Two court cases this week with links to Sandwell council leader

Sandwell council leader Steve Eling and local blogger Julian Saunders

Two court cases take place this week with links to controversial Sandwell council leader Steve Eling and local blogger Julian Saunders, known as the ‘Sandwell Skidder’.

On Wednesday, proceedings begin in the case against Sandwell councillor Bob Piper, considered an Eling ally on the council, on two counts of racially-aggravated harassment. Piper is alleged to have made nazi-related gestures or comments to Saunders and another man in a public place. The second person has links to the For Britain right-wing group.

And this morning, a case against Saunders reopens – having been adjourned on its opening last year – for the alleged use of a profanity against Sandwell Council chief exec Jan Britton. Saunders, now an ardent Eling critic, met with Eling and received information against the council leader’s opponents from Eling’s then-‘right-hand man’ Richard Marshall via WhatsApp.

Eling himself was – after being attacked last year by the same MP – raised by Tory James Morris in the Commons last week in relation to Eling’s attempts to pressure West Midlands Police (WMP) into pressing charges against Saunders over Saunders’ criticisms.

Last week, Eling denied, when contacted by the SKWAWKBOX, that his emails telling WMP to take action or it would be ‘in contempt’ and it would become a matter for the Home Secretary constituted an abuse of his office or that he had applied undue pressure.

A senior WMP officer had advised Eling, in emails released in response to a Saunders ‘Subject Access Request’, that the force had already spent a disproportionate amount of time on the issue and was not prepared to continue to do so unless a criminal threshold was reached. Eling said:

The two critical points are that the police had investigated complaints from a number of members, not just me. That is indicated by the use of “members” in the plural; and that the police are not quoted as saying they would not investigate further Saunders posts, but saying only where the criminal threshold was met. The criminal threshold is a subjective view rather than an absolute measure. In these circumstances, only the police and CPS can come to that judgement necessitating further perceived crime to be referred to he police for them to arrive at a view and decide to investigate or not.

Sandwell council leader Steve Eling

A Labour Party investigation into the behaviour of Sandwell Labour councillors and party officers continues.

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