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Suffolk councillor denies race claim

PUBLISHED: 00:45 23 June 2005 | UPDATED: 05:57 02 March 2010

A SUFFOLK councillor has denied using racial language – claiming his words came from Star Wars rather than the days of slavery.

Keith Myers-Hewitt, who was elected on to Suffolk County Council in May as a Conservative for Stowmarket, has denied using disrespectful language during a visit to his home town library last July.

A SUFFOLK councillor has denied using racial language – claiming his words came from Star Wars rather than the days of slavery.

Keith Myers-Hewitt, who was elected on to Suffolk County Council in May as a Conservative for Stowmarket, has denied using disrespectful language during a visit to his home town library last July.

He appeared before an Adjudication Panel yesterday after his words were reported by a library assistant.

Ursula Scott, an enquiry officer at the library, told the Panel – meeting at Ufford Park Hotel – that Mr Myers-Hewitt had visited the library shortly after it opened on July 7 last year.

She said he seemed to be rather annoyed because there was a fine to pay on one of his wife's books.

There were few people in the library at the time, but there were two afro-Caribbean men at computer terminals and an Asian couple on two other terminals.

Mrs Scott said Mr Myers-Hewitt glanced towards the people on the computer and said: "Have the aliens landed or is it just an invasion of darkies?"

Under cross-examination from Helen Booth, counsel for Mr Myers-Hewitt, Mrs Scott insisted that was what he said.

Miss Booth suggested the word had been "dark side" in a reference to the Star Wars films.

But Mrs Scott said: "I am absolutely certain those were his words. I was shocked to hear them, especially from someone in his position."

Mr Myers-Hewitt was – and remains – a member of Stowmarket Town Council.

Mrs Scott told her manager, Francis Law, about the incident, and also told her husband who sent a complaint to the town council.

When they failed to get a response they contacted Labour councillor Ron Snell and shortly afterwards the town council took up the complaint.

Mr Myers-Hewitt, 74, a former chairman of the Bury St Edmunds Conservative Association, told the tribunal he would never use the word "darkie."

He felt the library staff had misunderstood him when he visited the library on an earlier occasion and had commented to his wife about how full it had been.

His son, a science fiction enthusiast, was staying with them and he had commented to his wife about the number of people using the computer terminals.

He said: "I said 'have the aliens landed, they've come from the dark side,' meaning the dark side of the moon."

He added, if anyone had felt offended by the comment he would have explained it to them.

Mr Myers-Hewitt accepted he had visited the library on July 7, but he was sure the visit with his wife when he made the comment was in early June while their son was staying with them.

He felt the incident had been picked up for political reasons.

There had been considerable press coverage – including an article in the satirical magazine Private Eye – and he felt that the Labour Party had used it to try to discredit him because they knew he was standing in the county council elections.

He said: "It is interesting that there has been no press coverage about this incident after the elections."

Since being elected to the county council, Mr Myers-Hewitt had received equal opportunity training which had been informative.

He said: "Until then I did not know that you should call people black rather than coloured – I had always thought it was the other way around.

"But I accept that, I don't want to cause any offence."


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