Page last updated at 15:05 GMT, Friday, 26 June 2009 16:05 UK

Councillor's ban over gay remark

Bill Pritchard
Bill Pritchard said he wanted to 'rescue' gay people into his church

A councillor has been disqualified for a year after referring to homosexuality as a "notorious disability".

Bill Pritchard, who was a town councillor in Barmouth, Gwynedd, wrote to an assembly government minister, referring to two men in a local development.

He described homosexuality as "a demon which can be driven out".

An adjudication panel of the public service ombudsman for Wales found he breached the council's code of conduct.

After the hearing in Dolgellau, Mr Pritchard, an evangelical Methodist, said he was not sorry and stood by his views that homosexuality was a disability.

The hearing heard Mr Pritchard wrote to Leighton Andrews AM, deputy minister for regeneration, to voice concerns about a development project in Barmouth.

In the letter, he referred to two men with interests in the development as being in a relationship.

I respect them as someone who is struggling with a disability as I would with someone in a wheelchair
Bill Pritchard

The hearing heard how he referred to homosexuality as "a notorious disability and that the modern culture is to defend these people from any form of discrimination. Hurray for diversity".

Hywel James, the tribunal chairman, said: "You also go on in the letter to state 'There may indeed be a cure for this disability as recently I found a book. It seems to suggest that homosexuality is a demon which can be driven out'."

The hearing was told that the complainant - referred to only as Mr Smith - had found the comments "grossly homophobic".

Giving evidence, Mr Pritchard said he did not like to "condemn" people but preferred to "rescue them into the church".

'Smoke screen'

Mr Pritchard cried as he quoted from the Bible.

He was asked by the panel whether he accepted homosexual people might be offended by the term disability.

He replied: "It is definitely a disability rather than a sin". He went on to add: "I respect them as someone who is struggling with a disability as I would with someone in a wheelchair."

Mr Pritchard told the panel the objections to his comments were "a smoke screen" to divert attention away from the controversial development.

Tribunal chairman Mr James told Mr Pritchard the panel had to consider whether referring to homosexuality as a disability was a breach of the council's code of conduct.

Mr Pritchard replied: "Well, I think it is. I would love to rescue them from it. Not just them, the whole lot."

'Serious breaches'

Mr Pritchard was judged to have breached the code of conduct on two counts - one that he brought the council into disrepute and the second that as a councillor he must show respect and consideration for others.

The panel found that there had been "serious breaches."

Mr James said: "A councillor cannot pick and choose which parts of the code of conduct they comply with."

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