11:00AM, Saturday 01 July 2017
The appointment of a former mayor, who acted as a character reference for a convicted sex offender in court, as chairman of Slough Borough Council’s (SBC) standards panel has been labelled a ‘slap in the face’.
Cllr Shafiq Chaudhry (Lab, Central) was made chairman of the council’s audit and corporate governance committee at the council’s annual meeting last month.
He was chosen for the position, part of which involves enforcing a standard of behaviour for councillors, by council leader Cllr Sohail Munawar (Lab, Elliman).
Cllr Wayne Strutton (Con, Haymill and Lynch Hill) has called the decision a ‘slap in the face’ for sexual assault victims due to Cllr Chaudhry’s connection with the court case.
In February 2015, Azim Ahmed was jailed for six years having been convicted of five counts of sexual activity with a child.
Cllr Chaudhry sat in the public gallery at Ahmed’s sentencing and had written a character reference for him, stating his family had a good reputation in Slough and Pakistan.
The controversy led to the former Pakistani Welfare Association president stepping down as mayor and referring himself to SBC’s standards committee.
At a hearing, the committee concluded Cllr Chaudhry had breached the council’s code of conduct, but did not have the power to suspend him.
“If he was there purely supporting the family, holding hands and consoling the family because their son is going to prison, there’s a difference,” said Cllr Strutton.
“That I can understand to a reasonable degree, but we also need to take into account that he was the standing mayor.”
Cllr Strutton says he did not vote against Cllr Chaudhry’s selection because outnumbered Conservative councillors would have been outvoted anyway.
In response, Cllr Munawar said: “Cllr Chaudhry provided emotional support for the family, who were lifelong friends, and not the offender.
“I know Cllr Chaudhry totally abhors the crimes the offender committed.
“His appointment was approved by full council, and if he had any concerns he should have voiced them at the meeting rather than sit on his hands, I can only assume his silence indicated assent.”
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