The trial lasted 10 days and was presided over by High Court Judge, Mr Justice Nicol. I traveled from Margate to Maidstone attend the trial every day. As a member of the public, I requested and was granted permission by Mr Justice Nicol to livetweet direct from the trial so that fellow residents in Margate were able to follow the proceedings. Archive here.
The crime of misconduct in public office is serious, and the bringing of a case to trial extremely rare. There is very little precedent for a councillor being charged with such an offence. The more usual are for the misconduct of police officers.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) definition for the crime of misconduct in public office is:
- a public officer acting as such
- wilfully neglects to perform his duty and/or wilfully misconducts himself
- to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder
- without reasonable excuse or justification
The issue of the abuse of trust is key. Without trust in the officials elected to represent us, what have we? The absence of trust creates a vacuum, a potential breeding ground for corruption and dishonesty. It's clear the CPS intend this case to send a message out clearly that such an abuse of power in local authorities will not be tolerated.
Ezekiel presided over Thanet Council during Margate's recent key regeneration era, which saw the construction and opening of the Turner Contemporary gallery. Millions of pounds poured in from grants. Many in Margate still wonder where some of the money went.
And what did Thanet District and Kent County Councillor Bob Bayford, leader of Thanet Conservatives have to say by way of comment at the news of that Mr Ezekiel has been found guilty of this serious crime of calculated dishonesty?
"I am shocked and saddened that Sandy Ezekiel will start and 18 month jail sentence today...This is a personal tragedy for Sandy and his family but serves as a stark reminder that in public life, the people rightly expect the highest standards of behaviour."Is it not a tragedy for the people of Margate and the unknowing victims in this story?
It was the people of Margate and the entire Thanet area who under Mr Ezekiel were left with a lack of faith in local democracy devoid of trust.
Time for change.