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Déjà vu for Nottinghamshire as public official won't resign despite criminal conviction

Tom Hollis is a 29-year-old man who lives in the Nottinghamshire village of Huthwaite. At Nottingham Magistrates' Court this week, he has been found guilty of careless driving and harassment.

Although denying the charges, Hollis now awaits the sentencing for his offences next month. Hollis is also the Deputy Leader of Ashfield District Council and, despite his conviction, he is not resigning.

An elected official in receipt of taxpayer money who refuses to resign after being convicted of a criminal offence should be an outlandish and totally unusual situation. Unfortunately, in Nottinghamshire, this case offers us a sense of déjà vu.

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After having stood on an election platform of strongly enforcing law and order in Nottinghamshire, Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry was banned from driving for six months in July after being caught speeding five times. She did not resign and she still remains in post.

Alongside a law-breaking Police and Crime Commissioner, residents of Ashfield now face the prospect of having a deputy council leader who caused a member of the public to fear for their safety. Having a criminal record makes it harder to find a place to live and to take out loans, but it seems that having a conviction on your CV is no bar to holding elected office in Nottinghamshire.

Tom Hollis was first elected to Ashfield District Council in 2011, representing Huthwaite and Brierley. He also serves as a Nottinghamshire county councillor, where he represents the Sutton West ward.

Hollis is clearly a man with several responsibilities and there's no suggestion that his convictions this week in any way impede his ability to carry these out on a purely practical basis. But as with so many issues in politics, this is a matter of principle.

Having the confidence and self-belief to be a politician is quite an incredible thing. By standing for office, wannabe councillors, MPs and other officials are declaring that they are a person who is fit to take decisions day in, day out, which affect people's lives.

They are declaring that they are a person with the credibility to make judgements on how the money of their hard-working residents should be spent. They are declaring that they have the backbone to resist taking decisions for selfish reasons and an insight into the public mood to instead make decisions on their behalf.

Even in the case of local councillors, who unlike MPs are not paid a large salary but instead can claim an allowance, holding public office is a huge undertaking. Because of all the aforementioned responsibilities and claims that election candidates make, expectations among voters are rightly high.

With such responsibility comes a much greater focus on the personal lives of politicians than there is on people holding most other jobs. Whilst expecting public officials to be total puritans behind closed doors is perhaps asking too much, it seems reasonable to expect that the behaviour of Hollis outlined in court this week should not be the actions of an elected councillor.

The court heard that Hollis' neighbour claimed he was holding regular council meetings in his hot tub during the first national lockdown, leading to her calling the police. Judge Leo Pyle accepted Hollis' description of this as being "ludicrous and frustrating".

Nottingham Magistrates' Court heard that this sparked an extraordinary chain of events, including a claim that Hollis "play-acted" to a 999 caller to wrongly suggest that he was being chased by one of his neighbours with a knife.

In regards to Hollis' driving, the court heard that Hollis was "bouncing all over the place" on his way back from bingo. The judge found that he initially refused to stop for police and, at one point, the court heard how he sped across a petrol station forecourt and made a member of the public fearful for their own safety.

During Boris Johnson's initial refusal to step down over Partygate, the British public became very familiar with the Nolan Principles of Public Life. There are seven of them: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.

That is what the people expect of their politicians. They don't expect to be nearly run over by them in a petrol station.

They don't expect them to engage in blistering and childish rows with their neighbours over a hot tub. The fact that this piece even had to be written is a depressing sign of where integrity in politics is currently at.

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