You are on page 1of 44

Report of an investigation under Section 59 of the Local

Government Act 2000 by Shahzia Daya appointed by the AGENDA ITEM 5


monitoring officer for Bristol City Council into an allegation
concerning Councillor Shirley Brown.

Case Reference: JD5/403

Final
Report of an investigation under
Section 59 of the Local Government
Act 2000 by Shahzia Daya
appointed by the monitoring officer
for Bristol City Council into an
allegation concerning Councillor
Shirley Brown.

DATE: 22nd June 2009

Page 1 of 11
Report of an investigation under Section 59 of the Local
Government Act 2000 by Shahzia Daya appointed by the
monitoring officer for Bristol City Council into an allegation
concerning Councillor Shirley Brown.

Contents

1. Executive Summary
2. Councillor Brown’s official details
3. The relevant legislation and protocols
4. The evidence gathered
5. Summary of the material facts
6. Councillor Brown’s additional submissions
7. Reasoning as to whether there have been failures to comply with the Code of
Conduct
8. Finding

Appendix A Schedule of evidence taken into account and a list of unused material

Page 2 of 11
Report of an investigation under Section 59 of the Local
Government Act 2000 by Shahzia Daya appointed by the
monitoring officer for Bristol City Council into an allegation
concerning Councillor Shirley Brown.

1. Executive Summary

1.1 It is alleged by Mr Taylor in a complaint dated 2nd March 2009 (copy attached) and by
Councillor Goulandris (in his complaint made on behalf of the Conservative Group) that:

‘’Councillor Brown used racist slang against a fellow Councillor during a Council
meeting by stating “In our culture we have a word for you . . . we have a word
that we use and I am sure many in our city will understand . . . it’s ‘coconut’. At
the end of the day I look at you as that” and “the water is either thrown away or
drinking it”.

That she made a personal attack and shouted nonsense at the top of her voice.

That her language betrays a racist mentality. Also, that her words are racial
harassment i.e. verbal abuse. Reference to the comments made in the national
press “I’m black so how can I be racist?” has also been made.

That she caused embarrassment to the City.

The relevant paragraphs of the Code of Conduct for Members adopted by the Council in
June 2009 are;

Para 3(1) You must treat others with respect


Para 3(2) (a) You must not do anything which may cause your authority to breach
any equality laws
Para 3(2) (b) Must not bully any person including other councillors, council officers or
members of the public
Para 5 You must nor bring your office into disrepute while acting in your official
capacity, or at any time through criminal activity that leads to a criminal
conviction.

Having investigated the complaint on behalf of the monitoring officer, I am satisfied that
Councillor Brown did say to Councillor Jethwa:

“In our culture we have a word for you . . . we have a word that we use and I am
sure many in our city will understand . . . it’s coconut. At the end of the day I
look at you as that” and “the water is either thrown away or drinking it”.

Councillor Brown says of her use of the term ‘coconut’

‘’They were not meant with any racial connotation. Councillor Jethwa spoke
about funding, that she was from an East African background, she made
reference to socialist style handouts, referred to the use of the English language
and made reference to the Legacy Commission by saying that the Council was
trying to make futile attempts to write historic wrongs. I was angry. She is from
Africa and the Commission is there to help people know their history. She is from
Africa and should have an understanding of the Legacy Commission.

I meant that she is in denial of her roots. No racial connotation was meant, simply

Page 3 of 11
Report of an investigation under Section 59 of the Local
Government Act 2000 by Shahzia Daya appointed by the
monitoring officer for Bristol City Council into an allegation
concerning Councillor Shirley Brown.

that she had no knowledge of her history/roots given that she was from Africa’’.

My investigation has led me to conclude that the term ‘coconut’ was used by Councillor
Brown during a heated and fractious Council meeting.

The term ‘coconut’ has many meanings.

In the Wikipedia encyclopedia of ethnic slurs, there is a list of terms that are or have
been used as insinuations or allegations about members of a given ethnicity or to refer
to them in a derogatory (critical or disrespectful), pejorative (disapproving or
contemptuous) or insulting manner in the English speaking world. The term coconut is
defined as a black person who is trying to be ‘white’ or act ‘white’.

An alternative definition put forward by a number of witnesses that I interviewed was


that ‘coconut’ means somebody who has forgotten their roots or is in denial of their
heritage.

Having studied the various Statutes and case law, I am of the opinion that the term
‘coconut’ undeniably has a racial element to it and is offensive and insulting.

However, my conclusion is that although the term ‘coconut’ undeniably has a racial
element to it, its use in this particular context does not constitute racial abuse. It is,
however, an offensive and insulting term. The choice of language was inappropriate.

In the circumstances, I am of the view that Councillor Brown breached


paragraphs 3(1) of the Code of Conduct for Members in that she failed to treat a
fellow Councillor with respect by using a racial slur during the Full Council
debate on 24th February 2009.

There is no breach of paragraph 3(2)(a) as the authority has not breached any
equality legislation.

There is no breach of paragraph (3)(2)(b) as bullying, like harassment, needs to


be more than an isolated event, rather it is behaviour over a course of events ie,
has occurred on at least two occasions.

A finding that paragraph 5 of the Code has been breached can only be made if
the committee is satisfied that Councillor Brown’s comments were sufficiently
unreasonable and/or offensive to be capable of reducing public confidence in the
office of Councillor.

2. Councillor Brown’s Official Details

2.1 Councillor Brown was first elected to office on 17th June 2003.

She does not currently serve on any particular committees but has previously served
on:

Public Safety and Protection Nov 2004

Page 4 of 11
Report of an investigation under Section 59 of the Local
Government Act 2000 by Shahzia Daya appointed by the
monitoring officer for Bristol City Council into an allegation
concerning Councillor Shirley Brown.

Bristol Schools Organisation Committee 2005-06; 2006-07


Children's Services 2005-06; 2006-07; 2007-08;
Licensing Committee 2004-05; 2006-07; 2007-08
Substitute on Education & Lifelong Learning & Social Services Committee 2003-04

2.2 Councillor Brown was a member of the Schools Organisation Committee and a member
of the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE). Both of these
positions ended on 31 May 2008.

2.3 Councillor Brown gave a written undertaking to observe the Code of Conduct on 4th
May 2007.

2.4 Councillor Brown received training on the Code of Conduct shortly after being re
elected in June 2007.

3. The relevant legislation and protocols

3.1 The Code of Conduct for Members

The Council has adopted a Code of Conduct in which the following paragraphs are
included:

Para 3(1) You must treat others with respect


Para 3(2) (a) You must not do anything which may cause your authority to breach
any equality laws
Para 3(2) (b) Must not bully any person including other councillors, council officers or
members of the public
Para 5 You must nor bring your office into disrepute while acting in your official
capacity, or at any time through criminal activity that leads to a criminal
conviction.

