Disgraced ex-Sunderland councillor Paul Middleton expelled from Labour Party
A disgraced ex-Sunderland councillor has been expelled from the Labour Party.
Paul Middleton, who represented the Washington South ward, pleaded guilty to attempting to sexually communicate with a child under the age of 16 yesterday (Tuesday, December 11).
Sunderland City Council this week confirmed the 44-year-old has ceased to be a councillor after failing to attend a council meeting for six months.
Following the hearing at South Shields Magistrates’ Court, a Labour Party spokesman said: “Paul Middleton has been expelled from the Labour Party following his guilty plea and conviction.”
District Judge Roger Elsey heard Middleton had been caught in a sting by undercover police officers while speaking to a girl he believed to be just 12-years-old and living in a care home, over an online chat room in September 2017.
The ex-councillor was first elected in 2015 but was suspended by the Labour Party in June, pending an investigation, after which he was listed as an ‘independent’ councillor.
According to Labour Party rules, a member can be expelled if convicted of a ‘serious offence’.
Middleton is due to appear at Newcastle Crown Court for sentencing on January 10.
A Sunderland City Council spokesman told the Echo: “Paul Middleton last attended a council meeting on Wednesday, June 6 2018, when he attended the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee.
“Under section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972, if a councillor fails throughout a period of six consecutive months from the date of their last attendance to attend any meeting of the authority, they shall, unless the failure was due to some reason approved by the authority before the expiry of that period, cease to be a member of the authority.
“Mr Middleton had not attended a meeting as of midnight Thursday, December 6 2018, he therefore ceased to be a member and the council will declare a vacancy at its next meeting.
“Where a casual vacancy occurs within six months before the day on which the councillor whose office is vacant would regularly have retired, the vacancy is filled at the next ordinary election.”
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service