Weymouth councillor suspended ahead of sex offences trial



First published in News
Last updated
Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A Liberal Democrat councillor facing trial over sex offences against a child has been suspended by the party.

The allegations span a period between October 17, 2005, and December 31, 2012, and relate to a single victim who is now 17 years old.

Mr Hope, 22, pictured, denies the allegations.

The councillor, who represents the Westham North ward on Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, is due to face trial in April.

The borough council confirmed that Mr Hope remains a councillor despite his temporary suspension by the national party.

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrat Party said that these were ‘serious allegations’ and that a ‘failure of communications’ meant he had not been suspended earlier.

He said: “These are extremely serious allegations.

“This should have happened last year but a failure to communicate the situation from the local party to the national party meant this did not happen.”

He said that Mr Hope has been suspended as a Liberal Democrat member pending the outcome of his trial.

Mr Hope appeared before Bournemouth Crown Court last month. He pleaded not guilty to one count of raping a child, one count of rape, one of sexual assault of a child and two counts of sexual assault.

Richard Baker, chairman of the South Dorset Constituency Labour Party, wrote to Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg to express concern that Mr Hope had not been asked to stand down pending the outcome of the trial.

A spokesman for Weymouth and Portland Borough Council said: “Cllr Hope remains a councillor although we understand that he has been temporarily suspended from his national party.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group Ian Roebuck said: “It’s fair to say I had discussions with the chief executive of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council and West Dorset District Council on that.”

Mr Roebuck said the party had been informed at national level when Mr Hope first appeared in court.

He added: “But I think it’s fair to say I did not fully take on board the lack of discretion in response.”

Mr Roebuck said he thought it was ‘probably said to him’ that he ought to suspend Mr Hope’s membership, but he did not think he had to.

He added that he ‘thought there was discretion’ in that decision.

“I want to emphasise that Ryan continues to have the full support of all members of the Liberal Democrat group,” he said.

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