Sunderland's Conservatives have called for the resignation of Michael Essl, Labour Councillor for Ryhope Ward, following an admission that he made multiple false allegations about a member of the public being a paedophile.
Essl, formerly a Barnes Councillor who was parachuted into Ryhope Ward to avoid losing in 2018, posted an apology in the 'Ryhope Have Your Say' Facebook group where he made the original accusation.
As well as apologising for the accusations made in September 2019, Essl has had to pay Mr Len Lowther £20,000 in addition to his legal fees.
Responding to the news, Cllr Antony Mullen, Leader of the Conservatives, said:
"Michael Essl made a false allegation of paedophilia against an innocent member of the public. This renders him unfit for public office and he should resign immediately.
"Members of the Labour Group in Sunderland were quick to distance their party from former Labour councillor, Paul Middleton, when he was convicted of child sex offences because they understood the reputational damage this could cause.
"It is hard to conclude that a member of that same Labour Group did not the potential damage that making a false allegation of this exact nature about a member of the public could do.
"It was only after Mr Lowther took legal action, and after over a year of unnecessary distress, that Michael Essl has admitted that he was wrong."
Read the full apology below:
In September 2019 I Michael Essl, made numerous posts on Ryhope have your say Facebook site and have commented to others alleging quite wrongly that Mr Len Lowther had images on his phone and computer of child pornography and I accused Mr Lowther of being a paedophile. I accept fully these allegations are false and without foundation. I now accept the he never had such images on his phone or computer and the allegations I made against him were groundless. I wish to clarify the position and I apologise unreservedly to Mt Lowther, his partner and family members for any distress caused" [sic]