England

'Too ugly' rape jibe councillor quits as leader

Serena Bowes
Image caption Serena Bowes was on a university trip to Italy when she says she was attacked

A councillor who claimed a woman was too ugly to be raped has resigned as party leader.

Philip Drury, shadow cabinet leader at East Hampshire District Council, made the comment on Facebook about Newcastle College student Serena Bowes.

Ms Bowes, 21, alleges she was attacked in an Italian nightclub in 2014.

Mr Drury has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats group but remains an independent district councillor for the Whitehill ward.

'Appalled'

Ms Bowes had waived her right to anonymity after Italian police said they believed she may have made up the attack.

Image copyright East Hampshire District Council
Image caption Philip Drury blamed his comments on "excessive tiredness"

On a Facebook thread about her case, Mr Drury wrote: "Not sure anyone would want to even think about it looking at her lol."

The BBC was unable to reach Mr Drury for comment, but he was quoted by a local news agency as blaming his message on being "excessively tired following a business trip to China" and "working nights".

The council said it was "appalled" by his comments and launched a disciplinary investigation.

However, its monitoring team - a panel of independent people - was "unable to determine a breach of the code on the basis that Councillor Drury was not acting in his capacity as a councillor".

That conclusion was branded "incredible and deeply disappointing" by council leader Ferris Cowper, of the Conservatives.

He said: "For the record and as you would expect, this council finds the crime of rape to be deeply deplorable not only because of the physical invasion but also the lasting psychological consequences.

"Our only interest as a council would be to offer the victim all the sympathy and assistance possible.

"Further, it is increasingly clear that since the government removed the national body overseeing councillor conduct, called Standards for England, local councils have no effective sanction that can be applied to councillors guilty of this degree of unacceptable conduct."

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