3.2 In terms of what constitutes ‘equality laws’ referred to in paragraph 3(2)(a), these include
sex, race, disability and other equalities legislation. Of particular importance to this investigation
is the Race Relations Act 1976 (as amended). This makes it unlawful for a public authority to
discriminate when carrying out its functions and the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000
imposes a general duty on public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful
racial discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good race relations, again, when
carrying out any of its functions.

3.3 There are four main forms of discrimination;

3.3.1 Direct discrimination- treating someone differently because of their sex, race, disability,
religion or belief, sexual orientation or age.
3.3.2 Indirect discrimination- treatment which does not differentiate between people because
of their sex, race, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age but which
disproportionately disadvantages them
3.3.3 Harassment- engaging in unwanted conduct on the grounds of sex, race, disability,
religion or belief, sexual orientation or age, which violates another person’s dignity or creates a
hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Allied to this is the Protection from
Harassment Act 1997.

Page 5 of 11
Report of an investigation under Section 59 of the Local
Government Act 2000 by Shahzia Daya appointed by the
monitoring officer for Bristol City Council into an allegation
concerning Councillor Shirley Brown.

Harassment is defined in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and the Race Relations Act
1976. These state;

1 Prohibition of harassment (1997 Act)


(1) A person must not pursue a course of conduct—
(a) which amounts to harassment of another, and
(b) which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.
(2) For the purposes of this section, the person whose course of conduct is in question
ought to know that it amounts to harassment of another if a reasonable person in
possession of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to
harassment of the other.
(Note- the harassment should occur on at least two occasions to constitute a ‘course of conduct’).
3A. Harassment (1976)
(1) A person subjects another to harassment in any circumstances relevant for the
purposes of any provision referred to in section 1(1B) where, on grounds of race or
ethnic or national origins, he engages in unwanted conduct which has the purpose or
effect of—

(a) violating that other person’s dignity, or


(b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment
for him.
(2) Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in paragraph (a) or (b) of
subsection (1) only if, having regard to all the circumstances, including in particular the
perception of that other person, it should reasonably be considered as having that
effect.
3.3.4 Victimisation- treating someone differently because they have complained of
discrimination.

3.5 Case Law

This is a South African case so the arguments can only be used to persuade the committee
rather than bind them to a particular finding;

South African Journalists

In February 2008 an event was organised for black journalists. White journalists were excluded
from the meeting, and those who attended were requested to leave. In protest several black
journalists walked out of the event in protest. Whilst walking out, the black journalists were
referred to as “coconuts”. Mr Abramjee and Mr Kammies regarded the term as “not only
insulting, but discriminatory” and as such lodged a complaint with the South African Human
Rights Commission.

In deciding on the legality of the term “coconut” the Commission had to consider two areas of
law. Initially it had to consider s.16 of the Constitution, and secondly it had to consider s.10 of
the Equality Act. Both of these relate to “hate speech”. In reaching the conclusion that the
word “coconut” did not amount to hate speech, the Commission noted that the intention of the
person making the statement was not to be hurtful and that the word coconut was not
sufficiently strong to constitute hate on the particular facts of this case. The South African
Human Rights Commission went on to say;

Page 6 of 11
Report of an investigation under Section 59 of the Local
Government Act 2000 by Shahzia Daya appointed by the
monitoring officer for Bristol City Council into an allegation
concerning Councillor Shirley Brown.

it must be emphasised that in view of the spirit and constitutional imperative of


nation building, in general the word “coconut” may under certain circumstances
evoke feelings of indignity and the Commission would certainly wish to discourage
the general use of the term where it is likely to cause such indignity, irrespective of
the intention with which the words are used.

3.6 Standards Board cases

in 2007 Cllr Doug Clark of Thanet District Council used the words “Jew’s do” to describe
a Holocaust Memorial Day service. The ethical standards officer found this to be
offensive and disrespectful, particularly, as when making the remark, Cllr Clark was
aware of the complainant’s Jewish heritage.

During a council meeting in 2007, Cllr Robin Harris of Luton Borough Council made the
statement “you are racist” when referring to the members of another political party. The
ethical standards officer considered that by referring to other members as being “racist”,
paragraph 3(1) and 5 of the code of conduct had been breached. However, taking into
account the heated and fractious nature of the debate, and the steps Luton Borough
Council had already taken to improve the behaviour of members at council meetings, the
ethical standards officer found that no further action was necessary.

In 2007 Cllr John Houston of Dersingham Parish Council called another Councillor a
“lying cow”. This was held to be a breach of the Code of Conduct. Cllr Houston was
required to apologise to the Councillor in question and submit a copy of that apology to
the panel for approval within 28 days of receiving the decision.

In 2006 Councillor Peter Willows of Brighton and Hove City Council attended an official
reception. Whilst at the reception, and in the company of a gay councillor and gay
member of the public, he made a statement to the effect of “all gays are paedophiles”.
Although initially found guilty in the magistrates court, his conviction was subsequently
quashed on the finding that he had not intended his remarks to be insulting. Despite this,
the ethical standards officer considered that ex-Councillor (he had by this stage resigned)
Willows’ remarks were sufficiently unreasonable and offensive to be capable of reducing
public confidence in the office of councillor. His conduct had therefore brought his office
into disrepute, breaching paragraph 4 of the 2001 code of conduct (which would now be
a breach of paragraph 5). Further, she concluded that he had failed to treat the two
people who heard his comment with respect, therefore breached 2(b) (now 3(1)).
Interesting however, he did not breach 2(a) (now 3(2)a) relating to unlawful
discrimination. The reasoning for this was because in May 2006 unlawful discrimination
on the grounds of sexual orientation only applied to certain situations (such as employers
and employees) and that unlawful discrimination was generally concerned with actual or
intended actions rather than opinions and beliefs.

In a case involving Swindon and Wiltshire Fire Authority it was stated “Members are
entitled to express their personal and political views when they are acting in their official
capacity, and the possibility of causing offence should be balanced with a member’s right
to freedom of expression”.

Page 7 of 11
Report of an investigation under Section 59 of the Local
Government Act 2000 by Shahzia Daya appointed by the
monitoring officer for Bristol City Council into an allegation
concerning Councillor Shirley Brown.

4. The Evidence gathered

4.1 I have viewed the web footage of the Full Council meeting held on 24th February and
taken account of oral evidence from Councillor Brown and Councillor Jethwa.

4.2 I have also taken account of the written evidence, in the form of their complaint forms,
from Mr Taylor and Councillor Goulandris, on behalf of the Conservative party.

4.3 I have obtained evidence from witnesses and public sources on the use of the term
‘coconut’.

5. Summary of the material facts

5.1 That Councillor Brown did say to Councillor Jethwa

“In our culture we have a word for you . . . we have a word that we use and I am sure
many in our city will understand . . . it’s coconut. At the end of the day I look at you
as that” and “the water is either thrown away or drinking it”.

5.2 That Councillor Jethwa was shocked and offended by this outburst. She found the
comment unacceptable and very upsetting.

5.3 There are a number of different definitions and uses of the term ‘coconut’. From the
evidence, I find that Councillor Brown meant this comment to mean that Councillor Jethwa
was in denial of her African roots and this use of the word is confirmed by the four
witnesses interviewed.

