations

The purpose of publicity in the determination of complaints that a Councillor has breached the code of conduct is to:

  • (a) promote the public interest;
  • (b) maintain public confidence in local government;
  • (c) maintain proper standards of conduct; and
  • (d) is consistent with the proper discharge of the Council's functions in accordance with the Human Rights Act 1998 which provide for a public hearing.

2. Presumption in favour of openness

Given the purpose of publicity, there is a presumption that the Audit and Governance (Hearings) Sub-Committee will proceed with the hearing in public.

3. Exceptional circumstances

The Sub-Committee may however override the presumption in favour of openness if it is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances which outweigh the public interest in the hearing being open to the public before excluding the press and public and proceeding in private for all or part of the hearing.

Common examples of exceptional circumstances include the following (the list is not exhaustive):

  • (a) health;
  • (b) sexual allegations;
  • (c) vulnerable third parties;
  • (d) public order;
  • (e) the protection of the private life of the parties requires; or
  • (f) where the complainant is an employee of the authority to which the councillor complained about is a member.

4. Announcement of decision

Even if the whole or part of a hearing has been held in the absence of the press and public, the Sub-Committee will normally announce its decision in public. If necessary, there may be a public and a private record of the decision made.