The GLA's assessment Sub Committee met on 1st April to consider six complaints relating to my reporting of the March Peoples' Question Time, specifically my use of the phrase Climate Change Taliban, which they alleged was offensive. The chair of the sub committee has now signed off the decision notice which concludes that NO FURTHER ACTION is to be taken.
The full notice contains details of the complainants and their statements, and quotes the relevant paragraphs of the code of conduct so I don't propose to reproduce it all here. Full copies are published by the GLA if needed.
I will, however, quote the section that gives reasons for their decision:
The Sub-Committee noted that the blog identified Mr Evans as an Assembly Member, but found as a matter of fact that the blog was not hosted by the GLA's website or server, and was not published by the GLA. There was no official GLA connection to the blog. It also found that, whilst the blog related to Peoples' Question Time (a GLA event which Mr Evans attended as an Assembly Member), it was a personal blog in which Mr Evans was commenting on Peoples' Question Time after the actual event. For these reasons, the Sub-Committee decided that, in producing and publishing the blog, Mr Evans was not conducting the business of the GLA, and nor was he acting, claiming to act or giving impression that he was acting as a representative of the GLA. He was not therefore acting in an official capacity and was not required to comply with, and could not have breached, paragraphs 3(1) - 3(2)(b) of the Code.
After having decided this, the Sub-Committee proceeded to consider whether Mr Evans' conduct was a breach of paragraph 5 of the Code of Conduct.
Paragraph 5 - "You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or the authority into disrepute."
The reason it considered this is because this paragraph of the Code applies to, and can be breached by, Members even when they are not acting in an official capacity. Accordingly, if the Sub-Committee considered that Mr Evans' blog had brought his office or the GLA into disrepute, it could have decided to take further action against him. The majority of the Sub-Committee did not find the phrase 'Climate Change Taliban' offensive, and the Sub-Committee decided unanimously that the blog did not breach paragraph 5 of the Code.
For these reasons, the Assessment Sub-Committee decided that no further action should be taken on the complaints.
The first section of this judgement is particularly interesting as it accepts that unofficial blogs which are not subsidised by public funds enjoy considerable latitude when it comes to reporting official occasions. Thus reassured that the Standards Committee are not seeking to censor output, other elected representatives might care to grasp the opportunity to communicate afforded by blogs and other online media.