Darkies remark 'not racially motivated'

DESCRIBING ethnic minority people as “Darkies” is offensive, but not racist.That was the verdict of experts sitting on an adjudication panel as they cleared a Conservative councillor of bringing his office into disrepute.

DESCRIBING ethnic minority people as “Darkies” is offensive, but not racist.

That was the verdict of experts sitting on an adjudication panel as they cleared a Conservative councillor of bringing his office into disrepute.

Now their decision has cleared the way for Keith Myers-Hewitt to remain a member of the Tory group on Suffolk County council.

Stowmarket councillor Mr Myers-Hewitt, 74, was called to the panel hearing in June and last month after an incident at the library in his home town in July last year.

The panel was told he had said: “Have the aliens landed, or is it an invasion of darkies? I suppose they are e-mailing their friends,” when he saw people of Afro-Caribbean and Asian origin using computer terminals in the library.

He had denied using the phrase, claiming he had said “are they from the darkside?” in a reference to science fiction.

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The panel found that he had used the offensive language, but felt it did not bring his role as a Stowmarket town councillor into disrepute.

The panel said: “While it takes the view that the allegation was a serious one in that it involved clearly offensive words, which should never have been uttered, their use did not involve a criminal offence.

“The words were not directed at any person or persons but were said more by way of an aside. The Tribunal is not satisfied that they were made with any racial motivation.”

Yesterday Mr Myers-Hewitt was called to a meeting with council leader Jeremy Pembroke, after which he issued a grovelling apology for any offence caused.

He said: "The Panel found me not to be in breach of the Code of Conduct. Nonetheless, I wish unreservedly to apologise to anyone to whom the reported remarks have caused or may cause offence.

"I know that I am not racist. I recognise that as a councillor I have a duty at all times to promote the interests of all people who live or work in Suffolk. As a councillor I have a duty to promote mutual respect and tolerance."

Mr Pembroke said Mr Myers-Hewitt would be reading out the statement at the start of the Conservative group meeting on Thursday.

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