5.4 That Councillor Brown has apologised to Councillor Jethwa for making the comment
and acknowledged that her comments were offensive and unacceptable.

6. Councillor Brown’s additional submissions

6.1 None received from Councillor Brown following draft report being issued on 5th June
2009. Comments received from Councillor Goulandris (attached).

7. Reasoning as to whether there have been failures to comply with the Code of
Conduct

7.1 I am required by the regulations to make a finding on whether or not I consider there has
been a failure to comply with the Code.

7.2 A member is obliged to comply with the Code of Conduct. This is not disputed.

7.3 The Councillor was on official duty at the time of the incident.

7.4 A Councillor may fail to treat with respect when they direct unwarranted and unreasonable
or demeaning behaviour towards another person. The requirement to treat others with
respect must be viewed objectively. The use of offensive and insulting language obviously
constitutes a failure to treat with respect.

Page 8 of 11
Report of an investigation under Section 59 of the Local
Government Act 2000 by Shahzia Daya appointed by the
monitoring officer for Bristol City Council into an allegation
concerning Councillor Shirley Brown.

7.5 The relevant Equalities Legislation includes the Race Relations Act 1976. This states:

(1) A person subjects another to harassment in any circumstances relevant for the
purposes of any provision referred to in section 1(1B) where, on grounds of race or ethnic
or national origins, he engages in unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of—

(a) violating that other person’s dignity, or


(b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment
for him.

(2) Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in paragraph (a) or (b) of
subsection (1) only if, having regard to all the circumstances, including in particular the
perception of that other person, it should reasonably be considered as having that
effect.

Councillor Brown’s intention was to make Councillor Jethwa consider the


appropriateness of what she was saying rather than to humiliate or violate her dignity.
Councillor Brown felt that Councillor Jethwa should be helping people to understand
their history and that she should understand the Legacy Commission, particularly as she
was from Africa.

In terms of discrimination on the grounds of race, the Council will only be found to have
acted unlawfully if it discriminates in delivering its functions ie when discrimination is in
the field of employment, education or the provision of goods, services and facilities.

Therefore, Councillor Brown has not caused the authority to breach any equalities
enactments by using inappropriate language during a political debate and her actions
did not amount to a breach of section 1 of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.

7.6 As regards bullying, this must be objectively assessed although the member’s intent
needs to be taken into account. I do not consider that there was bullying, as this
requires an intention on the part of the Councillor. There is nothing to indicate that it
was the Councillor’s intention to bully a fellow Councillor- simply an inappropriate use of
language during a heated and fractious debate.

7.7 Members may bring their office into disrepute if they conduct themselves in a manner
which could reasonably be regarded as bringing the office or the authority into disrepute
and this requirement must be viewed objectively. A finding that paragraph 5 of the
Code has been breached can only be made if the committee is satisfied that Councillor
Brown’s comments were sufficiently unreasonable and offensive to be capable of
reducing public confidence in the office of Councillor.

8. Finding

8.1 Councillor Brown failed to comply with paragraph 3(1) of the Code of Conduct for
Members adopted by the Council in June 2007 by using a racial slur against a fellow
Councillor at the Full Council meeting held on 24th February 2009. She failed to treat
Councillor Jethwa with respect.

Page 9 of 11
Report of an investigation under Section 59 of the Local
Government Act 2000 by Shahzia Daya appointed by the
monitoring officer for Bristol City Council into an allegation
concerning Councillor Shirley Brown.

8.2 There is no breach of paragraph 3(2)(a) as this incident has not caused the Council
to breach any equality laws.

8.3 There is no breach of paragraph 3(2)(b) as this was an isolated incident and the
intent was not to bully Councillor Jethwa.

8.4 There has been significant public and Press interest in this matter. The comments made
were insulting and offensive. A finding that paragraph 5 of the Code has been breached
can only be made if the committee is satisfied that Councillor Brown’s comments were
sufficiently unreasonable and offensive to be capable of reducing public confidence in
the office of Councillor.

8.5 In coming to my findings, I have taken the following into consideration;

- This was an isolated incident that took place during a heated and fractious political
debate.

- What was said was perceived to be offensive and insulting. Clearly there is a degree of
subjectivity about how insulting and offensive a term is considered to be. Dictionary
definitions and witness evidence lead me to believe that the comments were offensive
and wholly inappropriate but did not amount to racial abuse.

- Councillor Brown has shown remorse and apologised promptly to Councillor Jethwa.
She accepts that her comments were offensive and unacceptable.

If I am asked to recommend a sanction then I would say that NO FURTHER ACTION is


required given that Councillor Brown has apologised for her comments.
The Committee may wish to consider recommending further training for all Councillors
on behaviour expected at Full Council given the general debate that took place on 24th
February 2009.

Pursuant to the Local Government Act 2000, this report must now be considered by the
Standards Committee at a Hearings Sub Committee.

Shahzia Daya

Investigating Officer
22nd June 2009

Page 10 of 11
Report of an investigation under Section 59 of the Local
Government Act 2000 by Shahzia Daya appointed by the
monitoring officer for Bristol City Council into an allegation
concerning Councillor Shirley Brown.

Appendix A
Schedule of evidence taken into account

Core Documents

Doc No Description Pages


1 Mr Taylor’s complaint form 13 - 22

2 Cllr Goulandris’ (on behalf of the 23 - 32


Conservative party) complaint form
3 Webcast footage

4 Telephone Interview with Cllr Jethwa 33 - 36

5 Interview with Cllr Brown- accompanied by 37 - 40


Cllr Bailey
6 Interview with Sharon Foster 41 - 42

7 Interview with Martino Burgess 43 - 44

8 Interview with Clement McLarty 45 - 46

9 Interview with Primrose Mackintosh 47 - 48

10 Comments on draft report from Councillor 49 - 50


Goulandris

Page 11 of 11
COMPLAINT FORM :
CODE OF CONDUCT FOR MEMBERS

please read the ‘INFORMATION FOR POTENTIAL COMPLAINANTS’


before completing this form.

To The Chairman,
Standards Sub-Committee (Initial Assessment)

A. Your details

1. Please provide us with your name and contact details. Anonymous


complaints will only be considered if there is independent evidence
to substantiate the complaint.

Title: Mr
First name: James
Last name: Taylor
Address:

Contact
telephone:
Email address:
Signature:
Date of 02.03.09
complaint:

Your address and contact details will not usually be released unless
necessary or to deal with your complaint.
The following people will see this form:

Members of the Standards Sub-Committee (Initial


Assessment)
Monitoring Officer of the City Council and representatives

A brief summary of your complaint may also be shared, by the


relevant Sub-Committee with the Member(s) you are complaining
against. If you have serious concerns about your name and a
summary, or details of your complaint being released, please
complete Section C of this Form and also discuss your reasons or
concerns with the Council’s Monitoring Officer.

