Yorkshire councillor reprimanded after pulling down man's face covering during angry exchange on picket line

The chief whip of Sheffield Labour Group has had his knuckles rapped for pulling down a man’s face covering during a picket line fracas.

Southey councillor Tony Damms was involved in an angry exchange during a strike by University staff outside the Octagon building.

A man on the picket line called Council Leader Terry Fox a “scab” which prompted a furious row. It culminated in Coun Damms pulling down the man’s face covering and the episode was caught on video.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Former Labour Party member Martha Foulds reported Coun Damms to the council’s standards board for breaking the code of conduct.

A video caught the moment Coun Damms pulled down the man's face covering

It ruled he had acted inappropriately and said Coun Damms must have a refresher with the monitoring officer on acceptable behaviour and conduct.

Coun Damms said he would take the advice of the standards board. He said: “The man was very aggressive and I pulled down his face covering to hear him better. I will be acting on the guidance I’m given.”

What the standards board ruled

The standards board report says: “Coun Damms was in the vicinity of the university as he was due to attend a council meeting at the Octagon theatre, a University building.

“Union representatives had formed a picket line and the Labour Group members of the council had just announced that in solidarity they would not cross the picket line to attend the council meeting.

Read More

Read More
Cool Runnings: Yorkshire student Ashley Watson heads to Beijing as part of Jamai...

“This indicates that Coun Damms was acting in his capacity as a councillor at the time the incident occurred.

“The incident involved Coun Damms moving another person’s face covering away from their lips in order to help him overcome a hearing impairment and understand what they were saying.

“The wearing of face coverings in the current climate of a pandemic is culturally acceptable, appropriate and demonstrates responsible behaviour.

“Coun Damms’ behaviour in attempting to remove the face covering was unacceptable.

“The video evidence shows provocation by the third party wearing the face covering, however as much as a councillor might be provoked in a contentious situation, respect to an individual’s right of personal space is expected.

“Councillors are expected to uphold high standards of conduct and show leadership. Coun Damms failed to respect the member of the public’s right to personal space and behaved in a manner which could bring the council into disrepute.”

Complaint against chief whip

Ms Foulds, who quit the Labour Party the day after the row, said Coun Damms should have known better in his position as Chief Whip.

“Whatever the excuse, moving someone’s face covering during a pandemic that has killed millions of people around the world is simply unacceptable.

“I’m pleased that Sheffield Council’s monitoring officer has upheld my complaint against Coun Damms and found that he breached the members’ code of conduct.

“All councillors are expected to uphold high standards of conduct and show leadership at all times. As a Labour Group Whip, Coun Damms’ responsibility is even greater.”