'The media enjoy harassing politicians' - leader dismisses resignation call

The horserider taking his phone out to film hunt saboteurs

Police investigated video purporting to show county councillor Bill Borrett - and are taking no further action. - Credit: Norfolk/Suffolk Hunt Saboteurs

A call for a county councillor to resign over a video which appeared to show him striking a horse while on a hunt has been dismissed by the leader of Norfolk County Council - who also  accused the media of "harassing" politicians.

Norfolk police investigated a video which anti-hunt activists claimed showed Conservative council cabinet member Bill Borrett striking a horse while on a hunt.

Mr Borrett, the cabinet member for adult social care, public health and prevention at Norfolk County Council, resigned as a director of West Norfolk Fox Hounds the day after the video was posted.

It is not known if his resignation was linked to the video and Mr Borrett refused to comment when approached by this newspaper.

Police subsequently said, after reviewing the footage, that it did not meet the threshold of a crime.

But, at a meeting of the council cabinet on Wednesday (December 12), opposition groups tabled questions about it.

Green city councillor Ben Price. Picture: Norwich City Council

Green county councillor Ben Price. - Credit: Norwich City Council

Ben Price, Green county councillor, asked: "The role of adult services is to care for the welfare of our county’s citizens.

"Does the cabinet member for adult social services believe that empathy for the welfare of all living things is a prerequisite to be a fit and proper person to perform this role, and, in light of the recent claim by anti-hunt activists that he hit his horse twice with
the handle of his hunting crop, while on a hunt, should he now tender his resignation?"

Mr Borrett did not answer, but Andrew Proctor, leader of the council did.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

He said: "Councillor Borrett has done and continues to do an excellent job as cabinet member for adult social care, public health and prevention and he has my full confidence in that role.

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"The allegation was purely that, it has not been substantiated and it was determined that no action was necessary by the relevant bodies."

Steffan Aquarone

Liberal Democrat county councillor Steffan Aquarone. - Credit: Alex Broadway

Liberal Democrat Steffan Aquarone asked why Mr Proctor had not made a statement on the issue despite repeated requests from the Eastern Daily Press.

Mr Proctor replied: "I accept that the media enjoy harassing politicians as they see that as part of their role.

"There is little point in commenting on an allegation that has no substance, which has been demonstrated by the relevant bodies taking no action."

EDP editor David Powles responds

I'm flabbergasted by Andrew Proctor's suggestion this newspaper in any way 'harassed' his colleague on this matter and that we 'enjoy' doing so.

If a high-ranking local politician such as councillor Borrett is not only accused of such an act, but a video emerges appearing to show the moment in question, it is a matter of massive public interest. That is why our reporters picked up the story and then worked their hardest to be as fair and balanced as possible in the process.

Clearly at this stage the investigation had only just begun, so there was no way of knowing what the outcome would be.

Our so-called 'harassment' amounted to phone calls to both councillors Proctor and Borrett and then a visit to Mr Borrett's home to see if he wanted to give his side. None of these phone calls solicited a response, not even a simple 'no comment'.

The alternative is that we simply don't bother to offer right to reply on such issues, which I'm pretty sure would lead to even stronger complaints from those involved. I can't help but feel that we're damned if we do and damned if we don't.

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