2. Please tell us which complainant type best describes you:

* A member of the public


An elected or co-opted Member of the Council
An independent member of a Standards Committee
A Member of Parliament
A Monitoring Officer
Other council employee, contractor or agent of the Council
Other ( )

3. Equality Monitoring Form - please fill in the attached form.

B. Making your complaint

The sanctions available to a Standards Committee are governed by


law and more serious sanctions are only available to the
Adjudication Panel for England. For a brief summary of sanctions
available, please see information at the end of this Form.

4. Please provide us with the name of the member(s) you believe have
breached the City Council’s Code of Conduct:

2
Title First name Last name
Mrs Shirley Brown

5. Please explain in this section (or on separate sheet(s)) what the


Member is alleged to have done that you believe breaches the
Code of Conduct. If you are complaining about more than one
member you should clearly explain what each individual person has
done, with dates / witnesses to substantiate the alleged breach.

It is also important that you provide all the evidence you wish to
have taken into account by the Standards Committee when it
decides whether to take any action on your complaint or not. For
example:

You should be specific, wherever possible, about exactly what


you are alleging the member said or did. For instance, instead
of writing that the member insulted you, you should state what
it was they said or did to insult you.
You should provide the dates of the alleged incidents
wherever possible. If you cannot provide exact dates it is
important to give a general timeframe.
You should confirm whether there are any witnesses to the
alleged conduct and provide their names and contact details if
possible.
You should provide any relevant background information or
other relevant documentary evidence to support your
allegation(s).
If the allegation(s) being made occurred over 28 days since
the alleged behaviour or conduct, clearly explain why the
complaint was not made during that period of time.

Please provide us with the details of your complaint. Continue on a


separate sheet if there is not enough space on this form.

3
It is with absolute disgust that I write concerning the actions of
Councillor Shirley Brown. I have viewed the footage of the meeting for
myself and am absolutely appalled at the behaviour of this woman. I
understand her passionate views regarding this particular budget,
however this is no defence for her actions as there are many people
who feel just as passionately about other budget sectors that come
under pressure. If all Councillors behaved in this manner the city
would become a laughing stock. I cannot express the fury I feel
regarding Councillors comments related to Mrs Jay Jethwa. It is
simply disgusting that she feels this terminology is an acceptable way
to address a colleague. Were I to deride a BME colleague in my work
place with such language I would be immediately suspended and
investigated. It is clear that Mrs Brown is unfit to represent the city of
Bristol as a Councillor, not just because of her racist remarks which
must stem from a deep rooted inherent racist nature, but due to her
lack of ability to articulate arguments in an appropriate manner without
having to resort to personal attacks and shouting nonsense at the top
of her voice.

Cllr Brown is clearly shown in video footage and in front of a council


chamber to be violating the council code of conduct paragraph 3
sections 1,2 a & b and paragraph 5. Cllr Brown should also re-read the
Ten General Principles of Public Life and see if her behaviour is
befitting of these words of advice? I feel she has failed on a number of
accounts.

Mrs Brown obviously feels it is acceptable to use her BME status as a


shield to hide behind actions which are totally unacceptable. Would
this exchange be viewed any differently if Cllr Eddy were to reply “Mrs
Brown, we have a phrase for you in our culture, it is a stupid ******” I
almost certainly feel so. Mrs Brown should be held to account for the
offence she has caused and for the embarrassment she has caused
the city. To defend herself in a national paper saying “I cannot be
racist because I am black” is no better argument than Ron Atkinson
used by saying he couldn’t be racist because he had black friends.
I am ashamed that a person with such a low regard for the right to
equal debate and opinion should be in a privileged position of office. I
believe with this outburst she has done more to harm race relations
and the public view of Bristol than we can have imagined. In fact, her
behaviour would probably be more suited to 1759 when racism was
acceptable. Not in 2009. Not in my city.

4
(Continue on separate sheet(s), as necessary)

C. Confidentiality of complainant and the complaint details

Only complete this next section if you are requesting that your
identity is kept confidential

6. In the interests of fairness and in compliance with the rules of


natural justice, we believe members who are complained about
have a right to know who has made the complaint and the
substance of the allegation(s) made against him / her. We are,
therefore, unlikely to withhold your personal details or the details of
your complaint unless you have good reasons to believe that you
have justifiable grounds, for example:-
• you believe you may be victimised or harassed by the Member(s)
against whom you are submitting a written complaint (or by a
person associated with the same); or
• may receive less favourable treatment from the Council because
of the seniority of the Member against whom you are submitting
a written complaint in terms of any existing Council service
provision or any tender / contract that you may have or are about
to submit to the Council.

Please note that requests for confidentiality or requests for


suppression of the personal and complaint details will not
automatically be granted. The Standards Sub-Committee (Initial
Assessment) will consider the request alongside the substance of
your complaint and the Monitoring Officer will then contact you with
the decision. If your request for confidentiality is not granted, we will
usually allow you the opportunity, if you so wish, of withdrawing your
complaint.

However, it is important to understand that - in exceptional


circumstances, where the matter complained about is very serious -
we may proceed with an investigation (or other action) and may
have no choice but to disclose your personal and complaint details,
because of the allegation(s) made, even if you have expressly
asked us not to.

Please provide us with details of why you believe we should


withhold your name and/or the details of your complaint:

5
(Continue on separate sheet(s), as necessary)

D. Remedy sought

7. Please indicate the remedy or remedies you are looking for or


hoping to achieve by submitting this complaint.
I believe that there are many possible remedies for this situation. It is not for me
to decide what is fitting in this instance, however I provide 3-4 suggestions.

Firstly I believe cllr Brown should serve some form of punishment, in line with
the councils policy for breach of racial discrimination guidelines. Secondly,
should cllr Brown still wish to represent the city of Bristol as a councillor, she
should issue a full public apology to the citizens of Bristol in which she should
admit that her behaviour has damaged the wider public image of the city of
Bristol. Cllr Brown should also attend equalities training and be made to work on
a project which would positively impact on race relations between black and
asian communities. As actions speak louder than words I believe that cllr Brown
could restore a lot of good faith by being proactive in forming or working in a
race relations programme.
These are a few suggestions that would go some way to repairing the damage
done by cllr Browns behaviour

(Continue on separate sheet(s), as necessary)

6
E. Additional information

8. Complaints must be submitted in writing. This includes fax and


electronic submissions.

9. If your complaint is considered frivolous, vexatious or politically


motivated then it is likely to be rejected.

10. In line with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act


2000, we can make reasonable adjustments to assist you if you
have a disability that prevents you from making your complaint in
writing. We can also help if English is not your first language.

11. If you need any support in completing this form, please contact the
Monitoring Officer as soon as possible.

F. Process from here

12. Once a valid complaint relating to an alleged breach of the Code of


Conduct for Members has been received by the Monitoring Officer,
it will be presented to a meeting of the Standards Sub-Committee
(Initial Assessment) for consideration / determination. You and the
member against whom the complaint has been made will not be
allowed to attend the deliberations of the Sub-Committee as the
matter will be considered in private.

