‘I’m not sexist’ says councillor

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POLICE have launched an investigation after more than 100 letters were sent to women claiming a councillor is “sexist and racist”.

Hartlepool councillor Geoff Lilley says someone sent the letters to women in the Greatham ward he represents before last week’s local elections in a bid to oust him from his seat.

The letter referred to an allegation that the independent councillor verbally abused Coun Marjorie James on an internet forum, a case which was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) after Coun Lilley was arrested and questioned by police.

Coun Lilley, who stormed to victory in last Thursday’s election with 354 votes, 130 more than his nearest rival, branded the people responsible as “spineless cowards”.

He said he felt he could not prove who sent the letters and did not intend to report it to police.

But a Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “The council referred the matter to the police as a possible electoral offence.”

A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: “Officers from the Economic Crime Unit were tasked with investigating a report regarding literature that had been distributed in Greatham ward.

“The investigation has identified that there was no evidence of electoral malpractice.

“Inquiries are continuing with officers in Hartlepool.”

Coun Lilley said: “I’m flattered that my political enemies have gone to such lengths to try and oust me and I’m humbled and flattered that the people of Greatham ward have had the faith in me to disregard this tripe and have shown support in the ballot box.

“I actually think it had a reverse effect.”

The case regarding Coun James was dropped after the CPS said there should be no further action.

The 61-year-old, who is serving his third consecutive term as a councillor for Greatham, said he was first made aware of the derogatory letters on April 27 by two residents.

He said some of them have a Tyneside postmark, but the majority were sent from Hartlepool.

Coun Lilley said: “I just think it says more about the person who sent it than it says about me.

“Anybody who knows me knows I’m not malicious – I may have an over-developed sense of humour but I’m certainly not sexist or racist, it’s beyond me how anybody could suspect that.

“There are some really important town issues we should be talking about, not having squabbles and spats.”