Labour colleagues failed to confront disgraced councillor

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by Joan McAlpine

Two senior Labour councillors failed to act when they heard a colleague say a nine year old girl had wanted to be raped.

Councillor William O’Rourke, who represents Pollok in Glasgow, was sacked from several council positions yesterday and suspended from the Labour Party after the leak of shocking comments at the personnel appeals committee hearing the case of a care worker dismissed for allegedly having sex with the child.

Baillies Jim Scanlan and Jim Todd attended the same meeting, which took place last month, but do not appear to have taken any action about O’Rourke.  Baillie Todd is also a member of the council’s children and families policy development committee.

During the appeal O’Rourke suggested the girl “wanted it to happen” because no force was used and that she was not a “typical innocent nine year old.”  He also made bizarre comments about promiscuous children and the need to lower the age of sexual consent.

His remarks only came to light when Strathclyde Police officially complained to the Standards Commission for Scotland, which regulates the behaviour of politicians.  One of Strathclyde’s officers was a witness at the hearing and reported her concerns.  That report was leaked to the press this weekend and only then did the council take action.

A council insider told Newsnet it was very unusual for a committee to be made up entirely of Labour councillors and suggested they might have closed ranks to protect O’Rourke.

It is not the first time Todd has been embroiled in a row.  He threatened to sue opposition councillors last year when they suggested that his employment as a taxi driver by Network Private Hire was inappropriate.  Network was the subject of complaints by the police – now dropped – because it was making payments of £5000 a month to its former owner, James Baxter, a known criminal.  The firm argued it was part of a buy out deal and now say they have parted company with Baxter.

Todd is also chair of City Building, the arms-length firm set up by disgraced former council leader Steven Purcell. City Building employs executives with Labour connections and was condemned for making donations to the Labour Party from what are effectively public funds.

Yesterday the Labour council’s leader Gordon Matheson said O’Rourke had been stripped of all his positions, which include membership of Strathclyde Police Authority, the council’s personnel appeals committee and the boards of council-owned companies City Parking and Glasgow City Markets.

Matheson said: “Councillor O’Rourke’s behaviour falls way short of the standard I and the public expect of Glasgow councillors.

“Councillor O’Rourke’s comments to the personnel appeals committee were disgraceful.  We are elected by the public to protect the vulnerable people of our city. Councillor O’Rourke not only failed in his duty to do this but he also made highly offensive and inappropriate statements about a vulnerable young person.

“Councillors are by law the ‘corporate parents’ of those in our care. It is the single most important responsibility we hold and I will ensure that every member of this council lives up to that responsibility.”

SNP leader of the opposition, Councillor James Dornan, said: “Councillor O’Rourke’s comments brought shame on himself, the Labour Party and this council – his removal from all positions sends a message that this behaviour is unacceptable.”

The female police officer who filed the initial complaint is understood to have 16 years experience with the force.

She was reported in The Sunday Mail as saying: “My concerns were raised in particular by some of the questions asked and comments made by Councillor O’Rourke.

“Councillor O’Rourke asked if force was used during the incidents.  I told him , ‘No,’ and his reply was, ‘So she wanted it to happen’.

“I replied that she was a child and was unable to give consent. I also briefly covered the grooming process and its associated elements.

“He began a rant on the age of consent and how it should be lowered, commenting on the promiscuity of children and their modern provocative dress sense.  He further commented that you could walk into any high school and observe girls in short skirts coupled with their promiscuous behaviour thus giving weight to his argument about lowering the age of consent.

“Councillor O’Rourke continued his inappropriateness when discussing the complainer, commenting on her chaotic previous lifestyle at the hands of her prostitute mother.

“He hinted that she was not a typical innocent nine-year-old but was sexually older than her years and conveyed the attitude that it was not as bad to commit crimes of this nature on a child with this background.”

Last month Bill Aitken, a Conservative MSP, was forced to resign his convenorship of Holyrood’s Justice Committee after he suggested – wrongly – that a woman gang raped in Glasgow City Centre might have been a prostitute.