13. The Sub-Committee may resolve to:


(a) dismiss your complaint, with reasons;
(b) ask you for additional information, with reasons;
(c) refer your complaint to the Monitoring Officer for investigation (or
other action); or
(d) refer your complaint to the Standards Board for England if the
complaint does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Standards
Committee.

14. You will be notified after the meeting and given information on any
further stage(s) in the process at that time.

7
Head of Legal Services (Monitoring Officer)
Bristol City Council
Council House
College Green
Bristol BS1 5TR

Tel: 0117 92 22839


Fax: 0117 92 22172

8th May 2008

8
Bristol City Council
- Information for monitoring purposes only -

Ethnic Origin

Choose one section from (A) to (E) then tick the appropriate box to
indicate your cultural background. These are based on the 2001 Census
with additional categories included.

A White
British Albanian/Kosovan Romany
Irish Bosnian

Any other White background please write here :

B Mixed
White and Black - Caribbean Asian and Black
White and Black – African White and Asian

Any other Mixed background please write here :

C Asian or Asian British


Indian Kashmiri
Pakistani Bangladeshi

Other Asian background please write here :

D Black or Black British


Caribbean African

Any other Black background please write here :

E Chinese or other ethnic group


Chinese Arab Afghan
Vietnamese Kurdish

Any other please write here :

9
COMPLAINT FORM :
CODE OF CONDUCT FOR MEMBERS

please read the ‘INFORMATION FOR POTENTIAL COMPLAINANTS’


before completing this form.

To The Chairman,
Standards Sub-Committee (Initial Assessment)

A. Your details

1. Please provide us with your name and contact details. Anonymous


complaints will only be considered if there is independent evidence
to substantiate the complaint.

Title: Councillor
First name: John
Last name: Goulandris
Address: C/o Conservative Group Office
The Council House, Room U01,
College Green, Bristol, BS1 5TR
Contact 0117 922 2227
telephone:
Email address: John.goulandris@bristol.gov.uk
Signature:

Date of 04.03.09
complaint:

Your address and contact details will not usually be released unless
necessary or to deal with your complaint.
The following people will see this form:

Members of the Standards Sub-Committee (Initial


Assessment)
Monitoring Officer of the City Council and representatives

A brief summary of your complaint may also be shared, by the


relevant Sub-Committee with the Member(s) you are complaining
against. If you have serious concerns about your name and a
summary, or details of your complaint being released, please
complete Section C of this Form and also discuss your reasons or
concerns with the Council’s Monitoring Officer.

2. Please tell us which complainant type best describes you:

A member of the public


X An elected or co-opted Member of the Council
An independent member of a Standards Committee
A Member of Parliament
A Monitoring Officer
Other council employee, contractor or agent of the Council
Other ( )

3. Equality Monitoring Form - please fill in the attached form.

B. Making your complaint

The sanctions available to a Standards Committee are governed by


law and more serious sanctions are only available to the
Adjudication Panel for England. For a brief summary of sanctions
available, please see information at the end of this Form.

4. Please provide us with the name of the member(s) you believe have
breached the City Council’s Code of Conduct:

Title First name Last name


Cllr Shirley Brown

2
5. Please explain in this section (or on separate sheet(s)) what the
Member is alleged to have done that you believe breaches the
Code of Conduct. If you are complaining about more than one
member you should clearly explain what each individual person has
done, with dates / witnesses to substantiate the alleged breach.

It is also important that you provide all the evidence you wish to
have taken into account by the Standards Committee when it
decides whether to take any action on your complaint or not. For
example:

You should be specific, wherever possible, about exactly what


you are alleging the member said or did. For instance, instead
of writing that the member insulted you, you should state what
it was they said or did to insult you.
You should provide the dates of the alleged incidents
wherever possible. If you cannot provide exact dates it is
important to give a general timeframe.
You should confirm whether there are any witnesses to the
alleged conduct and provide their names and contact details if
possible.
You should provide any relevant background information or
other relevant documentary evidence to support your
allegation(s).
If the allegation(s) being made occurred over 28 days since
the alleged behaviour or conduct, clearly explain why the
complaint was not made during that period of time.

Please provide us with the details of your complaint. Continue on a


separate sheet if there is not enough space on this form.

3
The Conservative Group is dismayed and shocked by Councillor Shirley Brown's use
of racist slang against a Councillor Jay Jethwa during the debate on the Conservative
Revenue Budget amendment at the Council's Budget-fixing meeting of Tuesday, 24th
February 2009.

If you need any reminder, I refer you to the Council webcast of this event. Here Cllr
Brown personally attacks my colleague, Cllr Jethwa, as follows: “In our culture we
have a word for you .. we have a word that we use and I am sure many in our city will
understand... it's coconut. At the end of the day I look at you as that.” There was also
some obscure (but derogatory) reference made to “the water is either thrown away or
drinking it (sic).”

This is an outrageous racist metaphor, which many will find as offensive as any other
racial epithet. To discover from Shirley's own admission that it is used in common
parlance in her “culture” to describe other BME individuals is equally damning.

Cllr Brown has long been something of a self-proclaimed expert at recognising racism
in others - usually those who do not share her particular ethnocentric point of view.

Aside from owing Cllr Jethwa an unreserved apology, the very least we should expect
is a censure for such appalling behaviour from the new Leader of Council.

In our view, Cllr Brown has further compounded her earlier serious error of judgement
by making equally racist, outrageous and offensive claims in the national and local
press. In last Saturday's newspapers (28th February 2009), she is quoted as saying
“I’m black so how can I be racist?” A statement which exposes her quite stupefying
ignorance on this subject.

Perhaps Shirley ought to be sent on a race awareness course to learn the error of her
ways? What sort of example does she set for those from the BME community who
might be considering standing for Council? How does this square with Cllr Brown’s
role as an Operation Black Vote (OBV) mentor when she so flagrantly betrays a racist
mentality against a fellow mentor (Cllr Jay Jethwa)? It is an absolute disgrace.

It is our understanding that under the Council's equalities policies and standards, there
is a duty on all employees to eliminate and report harassment. At the Council Meeting
there was a blatant instance of racial harassment (verbal abuse) on the part of Cllr
Brown.

Furthermore, as this Council has adopted the Macpherson definition of what


constitutes a racist incident, namely “any incident which is perceived to be racist by
the victim or by any other person” this is a clear case of Cllr Brown having breached
paras 3(1), 3(2)(b) and 5 of the Code of Conduct for Members.

Given the entirely inadequate response in dealing with this issue so far, the
Conservative Group formally requests that this matter is referred to the Standards
Committee.

