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Cllr Lesley Dedman refuses to apologise after swastika tweet probe

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A CHRISTCHURCH councillor has been criticised by a standards investigation for repeatedly refusing to apologise after tweeting an image containing a swastika in the background.

BCP Council member Lesley Dedman, who represents Mudeford, Stanpit and West Highcliffe for the Christchurch Independents, was reported in March last year for the social media post.

She explained in a statement that it had satirised the Prime Minister’s press briefing room as a propaganda unit, with an image including a Nazi swastika in the background, meant as “black humour”.

Cllr Lesley Dedman was the first mayor of Christchurch Town Council in 2019
Cllr Lesley Dedman was the first mayor of Christchurch Town Council in 2019

The subsequent complaint accused Cllr Dedman of being offensive to the Jewish community and failing to treat others with respect.

Nearly a year later, the unusual step has been taken of publishing a report about her behaviour to a full meeting of the council after it said she repeatedly refused to accept the findings of an investigation.

The council report noted she had removed the tweet and sent an apology to all BCP councillors – but also posted a further “smiling/grinning” emoji about its removal being due to objections, which the unnamed complainant claimed had “made light of the matter”.

The council’s standards committee ruled that she must apologise on Twitter, write a letter of apology to the complainant, and attend a one-to-one training session with a BCP equality officer.

However, Cllr Dedman refused to comply, the report went on, and asked for the decision to be reviewed by the new chair of the standards committee, who had recently taken up the position.

The original decision was mostly upheld but Cllr Dedman again refused a requirement to apologise, demanding the complaint be considered a third time.

It was upheld again, the report said, with the threat of a public explanation about her non-compliance being made to a meeting of the full council.

With no required apology forthcoming, that went ahead last month.

The report by the council’s standards monitoring officer, Susan Zeiss, criticised Cllr Dedman, saying: “Failure to comply with such decisions reflects poorly on the council as a whole and undermines the standards regime.

“Although it is unpleasant and at times distressing to be the subject of a complaint, early recognition of one’s actions and early resolution by way of an acceptable remedy should always be at the forefront of any councillor’s response to a complaint.”

It also noted that dealing with complaints against councillors was “extremely intensive and is a draw of services that could otherwise be proactive in other areas”.

The report added that a fresh code of conduct adopted by BCP Council in November last year would make it a breach not to comply with findings.

Cllr Dedman described the process as a “witch hunt”, by an anonymous complainant, that had ignored her original apologies.

She said: “It is clearly wrong and against natural justice for me not to know who my accuser is, and indeed that is the position of the authority laid out in writing by the monitoring officer.

“I find the current position inexplicable and unacceptable and to my mind wholly politically motivated.”

Cllr Dedman said that she had hoped to give her position at full council but had been denied the right to reply.

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