Idle Toad hails victory for 'free press'

A Lancashire councillor ordered to apologise after branding a colleague a "defecator" has won his appeal.

South Ribble Coun Tom Sharratt, was censured over the comments made at Coun Jim Marsh in the Idle Toad newsletter.

He insisted the word was a misprint and should have instead read "defector". He was also ordered to apologise in writing to Coun Marsh.

But a hearing by the Adjudication Panel for England ruled that Coun Sharratt had not breached the council's code of conduct.

Panel chairman Chris Hughes also expressed his disappointment at the "disproportionate amount of time and effort that has been spent on this matter".

Coun Sharratt, who has represented Coupe Green and Gregson Lane since 1995, said he was "very pleased".

He added: "The decision guarantees the right of any councillor to publish a newspaper to tell people what's going on.

"It's very significant because a free press is our surest defence against dictatorship."

The offending article was printed in the Idle Toad newsletter last year. In it Coun Marsh was branded a "defecator" over his move to the Conservative party after he quit the Idle Toads in 2007.

Coun Sharratt added: "It was a misprint that was not intended."

The ex-Guardian reporter began writing the Idle Toad – which is distributed to homes in Walton-le-Dale and Bamber Bridge – in 1997.

He was deselected by Labour in 1997 and stood as an Idle Toad ever since. Coun Sharratt has also been county councillor for South Ribble Rural East for 28 years.

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