4
(Continue on separate sheet(s), as necessary)

C. Confidentiality of complainant and the complaint details

Only complete this next section if you are requesting that your
identity is kept confidential

6. In the interests of fairness and in compliance with the rules of


natural justice, we believe members who are complained about
have a right to know who has made the complaint and the
substance of the allegation(s) made against him / her. We are,
therefore, unlikely to withhold your personal details or the details of
your complaint unless you have good reasons to believe that you
have justifiable grounds, for example:-

5
• you believe you may be victimised or harassed by the Member(s)
against whom you are submitting a written complaint (or by a
person associated with the same); or
• may receive less favourable treatment from the Council because
of the seniority of the Member against whom you are submitting
a written complaint in terms of any existing Council service
provision or any tender / contract that you may have or are about
to submit to the Council.

Please note that requests for confidentiality or requests for


suppression of the personal and complaint details will not
automatically be granted. The Standards Sub-Committee (Initial
Assessment) will consider the request alongside the substance of
your complaint and the Monitoring Officer will then contact you with
the decision. If your request for confidentiality is not granted, we will
usually allow you the opportunity, if you so wish, of withdrawing your
complaint.

However, it is important to understand that - in exceptional


circumstances, where the matter complained about is very serious -
we may proceed with an investigation (or other action) and may
have no choice but to disclose your personal and complaint details,
because of the allegation(s) made, even if you have expressly
asked us not to.

Please provide us with details of why you believe we should


withhold your name and/or the details of your complaint:

N/A

(Continue on separate sheet(s), as necessary)

6
D. Remedy sought

7. Please indicate the remedy or remedies you are looking for or


hoping to achieve by submitting this complaint.

Equalities training.

Referral of Cllr Brown to the Standards Board for England for a


lengthy period of suspension

(Continue on separate sheet(s), as necessary)

E. Additional information

8. Complaints must be submitted in writing. This includes fax and


electronic submissions.

9. If your complaint is considered frivolous, vexatious or politically


motivated then it is likely to be rejected.

10. In line with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act


2000, we can make reasonable adjustments to assist you if you
have a disability that prevents you from making your complaint in
writing. We can also help if English is not your first language.

11. If you need any support in completing this form, please contact the
Monitoring Officer as soon as possible.

7
F. Process from here

12. Once a valid complaint relating to an alleged breach of the Code of


Conduct for Members has been received by the Monitoring Officer,
it will be presented to a meeting of the Standards Sub-Committee
(Initial Assessment) for consideration / determination. You and the
member against whom the complaint has been made will not be
allowed to attend the deliberations of the Sub-Committee as the
matter will be considered in private.

13. The Sub-Committee may resolve to:


(a) dismiss your complaint, with reasons;
(b) ask you for additional information, with reasons;
(c) refer your complaint to the Monitoring Officer for investigation (or
other action); or
(d) refer your complaint to the Standards Board for England if the
complaint does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Standards
Committee.

14. You will be notified after the meeting and given information on any
further stage(s) in the process at that time.

Head of Legal Services (Monitoring Officer)


Bristol City Council
Council House
College Green
Bristol BS1 5TR

Tel: 0117 92 22839


Fax: 0117 92 22172

8th May 2008

8
Bristol City Council
- Information for monitoring purposes only -

Ethnic Origin

Choose one section from (A) to (E) then tick the appropriate box to
indicate your cultural background. These are based on the 2001 Census
with additional categories included.

A White
X British Albanian/Kosovan Romany
Irish Bosnian

Any other White background please write here :

B Mixed
White and Black - Caribbean Asian and Black
White and Black – African White and Asian

Any other Mixed background please write here :

C Asian or Asian British


Indian Kashmiri
Pakistani Bangladeshi

Other Asian background please write here :

D Black or Black British


Caribbean African

Any other Black background please write here :

E Chinese or other ethnic group


Chinese Arab Afghan
Vietnamese Kurdish

Any other please write here :

9
WITNESS STATEMENT OF COUNCILLOR J. JETHWA

Present:

Councillor J. Jethwa,
Shahzia Daya, (Investigating Officer)

Interview conducted by telephone.

Councillor Jethwa was informed that notes of the investigation would be taken and that
Shahzia Daya had been appointed by the Monitoring Officer to undertake an investigation
under the Local Government Act 2000.

The information contained in the letter to Councillor Jethwa on 22 April was referred to and
Councillor Jethwa was told that she could request a break at any time or ask for a question
to be re-phrased if she didn’t understand it.

The need for confidentiality was emphasised and the decision as to what information would
be made public would ultimately lie with the Standards Committee.

Question:
How long have you been a member?

Answer:
I was elected in May 2007.

Question:
What training have you had on the Code of Conduct?

Answer:
Shortly after joining I attended an induction session and I am familiar with the Code of
Conduct for Members.

Question:
What race awareness training have you had?

Answer:
I cannot recall anything specific.

Question:
Can you explain in your own words what you believe racial harassment to be?

Answer:
Harassment on the basis of racial background.

Question:
How would you differentiate between the usual political banter during a meeting for Council
and something that crosses the line ie. an insult?

Answer:
It is a comment directed personally at me which is a racial insult and therefore oversteps
the line.
1
Question:
Can you explain how you felt when the comments were made?

Answer:
I was shocked to begin with and had to watch the web cast to confirm what was actually
said. It was very upsetting on the day and the Press coverage was very worrying for me
and for the rest of my family. They were afraid of what would happen, especially as the
window on my house was broken that week.

Question:
Did you find the comments offensive?

Answer:
I find the term used to be deeply upsetting both to me and implying that it was bad to be
white. This comment kept going around in my head and I found it offensive and
unacceptable.

Question:
What did you believe was meant by the term coconut?

Answer:
Brown on the outside and white on the inside. Meaning/implying someone who has in a way
lost their racial background/identity and joined the ‘’white’’ way of thinking/life.

Question:
What do you think Councillor Marshall meant when she went on to say “at the end of the
day I just look at you as that and the water is either worth throwing away or drinking it”.

Answer:
That my comments were not worth much ie. in addition to being a coconut, that is, brown on
the outside and white on the inside, my comments were so worthless that she would just
throw them away like the coconut water.

Question:
Do you accept that the comments about not using the coconut water makes the coconut
comment less offensive?

Answer:
No. Both comments were offensive and the coconut comment was made even more
offensive by the addition of the reference to the coconut water being thrown away.

Question:
Have you ever used the term coconut?

Answer:
No.

Question:
Why did you not say anything during the meeting?
2
Answer:
I was distracted and was not sure what had been said until I saw the web cam.

Councillor Jethwa added that she had never had any racial comment like that from another
BME person.

She had also made similar speeches twice before, during the 2007/08 budget and the state
of the city debate in 2007. No comments like these were ever made and, although used to
disagreement, this had never been in the terms expressed by Councillor Brown.

Interview started at 11am and completed 11.20am.

Ref:\LIT/SCD/JD5/403
28/04/09

3
INTERVIEW OF COUNCILLOR SHIRLEY BROWN

Present:

Councillor Shirley Brown, (Subject of Complaint)


Councillor Mark Bailey, (Friend/Advisor)
Shahzia Daya, (Investigating Officer)
Katia Daw, (Observer)

Councillor Brown was informed that notes of the investigation would be taken and that
Shahzia Daya had been appointed by the Monitoring Officer to undertake an investigation
under the Local Government Act 2000.

