THE Mayor of Knighton has been suspended for six months as a councillor after he was found guilty of several serious breaches of the Town Council’s Code of Conduct.

A hearing heard that Coun Nick Johns stood up in a public meeting shortly before the coronavirus pandemic, and launched into foul-mouthed abuse at a number of people in attendance.

Powys Council’s standards sub-committee met on Thursday, May 27 to hear the case against Coun Johns, and heard that the incident occurred during a meeting at Knighton Community Centre to discuss the town’s response to the pandemic on March 18, 2020.

He was formally cautioned by Dyfed-Powys Police a few days later on March 30, for the use of threatening, abusive words, and disorderly behaviour.

Ledbury Reporter: Knighton, on the border between Herefordshire and Powys, during the recent fair. Picture: Matt KeelingKnighton, on the border between Herefordshire and Powys, during the recent fair. Picture: Matt Keeling

Mr Johns did not appear at the meeting to explain his actions or send a legal representative to argue his case.

Many groups including church and council representatives had been invited to the meeting.

About 40 minutes in an item arose about an email he had sent to a member of the community centre committee about his attendance.

In it he had said that she was a newcomer, and that the town would be best served by the Knighton community support group, which was full of locals and could better serve the area.

At the meeting, his own local credentials were then questioned at which point, according to witnesses, he became volatile, stood up, and started pointing aggressively at people, and calling them “f****** b******* and w******”.

He then he left the building, got into his car, but pulled up and re-entered the building for a second rant.

He was then followed outside by Reverend Kevin Dare followed and the meeting's secretary Louise Hardwick.

They spoke for a while as Coun Johns aired concerns about the pandemic, but as he left, he turned to Mrs Hardwick and told her to “f*** off".

Ledbury Reporter: The mayor of Knighton told someone to 'f*** off' and has since been suspended. Picture: GeographThe mayor of Knighton told someone to 'f*** off' and has since been suspended. Picture: Geograph

In her evidence, Mrs Hardwick said: “When he had his first outburst, I asked him to calm down and not use this language.”

She then called the police.

“I felt threatened and still feel anxious to this day,” said Mrs Hardwick.

Sinead Cook of the Ombudsman’s office summed up the evidence.

Ms Cook said: “Although there are differing accounts from witnesses as to specific language used by Mr Johns, on balance the standards committee considered there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Coun Johns used disrespectful and abusive language.

“Coun Johns acknowledged during his interview that there clearly was a breach of the code.

“Although the outburst makes it unclear who the comments were directed at, it was clear it had an effect on all present. The behaviour towards Mrs Hardwick was bullying.

“Given Coun Johns' role as Mayor, and the purpose of the meeting to bring people together to discuss how best to assist the Knighton in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, his behaviour was particularly shocking.”

Standards committee chairman, Stephan Hays, said: “We would not expect this behaviour of any town councillor it is an aggravating factor that he is the mayor.

“It is our unanimous decision that we suspend Coun Johns for a period of six months with immediate effect.”

Coun Johns has been contacted for a comment.