Paris Brown: Kent youth PCC resigns after Twitter row

Paris Brown: "I have made this decision after a great deal of thought and consultation"

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The UK's first youth police and crime commissioner, Paris Brown, has resigned from her post following criticism of messages she posted on Twitter.

The 17-year-old said she was quitting in the interests of everyone concerned, in particular the young people of Kent.

Police are investigating her over tweets she posted between the ages of 14 and 16 which could be considered racist and anti-gay.

Kent PCC Ann Barnes said it was "a very sad day".

Miss Brown was appointed last week to the £15,000-a-year post six days ago by Ms Barnes, who had said she would stand by her.

'Not racist'

In a statement, the teenager, from Sheerness, said: "I accept that I have made comments on social networking sites which have offended many people and I am really, truly sorry for any offence that has been caused.

"I strongly reiterate that I'm not a racist and I'm not a homophobic [sic]."

Analysis

The resignation of Paris Brown is more than just a huge personal blow to her and an embarrassment to Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner, Ann Barnes.

It runs the risk of undermining confidence in the Home Office's flagship law and order policy.

Critics will argue that if a PCC cannot carry out basic checks on an applicant's background before appointing them what chance have they got of scrutinising complex policing issues and making difficult budgetary decisions?

If the furore over Paris Brown was the only appointments row since the PCC elections last November it could be viewed as a "one off" But it is not.

In Lincolnshire, the PCC, Alan Hardwick, suspended the force's temporary chief constable, Neil Rhodes, only for the decision to be overturned in court, while Northamptonshire's PCC, Adam Simmonds, has been heavily criticised for placing friends in key roles.

No-one expected PCCs to be perfect - but they will have to take a little more care in future.

She added: "I have fallen into the trap of behaving with bravado on social networking sites. I hope that this stands as a learning experience for many other young people."

"I now feel that in the interests of everybody concerned, in particular the young people of Kent who I feel benefit enormously from the role of a youth commissioner, that I should stand down," she said.

Ms Barnes said Miss Brown's tweets were not vetted before she was appointed but she was an "enthusiastic young woman with exceptional skills" who had performed well in a "very tough" interview process.

She said Kent Police's vetting procedures, which were used during the recruitment process, did not normally require social networks to be scrutinised for posts of this grade.

Miss Brown had been asked at the end of her job interview if there were any views she held, or if there was anything in her past that could embarrass her or the youth PCC post, and the teenager's answer had been "no", Ms Barnes added.

She said: "I'm sure many people today would not have the jobs they are in if their thoughts in their teenage years were scrutinised."

She said the events of the past few days had strengthened her desire to create the youth PCC post and she had no plans to resign.

She said Miss Brown would not receive any payment and the youth PCC role would be re-advertised in the summer.

Resignation calls

The teenager was appointed last Wednesday to build a bridge between young people and policing in what was described as a "real hands-on role".

But The Mail on Sunday reported at the weekend Miss Brown had boasted about her sex life, drug-taking and drinking on her Twitter account @vilulabelle and had also posted violent, racist and anti-gay comments. The Twitter page has since been removed.

On Monday, two of Kent's Conservative MPs - Laura Sandys and Damian Collins - said the teenager should step down.

Labour's home affairs select committee chairman Keith Vaz also said he believed her views were "incompatible with holding office".

It later emerged Miss Brown's tweets were being investigated by Kent Police for possible criminal offences after the force received complaints.

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