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'Stop your persecution.' Downham town councillor condemned for 'horrific campaign' against members and staff, but remains defiant

A town councillor has been publicly urged to end his "horrific campaign" against other members and staff.

Amid extraordinary scenes at a Downham council meeting last night, Doug Lawson was told he should undergo diversity training over social media comments that appeared to suggest a fellow councillor's proposal could have been inspired by Nazi literature.

But Mr Lawson remained defiant, telling members he was acting lawfully and simply wanted the council to do the same.

Doug Lawson, standing, came under fire for his behaviour during an extraordinary Downham Town Council meeting last night (49201207)
Doug Lawson, standing, came under fire for his behaviour during an extraordinary Downham Town Council meeting last night (49201207)

The exchanges, which were streamed via the town council's YouTube channel, are the latest chapter of a saga that has overshadowed the council's activities for many months.

Addressing Mr Lawson directly, the town's Mayor, Jenny Groom, said he was being investigated by the borough's monitoring officer and had persisted in "orchestrating a campaign of bullying and harassment".

To both assertions, Mr Lawson replied: "Not true."

But Mrs Groom claimed Mr Lawson had wanted her to join his campaign in return for his support of her becoming Mayor in May.

She said he had also written "more of your vile Facebook comments" in recent days and was in breach of the authority's Code of Conduct.

She added: "This must stop. I, as Mayor of Downham Market Town Council, am asking you to stop this horrific campaign."

But Mr Lawson replied: "No I won't. I shall continue to act lawfully at all times."

That prompted a response of "Really" and laughter from others present.

Turning to one of his colleagues, Mr Lawson questioned why she laughed, adding: "You're the one that promotes unlawful activity in writing. We have the evidence."

The meeting then heard details of a Facebook post, which it was said had been written from Mr Lawson's account, attacking a motion put forward by recently elected councillor, Josie Ratcliffe.

The motion, which was deferred until next month's meeting, called for members with concerns about a "failure of good governance" by the council to submit their complaints, and evidence, within a month.

But the post suggested the motion "left out the credits to original material, such as Mein Kampf or the Stasi guide to operational procedures".

It also contained a reference to threatening to "send offenders to the death camps, gulags or killing fields".

That prompted a demand for Mr Lawson to make a full written apology and undergo diversity and anti-Semitism education.

However, when asked for an explanation of his behaviour, Mr Lawson said: "I wish to see this council start to behave lawfully at all times. Simple."

Another councillor was heard to comment: "Are we not here for a council meeting instead of a witch hunt?"

Later, Mr Lawson challenged proposals to discuss legal advice the council had received in relation to him in closed session, saying it was not eligible to be dealt with in that way, and should be discussed in public. His claim was rejected.

The meeting took place the day after the town council had sought to distance itself from Mr Lawson's remarks.

A statement posted on Facebook, and released to the Lynn News, said councillors agreed to abide by a clear Code of Conduct and work with selflessness, integrity, objectivity, openness, honesty and leadership at all times.

It added: "One of our members has failed to do this on many occasions over the past few months.

"Downham Market Town Council wishes to make very clear that the Media postings by Cllr. Lawson in no way reflect the opinions and attitudes of Downham Market Town Council and we divorce ourselves completely from the offensive and bullying content of his postings."

But, in his own posts, Mr Lawson dismissed the posts as a "bare-faced lie" and claimed he was being attacked because of his efforts to expose wrongdoing.

The meeting took place outdoors under awnings erected outside the Jubilee Community Centre, after the building was sealed off due to Covid concerns.

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