Disgraced councillor can keep position despite court conviction

A disgraced councillor who has been banned from driving after refusing to provide a breath sample is allowed to keep his position.

Saturday, 18th January 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Sunday, 19th January 2020, 3:51 pm
Coun Jeff Milburn outside Sunderland Magistrates' Court on the day of an earlier court hearing.

Coun Jeff Milburn, of Cleadon, is unable to get behind the wheel for 18 months after he was found guilty by magistrates following a trial earlier this week.

But it has emerged that his overall sentence means that his position on South Tyneside Council is not in jeopardy.

Under nationwide local government regulations, a sitting councillor is only disqualified if they are convicted of any offence and jailed for “not less than three months”.

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It does not mater if his prison term is suspended or not.

As well as his driving ban, Coun Milburn, 60, of Sunniside Lane, Cleadon, must complete a 12-month community order, which includes 60 hours of unpaid work, and pay £710 in costs and a victim surcharge.

A South Tyneside Council spokesperson confirmed that his conviction does not affect his position as a councillor.

It means that he can continue serving residents in his Cleadon and East Boldon ward until his four-year term ends in May 2022.

Coun Milburn, who describes himself as an independent Conservative, refused to discuss his conviction after Wednesday’s case at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.

Yet his solicitor, Geoffrey Forrester, said after the verdict that his client would be appealing against both his sentence and conviction.

A witness said in evidence that a Volvo was parked “at a strange angle” with Coun Milburn slumped in the driver’s seat.

The defendant then refused to provide a specimen of breath both at home and at Southwick Police Station, in Sunderland, after police were called.

Lorna Rimmel, prosecuting, discussing the second request, told the court: “He refused to do so and was sick during the procedure.

“Police seems to think he had done it on purpose.”

Mr Forrester, however, said during the trial: “He was unable to provide a breath specimen because he was physically unable to do so.”