Hartlepool Brexit Party councillor suspended over offensive Facebook posts

A Hartlepool councillor has been suspended from the Brexit Party pending an investigation after complaints he shared racist and offensive posts on Facebook.

Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 9:47 am
Councillor Richardson was elected to Hartlepool Borough Council in May 2018.

A complaint has been lodged to Hartlepool Borough Council about Fens and Rossmere ward councillor Tony Richardson over the posts including allegedly sharing a post likening a migrant claiming benefits to a dog.

Councillor Richardson has apologised and says he is ‘mortified’ for any offence he has caused.

He has removed himself from Facebook and says he will not be using any social media until he has a ‘greater understanding’.

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Council leader Councillor Shane Moore said he suspended Coun Richardson from the Brexit Party-led coalition following the initial findings of a council investigation into the complaint.

He said: “I am not a ‘friend’ with Councillor Tony Richardson on Facebook and I have thanked the individual who brought these social media posts to my attention.

“Within an hour of receiving the complaint, I took immediate action and asked for a full investigation to be carried out.

“Now that the initial fact finding meeting has been held, I have also taken swift action to suspend Councillor Tony Richardson’s membership of the coalition pending the outcome of the formal investigation.

“As I have said previously, racist language and behaviour is completely inexcusable and unforgivable.”

Councillor Richardson was elected onto the council in May 2018 for Putting Hartlepool First.

He later became an independent and Independent Union member before becoming part of the Brexit Party coalition last year.

In a statement Coun Richardson said: “I would like to apologise unreservedly for sharing these posts.

“I am an inexperienced Facebook user who has shared many posts – often without fully reading them or understanding them.

“This is both wrong and naive and I accept I should have taken more care.

“I am mortified by the offence I have caused and have removed myself from Facebook.

“It was never my intention to upset people and I will not be using any form of social media until I have a full understanding.”

It is the second accusation of racism against a Hartlepool Brexit Party councillor after David Mincher was filmed by an undercover Channel 4 reporter making offensive comments about Muslims and gay people during the General Election campaign.

He resigned from the council as a result.

Coun Paddy Brown, Labour group leader on the council, has written to Coun Moore calling for an investigation into racism within the Hartlepool Brexit Party.

He added: "It is not acceptable in this day and age. I don't believe that in any situation there is a place for that type of behaviour.”

But Coun Moore accused Labour of political point scoring by sharing their letters to him on social media.

He added: “These letters also contain factual inaccuracies and – in particular – I would like to make it clear I did not invite any Councillor to become a Brexit Party member as I was actually the last individual to join the party.”