Councillor punished for Facebook post mocking curfew on men

The Plymouth councillor who published a picture of himself in a wig and dress mocking a proposal for a curfew on men following the death of Sarah Everard has been disciplined by the Conservatives.

Edward Oldfield www.plymouthherald.co.uk

The Facebook post by Mark Deacon, councillor for Southway, was criticised during a period of intense public discussion about violence towards women and girls.

He removed the post after an outcry and apologised for causing offence.

Cllr Deacon was suspended by the city council Conservative group pending an investigation. That has now found he broke group rules on councillor conduct.

Tory leader Nick Kelly said in a statement that Cllr Deacon would be punished by serving a 21-day suspension from the group and a warning about use of social media would stay on his file.

Cllr Kelly said the councillor had confirmed he “deeply regrets” his “error of judgement” and was “completely remorseful to those he has offended”.

A petition was later set up in support of the Tory councillor for his achievements in the Southway ward.

Cllr Deacon published a picture of himself wearing a dress and wig, with the message: “If the Green Party and some Labour Party politicians get their way and impose this ridiculous 6pm curfew on men, then I’m going to wear my dress more often.”

He later removed the post and apologised. He wrote: “I didn’t intend any offence that my comments might have caused to a section of the public.”

Cllr Kelly said the councillor had not made the connection until after he made the post between the disappearance and death of Sarah Everard and the suggestion from Baroness Jones that men should face a 6pm curfew.

The marketing executive disappeared after walking home from a friend’s house in London in early March. A week later her remains were found in Kent and a police officer has been charged with her kidnap and murder.

Cllr Kelly said the Southway councillor would refresh his understanding of the Nolan Principles, also known as the Seven Principles of Public Live, which refer to the ethical standards public figures are expected to show of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. He would also complete the city council’s online equality and diversity training.

Cllr Deacon has represented the Southway ward since 2015 and his current term of office ends in 2023. A petition was started by a Southway resident in support of the councillor following his initial suspension, acknowledging his work in the area.

The statement from the Conservative group leader on Monday said: “Following a thorough internal investigation into the conduct of Cllr Mark Deacon as a result of a post he made on Facebook on Saturday 13th March 2021, regarding the statement from Baroness Jones that all men should face a 6pm curfew, Cllr Deacon was found to have breached the Plymouth Conservative Councillor Group’s Rules.

“The investigation found that upon realising his error of judgement, Cllr Deacon immediately removed the post that generated a number of adverse comments from the public and issued two apologies on his social media page.

“Subsequently, Cllr Deacon has confirmed that he deeply regrets his actions and is completely remorseful to those he has offended. Cllr Deacon wishes to unequivocally apologise for his actions and has learnt from this incident.

“Cllr Kelly confirmed that the post was insensitive regarding both content and timing after the tragic murder of Sarah Everard and the comments from the Baroness were made in light of this murder.

“Unfortunately, Cllr Deacon did not make this connection until after his offending post had been made public. Mark was mortified once he realised this link.

“In view of this breach, Councillor Deacon will serve a 21 day suspension from the Conservative Group. A warning will remain on Cllr Deacon’s file regarding his conduct, with specific regard to his use of social media.

“Cllr Deacon has agreed to be more mindful of expressing his views on social media in the future, especially in his capacity as a Plymouth City Councillor. Cllr Deacon will re-acquaint himself with the Nolan Principles regarding Public Life.

“Cllr Deacon will also complete the online Equality and Diversity Training provided by Plymouth City Council.

“Cllr Nick Kelly wishes to acknowledge all those who have contacted him regarding this incident, including the many offering their support to Cllr Deacon and highlighting the great work he has done since serving as a Conservative Councillor in the Southway Ward from May 2015.

“Hopefully, Mark will learn from this regrettable incident and will now once again be able to focus all his efforts into working on behalf of the residents of Southway Ward.”