A woman could be banned from attending public meetings after she was accused of defaming a York council officer.

Gwen Swinburn often attends City of York Council meetings to comment on governance.

But on February 12 she was sent a letter accusing her of defaming a council officer in a meeting by saying they "do not have a clue what they are talking about".

Ms Swinburn was responding to a decision to make a letter exempt from being read out at the Joint Standards Committee on January 31, because a deadline was missed by the councillor who wrote it. 

Following Ms Swinburn's remarks, Cllr Martin Rowley, who was chairing the meeting, asked her to apologise.

When she did not apologise and refused to leave, she was escorted from the building. 

Ms Swinburn said the council was “making a mountain out of less than a molehill".


A letter from the council’s director of governance Bryn Roberts to Ms Swinburn read: “You defamed a member of the City of York Council staff, refused to either withdraw your statement or apologise, and thereafter refused to leave the meeting until you were escorted out by the council’s security provider. 

“Such behaviour is unacceptable and is disruptive of the lawful business of the council.”

Mr Roberts has recommended that the council refuse Ms Swinburn’s attendance at any council meeting for three months. 

The letter continued: “This recommendation is not made lightly, but given your history of failing to adhere to the constitutional requirements relating to public participation, it is considered necessary and proportionate in order to achieve the legitimate aim of ensuring that the business of the council can be lawfully transacted without interference.”

Ms Swinburn had until 5pm on February 19 to make further comments, but she did not do so. 

A City of York Council spokesperson said: “While we do not comment on individual cases, as a council we have a duty of care to all of our officers, who have no right of reply to the public, and we cannot and will not permit officers to be defamed without consequence.

“While there is a general right for members of the public to attend meetings, it is not an absolute right irrespective of their conduct, and where any member of the public has been ejected from a meeting for misbehaviour, it is entirely reasonable that the council reacts in a proportionate way to modify the behaviour of any disruptive member of the public.”

The incident, which was live streamed on YouTube, has since been deleted from the recording.