The Conservative leader of the Plymouth City Council has been temporarily suspended by his party after comments he made during an interview with ITV Westcountry.
During the interview, Nick Kelly answered a question related to the Bobbi-Anne McLeod case last Friday, saying, “Everyone has a responsibility not to try to put themselves in a compromising position.”
Bobbi-Anne, who was 18, disappeared on her way to meet friends in the city center. Cody Ackland, a 24-year-old man from Southway, has been charged with his murder and has already appeared in court.
Read next: Police confirm that body found at Bovisand is Bobbi-Anne McLeod
The Plymouth Sutton and Devonport Conservative Association confirmed in a statement this afternoon that Cllr Kelly had been temporarily suspended pending an investigation into the comments he made during an ITV interview on November 25.
While Mr Kelly remains chairman of the council, he will – in effect – be independent, although it is likely that he will continue to be politically aligned with his party.
Cllr Kelly’s comments led to outcry from some sides on social media and from a number of local politicians, while Cllr Tudor Evans, leader of the opposition in Plymouth City Council, replied: “It’s hard to imagine a more insensitive and arrogant thing to say at this time, or indeed at any time. “
Cllr Kelly originally told PlymouthLive: “I in no way imply that Bobbi-Anne did anything wrong in any way.” However, he refused to apologize.
A day after that statement, Cllr released Kelly another opinion online says, “I again unreservedly apologize that my words have removed this focus, at a time when we should all work together to mourn Bobbi-Anne.”
He added: “This tragedy is in no way her fault. What happened to her is solely in the hands of the person who took her life.
“I am aware that an excerpt from an interview I conducted on general social security issues in the city, and comments made in an informal conversation, has been used to suggest the opposite. It could not be further from the truth.”
Following Cllr Kelly’s second attempt at an answer, a group of 16 female Labor councilors and candidates in Plymouth called his statements ‘victim-blaming rhetoric’, causing ‘real distress’ in a letter sent to the councilor.
The joint letter, written by Councilor Sue Dann, asked: “Can you not see how this refusal to withdraw these words for the second time undermines any attempt you may make to claim that you mean it seriously in understanding and tackling the issue of violence against women and girls?
As the leader of our city, you should be unequivocal on the issue of blaming victims and be aware of the power of your words.
We ask you once again to reflect on what you said and the real distress it has caused. Then you might understand why a complete apology and withdrawal is necessary, and highlight that the actual ‘responsibility’ that everyone has is not to harm others.
This would be a way to reassure you that you are aware of the seriousness of this problem and that in the future you will treat it with the seriousness it deserves. “
This afternoon, Plymouth Sutton and the Devonport Conservative Association revealed that Mr Kelly had been suspended from the party from today.
A spokesman for the Plymouth Sutton and Devonport Conservative Association issued a statement earlier this afternoon confirming the temporary suspension and the reason behind it.
They said: “Cllr Nick Kelly’s membership of the Conservative Party has been suspended pending an inquiry following comments he was reported to have made in an ITV interview about 25 November 20212. “
Opposition leader Tudor Evans said in response to the news: “I think this shows the seriousness of the situation and our calls for an apology – which are still unanswered – show that Mr Kelly’s remarks were not taken out. of context and not the subject of political gossip, but was a gross misunderstanding of the situation and feelings of thousands of women throughout the city and beyond. “
PlymouthLive has contacted Mr Kelly for a comment.
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