The information contained in the letter to Councillor Brown on 22 April was referred to and
Councillor Brown was told that she could request a break at any time or ask for a question
to be re-phrased if she didn’t understand it.

The need for confidentiality was emphasised and the decision as to what information would
be made public would ultimately lie with the Standards Committee.

The web cast showing Cllr Jethwa’s speech and Councillor Brown’s speech was viewed by
all present.

Question:
How long have you been a member?

Answer:
Since 2003.

Question:
What training have you had on the Code of Conduct?

Answer:
Training was provided during the induction process in 2003 and Councillor Marshall
attended a refresher session in 2007.

Question:
What race awareness training have you had?

Answer:
I have delivered many sessions and done much preparation for these.

Question:
Are you aware that your comments were recorded as a racist incident in the Council’s
Harassment Procedure?

Answer:
I didn’t believe it to be racist – there was no racial connotation meant. No way would I
deliberately use a racial connotation.

Question:
Can you explain in your own words what you believe racial harassment to be.

1
Answer:
It’s harassment based on race.

Question:
Can you explain what led you to make the comments that you made?

Answer:
They were not meant with any racial connotation. Councillor Jethwa spoke about funding,
that she was from an East African background, she made reference to socialist style
handouts, referred to the use of the English language and made reference to the Legacy
Commission by saying that the Council was trying to make futile attempts to write historic
wrongs. I was angry. She is from Africa and the Commission is there to help people know
their history. She is from Africa and should have an understanding of the Legacy
Commission.

Question:
What did you mean by the term coconut?

Answer:
I meant that she is in denial of her roots. No racial connotation was meant, simply that she
had no knowledge of her history/roots given that she was from Africa.

Question:
Have you ever used the term coconut before?

Answer:
Only when talking amongst my friends. It is not used in an insulting manner- just someone
who does not know their roots.

Question:
One definition of coconut is that somebody is brown on the outside and white on the inside
– is that what you meant?

Answer:
That is not my definition of a coconut. I meant that she was simply in denial of her roots
given that she is from Africa. I then went on to say that coconut water can be used or
thrown away ie. that I will disregard her comments and throw them away.

Question:
You used the words ‘in my community’ – what did you mean by this?

Answer:
I meant within the African Caribbean community where the term coconut is used about
African Caribbean people who are in denial of their roots.

Question:
Would you have said these words to a white councillor?

Answer:
If the were a white African then yes. I would say this to anybody regardless of their race
where I believe they are in denial of their roots.

2
Question:
Did you comment to the Press that you could not be racist as you are black?

Answer:
No. This was misinterpreted. I do not agree with that statement at all. A reporter
telephoned me after I had just come back from a funeral and misinterpreted what I had said
to him.

Question:
Do you think your comments have caused embarrassment to the City?

Answer:
I would never want to bring shame to the Council or my Party. On the day, once I realised it
had caused offence, I sent an apology to Councillor Jethwa. I accept that it was a clumsy
use of words. I am appalled and do not accept racist comments against me or others. In
hindsight, I should have said things differently. I am saddened at how my comments were
received and I am still in shock and disbelief at how the matter has escalated. It was an off
the cuff remark and not part of my prepared speech and was said in the heat of the
moment.

Question:
What lead you to apologise?

Answer:
My comments were received wrongly and misinterpreted. This lead to Councillor Jethwa
being offended and I wanted to make it right. I was shocked at the way the comments were
received and my Leader sent a letter to all Councillors confirming that I had apologised to
Councillor Jethwa. I felt it was appropriate to apologise and have had no response from
Councillor Jethwa since making my apologies. I do not believe that my apology has been
accepted and this has turned into a political issue rather than something that we could sort
out between ourselves.

Question:
Do you believe that you have caused offence and that your comments were unacceptable?

Answer:
Yes I accept that I have caused offence and that my comments were unacceptable.

Interview started at 1:50 pm and concluded at 2:35 pm

Ref:\LIT/SCD/JD5/403
28/04/09

3
NOTES OF INTERVIEW WITH Sharon Foster

Present:

Sharon Foster
Shahzia Daya, (Investigating Officer)

Sharon Foster was informed that notes of the investigation would be taken and
that Shahzia Daya had been appointed by the Monitoring Officer to undertake an
investigation under the Local Government Act 2000.

Ms Foster was told that she could request a break at any time or ask for a
question to be re-phrased if she didn’t understand it.

The need for confidentiality was emphasised and the decision as to what
information would be made public would ultimately lie with the Standards
Committee.

Question
As a British Jamaican, can you tell me what the word 'coconut' means to you?
Answer
When a black person within your minority group, does not agree with your
sentiments- lots of similar phrases used, such as 'bounty'.
Question
One definition is someone who is brown on the outside and white on the inside.
Have you heard this?
Answer
No- it's just a phrase. It means someone that is black who does not agree with
your point of view- on that particular issue and, therefore, their views have
changed.
Question
Another definition used is that it is someone who is in denial of their roots. Have
you heard this?
Answer
No- it's not that strong.
Question
Would you use the term coconut to a white person?
Answer
No- I've only heard it used in a black setting ie within the black community.

Interview started 3.50pm and ended 4pm.


NOTES OF INTERVIEW WITH M BURGESS

Interview carried out by telephone on the morning of 20th May 2009.

The investigating Officer, Shahzia Daya, informed Ms Burgess that she had
been appointed by the Monitoring Officer to undertake an investigation
under the Local Government Act 2000 and that notes of the interview would
be taken.

The need for confidentiality was emphasised and the decision as to what
information would be made public would ultimately lie with the Standards
Committee.

Ms Burgess was informed that the Committee may also wish to call her as
a witness but this would be confirmed once the final report had been
written for the Committee.

Question
Can you tell me what the word 'coconut' means to you?

Answer
It means someone who is a sell out to their race. They have forgotten where they
have come from.

Question
One definition is someone who is brown on the outside and white on the inside.
Have you heard this?

Answer
I have heard it. Jamaican culture has a number of words that literally mean one
thing but within the culture is understood as something else/differently.

Question
Another definition used is that it is someone who is in denial of their roots. Have
you heard this?

Answer
Yes. That’s exactly it.

Question
Would you use the term coconut to a white person?

Answer
No- it’s an internal cultural phrase.
Ms Burgess added that the term ‘coconut’ is not a pleasant term but no more
unpleasant than being called a ‘muppet’ or ‘numpty’. It’s an instantaneous
comment- not a strong statement- not the worst thing you can call someone.
Something like ‘Uncle Tom’ is worse.

Interview lasted 15 minutes.


NOTES OF INTERVIEW WITH CLEMENT MCLARTY

Interview carried out by telephone on 15th May 2009.

The Investigating Officer, Shahzia Daya, informed Mr McLarty that she


had been appointed by the Monitoring Officer to undertake an
investigation under the Local Government Act 2000 and that notes of the
interview would be taken.

