Police called to South Shields Town Hall following 'report of a disturbance' at South Tyneside Council meeting
The incident, which saw officers enter the council chamber at South Shields Town Hall, was sparked during a debate on a motion launched by opposition councillors.
This included calls to “establish a dedicated agenda item” at each meeting of full council for members of the council’s ruling cabinet to give regular updates on their portfolios.
But a request by Cllr Richard Porthouse, the newly appointed deputy mayor who was chairing Thursday’s (November 24) full council meeting, for observers in the public gallery to “behave themselves” sparked a series of heated exchanges.
This included several members of the public shouting and one claiming that another attendee at the meeting had been made an offensive hand gesture.
Cllr Porthouse later warned he would remove people from the public gallery, prompting one to ask: “Are you going to physically eject me? We’ve been there and we’ve got the t-shirt, do you want to do it again?”
The deputy mayor replied he was “going to take that as a threat” – which was denied by the member of the public – and said he would “call the police” and adjourned the meeting.
When the council meeting restarted, Cllr Porthouse asked for the public gallery to be cleared.
He said: “Unfortunately, due to the conduct in the gallery and a couple of members that feel threatened, we’re going to have to clear the gallery please.
“It’s the entire public gallery I’m afraid, apologies, but we cannot carry on like this”.
Once the debate resumed, the opposition council motion was rejected by a majority vote.
A Northumbria Police spokesperson said: “Shortly before 9pm yesterday (November 24 ) police received a report of a disturbance at a council meeting taking place within the town hall in South Shields.
“Officers attended where it was reported that attendees in the public gallery had been shouting during the meeting.
“Enquiries are ongoing to establish if any offences were committed.”
A South Tyneside Council spokesperson added: “The meeting of borough council was temporarily adjourned due to disturbance in the public gallery.
“The gallery was cleared with police assistance and the meeting concluded shortly after when all business on the agenda was concluded.”