A councillor who caused shock and revulsion after telling Disability News Service (DNS) there was a good argument for killing some disabled babies, will be treated “like a pariah” when he returns to work DNS has been told.
There have been widespread calls for Colin Brewer to resign as a councillor, only days after he was elected by just four votes in his ward of Wadebridge East.
Since DNS published the interview with Brewer on 10 May, both Cornwall Council and Devon and Cornwall police have started investigations into his comments.
Cornwall Council will be examining a transcript of the interview provided by DNS, as well as photocopies of the shorthand notes taken by DNS’s editor, John Pring.
It has launched a “full investigation” to decide whether Brewer breached the councillors’ code of conduct with his comments, but has already warned that it does not have the power to sack or even suspend him.
Today (10 May), a protest calling on him to resign is set to take place outside the council’s Truro headquarters.
Detective Inspector Sally Crabtree, of Devon and Cornwall police, said Brewer’s comments had been recorded as a “hate incident” – following complaints from across the country – and officers were now examining the Public Order Act to see if any criminal offence had been committed.
In another development, the leaders of all six political groups on the council issued a statement distancing themselves from Brewer and his comments.
They said: “The recently published comments which are attributed to Councillor Brewer are completely unacceptable and are contrary to the council’s policy of supporting all people with disabilities.
“Such views have no place in local government. These remarks represent the personal views of Councillor Brewer who does not speak for the council or the people of Cornwall.”
Andrew Wallis, an independent councillor, told DNS that the joint statement by the six council groups was “unprecedented”.
He said that Brewer could not be stopped from joining the council’s independent group, but if he did so he would be shunned by other members.
He said: “Within our group, it has been made clear he would not be welcome in it. People will not associate with him, both for their own personal protection and for the belief and the views he has portrayed twice.
“I think he will be treated as a pariah. It almost makes his role as a councillor impossible to do. Officers will not want to deal with him. Social care or children’s officers will probably find it very difficult to work with him.”
Brewer apologised and resigned as an independent member of Cornwall Council in February after it emerged that he had told a Disability Cornwall staff member in 2011 that disabled children should be “put down” to save money.
He decided to stand again and won re-election to the ward of Wadebridge East by just four votes in this month’s election.
But in an interview with DNS, just days after he was re-elected, he repeatedly indicated that he believed there was a good argument for killing some disabled babies with high support needs, because of the cost of providing them with services.
Disability Cornwall is among those organisations that have called on Brewer to resign, and this week it welcomed the council and police investigations.
It said it was “heartened by the fact so many people from all walks of life, disabled and non-disabled, have been equally outraged” by his comments.
Jade Farrington, a disabled power-lifter and a newly-elected Liberal Democrat member of Cornwall Council, said Brewer’s comments were “absolutely sickening” and demonstrated that he was “not fit for public office”.
She said she believed that “the absolute public rejection of his comments from all sides” showed that the time “when his would have been considered a remotely acceptable position is in the distant past”.
She added: “There’s no doubt that many disabled people face discrimination and bullying, but we do not have to fear for our lives and loving parents do not face the prospect of having their disabled children torn from their arms and murdered.
“When I think of what his views mean in practice it sends a chill through me.”
But the disabled writer-director-activist Liz Crow, whose work has frequently focused on issues that challenge disabled people’s right to exist, disagreed.
She said: “He has spoken out loud what is just below the surface for far too many people.
“Set against the current political climate of rising hate crime and increased rhetoric of disabled people as an economic burden, his repeated hostility becomes especially dangerous.
“To leave his views unchallenged, permits their doing to become more thinkable.”
She said it was “particularly disturbing” that he had been elected by local people who knew he had said that disabled children should be killed to save money.
She also called on him to resign, but said it was more crucial for him to apologise, for there to be “a public acknowledgement by him of the dangers inherent in his comments”, and for the council to uphold its duty to “promote and maintain high standards of conduct by its councillors”.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), which has complained to the council about Brewer’s comments, said the councillor had made it “very clear” that disabled people “were not worth society’s efforts”, while he clearly had “no idea whatsoever of the contribution we make to society”.
DPAC said in its statement: “We believe Mr Brewer’s comments reveal that he is not fit to hold any public office whatsoever. How can you be a public servant, whilst advocating exterminating sections of the public who have done no wrong whatsoever?”
Brewer insisted this week in a brief interview with BBC Radio Cornwall that “people know I really am a good man” and that the interview with DNS had been taken “completely out of context”.
Brewer, who is on sick leave from his council duties, also referred again to medication he is taking for a long-term health condition.
DNS has now – on request – shared a transcript of the 45-minute interview with the police, Cornwall Council and a number of news and campaigning organisations.
17 May 2013