The need for confidentiality was emphasised and the decision as to


what information would be made public would ultimately lie with the
Standards Committee.

Mr McLarty was informed that the Committee may also wish to call him
as a witness but this would be confirmed once the final report had been
written for the Committee.

Question

Can you tell me what the word 'coconut' means to you?

Answer

From a cultural perspective, it means someone of colour who doesn’t know


where they are coming from, their cultural heritage. They refuse to
acknowledge their cultural heritage and those of others regardless of their
back ground. For example, a person of colour who were brought in an African
Caribbean community, who for personal gratification, or to score brownie
points for a particular reason, or for political and social gain turn their back on
that community from which they originated or demographically link to, or see
as a problem - look down on that community and or speaks ill of that
community and its people.

Question

One definition is someone who is brown on the outside and white on the
inside. Have you heard this?

Answer

Yes I have heard that expression. From a cultural prospective it is like a


façade. What you are on the inside is different from how you portray your self
in the outside. The African Caribbean community has suffered from a long line
of so called BME representatives who do not actually represent that
community with honour, respect and integrity. So when someone stands up
and openly disrespects any aspect of the BME community, that person is
immediately challenged.
Question

Another definition used is that it is someone who is in denial of their roots.


Have you heard this?

Answer

Yes- it ties in with my answer to your first question. Within the African
Caribbean cultural diaspora, It’s an almost taboo subject, not that it is not
talked and debated, but in terms of no one wants to be thought of as a “sell
out” it has a slavery aspect to it, meaning selling one to another with no
consequence for your actions or the impact it has on another . It is indicative
of a refusal to accept who you are.

My parents told me about my culture, so that I would pass this on to my


children in order that they don’t forget their roots, this is important to all
people, not only people of colour. Social pressures all too easily push away
one’s heritage in place of popular culture.

Question

Would you use the term coconut to a white person?

Answer

No, I wouldn’t use it for a white person myself- it’s for anyone of colour who
ignores there cultural heritage. However the same could be said of white
people not recognising ones cultural heritage in place of another, only to
make some form of gain or denial of another’s rights.

Interview lasted 15 minutes.


NOTES OF INTERVIEW WITH P MACKINTOSH

Interview carried out by telephone 20th May 2009.

The investigating Officer, Shahzia Daya, informed Ms Mackintosh that she


had been appointed by the Monitoring Officer to undertake an investigation
under the Local Government Act 2000 and that notes of the interview would
be taken.

The need for confidentiality was emphasised and the decision as to what
information would be made public would ultimately lie with the Standards
Committee.

Ms Mackintosh was informed that the Committee may also wish to call her
as a witness but this would be confirmed once the final report had been
written for the Committee.

Question
Can you tell me what the word 'coconut' means to you?

Answer
It refers to someone who is non white who is inept of any of their own culture.
They do not reflect any of their Jamaican culture- turned their back on their own
heritage and taken on someone else’s culture completely. They have buried their
own culture.

Question
One definition is someone who is brown on the outside and white on the inside.
Have you heard this?

Answer
Yes but it does not completely describe the term. I have called my own husband
a coconut- it is a joke.

Question
Another definition used is that it is someone who is in denial of their roots. Have
you heard this?

Answer
Yes. I agree with that definition.

Question
Would you use the term coconut to a white person?

Answer
No I would not. Logically a white person cannot be a coconut.

Ms Mackintosh added that she has many white friends and uses the term
frequently- without causing offence.
She tells two white friends that they are trapped in the wrong bodies as they
totally deny their British heritage. They are the opposite of a coconut and I do not
find the term racially offensive.

Interview duration: 15 minutes.


Firstly, apologies for slight delay in responding due to holidays.

You have asked for comments from the Conservative Group to the officer
recommendation THAT NO FURTHER ACTION is required to deal with the
breach of the Code of Conduct for Members by Councillor Shirley Brown

It should come as little surprise to you that we are extremely disappointed with
this draft recommendation and indeed baffled by many of the findings needed to
reach this strange and totally unacceptable conclusion.

In order to arrive at this result, you seem to have rather meekly adopted or
applied the most benign definition possible for the racial slur used by Cllr Brown.

Moreover, there seems to be an unquestioning acceptance of the explanation


given for her motivations in using such intemperate language.

Far from being a one-off instance of racism, made in the moment of a heated and
fractious political debate, Cllr Brown openly admits to having previously used the
offensive term involved before to describe people ‘like’ Cllr Jethwa:

“In our culture we have a word for you ... we have a word that we use ... it’s
coconut.”

We contend that this was a carefully calculated insult, designed to wound with
maximum effect a fellow BME Councillor, who would know only too well the racial
connotations that lie behind it. Cllr Brown’s arguments as to her intention in this
regard are quite frankly ludicrous.

In any event, since Macpherson (and this Council) adopted what may be termed
as a subjective test for what constitutes a racist incident, namely “any incident
which is perceived as racist by the victim or any other person”, Cllr Brown’s intent
becomes something of an irrelevance here.

Moreover, we would argue that the sustained use of racist slang and abuse in the
Council Chamber remains completely inexcusable, whether made during the
course of an argument or not.

Her failure to treat others with respect (breach of para 3(1) of the Code of
Conduct) is irrefutable.

However, we also believe that Cllr Brown has clearly broken para 5 of the Code
by bringing the office of Councillor (and this Council) into disrepute whilst acting
in her official capacity.

The fine ‘lawyerly’ distinctions to which you allude – but make no ruling (as to
degree of offence required to be capable of reducing public confidence in the
office of Councillor) do not, with respect, reflect the reality of what took place on
24th February 2009.

Cllr Brown’s prolonged personal attack on Cllr Jethwa at the Budget-fixing


meeting was webcast and has now been reported and viewed worldwide for all to
see. If we apply a common sense approach to - or rational analysis of - her
actions on that day, one cannot fail but to conclude that she has brought shame
upon Bristol City Council.

If the Standards Committee does not impose a meaningful sanction on Cllr


Brown, this Council’s professed intolerance of racism will be shown to be at best
highly selective and at worst a charade.

I am sure you are aware of the eponymous so-called “Clapham omnibus test.”
How would a reasonable person, one without specialist knowledge or expertise
judge a defendant’s conduct? Applying such criteria here, I suggest that most
ordinary right-thinking Bristolians would not agree with many of your sympathetic
findings and they would certainly not endorse the completely inadequate
response in terms of an appropriate penalty.

A sincere public apology in the chamber by Cllr Brown to Cllr Jethwa on the day
itself might just possibly have been acceptable to Cllr Jethwa, but at this late
stage is totally inadequate.

In summary, we are very concerned that if no further action is the ultimate


conclusion, then this will suggest that Bristol City Council does not take racial
abuse seriously and will leave in tatters years of work promoting racial tolerance.
Justice must be done and must seen to be done and in this case requires a
robust penalty in order to act as a deterrent to any future similar abusive
incidents in the Council chamber.

COUNCILLOR JOHN GOULANDRIS


Conservative Chief Whip

Received 18th June 2009