Inquiry after councillor "sent out email saying travellers were beaten up"
SOUTH Gloucestershire Council is investigating a councillor after he reportedly sent an e-mail alleging residents had beaten up travellers at a Pilning site.
Conservative councillor Robert Griffin, who represents Pilning and Severn Beach, is reported to have sent an email, which was leaked to the press, alleging that " a few marines and other soldiers on leave from Afghanistan and some of the rugby club", tried to set fire to members of the travelling community.
In the email he allegedly says the perpetrators were "very naughty" but goes on to add: "The moral of this is – if the legal forces are frightened to carry out their responsibility, the community will sort it very quickly".
It is not clear who the email was sent to. Cllr Griffin has since apologised "unreservedly" for the language used in the email.
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Yesterday, he was unavailable for comment but a statement released by the South Gloucestershire Conservative Group said: "The unacceptable language used by Councillor Griffin is completely inappropriate and he has apologised unreservedly for using it. Councillor Griffin does not in any way condone unlawful activity in any form. This issue has become highly emotive amongst some members of the local community and, regrettably, Councillor Griffin's language reflected some of this local frustration. The Conservative Group wants to see local concerns addressed promptly and properly in relation to this matter to ensure peaceful relations between the settled and traveller community."
Police spokesman Martin Dunscombe said the force was unaware of any incident.
He said: "Police are in regular contact with people living in Pilning.
"We have not been made aware of any incidents such as those referred to and would expect the community or their elected representatives to inform us as a matter of urgency.
"Our neighbourhood officers have worked hard to build good relationships with both villagers and members of the travelling community.
"We are now contacting people living on and around the Bank Road site to see if any offences have gone unreported. We will thoroughly investigate any crimes disclosed."
Joseph Jones, a spokesman for the Gypsy Council, said that travellers in Pilning had not reported any incident. He is calling for Cllr Griffin to be dismissed due to the "worrying tone" of the email, and the way he "seemed to be condoning vigilantism".
A South Gloucestershire Council spokesman said: "We are working with the police to investigate the matter but our initial enquiries have provided no evidence that the alleged incident took place.
"However anyone with relevant information should notify their local police. The council has been asked to look into the email and we will follow our formal procedures for dealing with alleged breaches of councillors' code of conduct."