Councillor charged with child sex offence could lose seat if he misses another Sunderland City Council meeting

Sunderland Civic Centre.
Sunderland Civic Centre.

A Sunderland councillor charged with a child sex offence could lose his council seat this week.

Coun Paul Middleton is due to appear at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court on December 11 accused of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child.

It has now been almost exactly six months since Coun Middleton last attended a meeting of Sunderland City Council, meaning he faces losing his position on the council.

In a statement, Sunderland City Council said: “If Coun Middleton has not attended a meeting by midnight on Thursday, December 6 2018, he will therefore cease to be a member and the council will be required to declare a vacancy.”

According to the 1972 Local Government Act, if a councillor does not attend an official council meeting for ‘a period of six consecutive months‘ they will ‘cease to be a member of the authority’.

An exception to this can be made if a reason for the absence is accepted by the local authority.

This has not happened in the case of Coun Middleton.

Read more: Sunderland Labour councillor suspended pending investigation, party confirms

The last council meeting he attended was the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday, June 6.

The 44-year-old, who was elected to Sunderland City Council in 2015, was served a court summons on Wednesday, November 14.

Coun Middleton, who represents the Washington South ward, was suspended by the Labour Party in June, pending a party investigation. Since then he has been listed as an ‘independent’ councillor.

According to his biography on the council’s website, Coun Middleton has lived in Washington for ‘the majority’ of his life.

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service