London Mayor Ken Livingstone has been suspended for four weeks for bringing his office into disrepute, a disciplinary tribunal ruled today.
The three-man Adjudication Panel for England unanimously ruled that Mr Livingstone had been “unnecessarily insensitive and offensive” to Evening Standard journalist, Oliver Finegold, by comparing him to a Nazi concentration camp guard in February last year.
David Laverick, chairman of the panel sitting in central London, said: “The appropriate sanction is for the mayor to be suspended for a period of four weeks from March 1.”
He said the panel was “concerned” that Mr Livingstone had failed to realise the seriousness of his outburst.
Mr Laverick said: “The case tribunal accepts that this is not a situation when it would be appropriate to disqualify the Mayor.
“The Case Tribunal is however concerned that the Mayor does seem to have failed, from the outset of this case, to have appreciated that his conduct was unacceptable, was a breach of the code (the GLA code of conduct) and did damage to the reputation of his office.
“His representative is quite right in saying, as he did on February 23, that matters should not have got as far as this but it is the Mayor who must take responsibility for this.
“It was his comments that started the matter and thereafter his position seems to have become ever more entrenched.”
After the ruling Tony Child, representing Mr Livingstone, said: "This is extremely disappointing. We will be considering our right to appeal to the High Court.''
Since Mr Livingstone lost the case he must pay his own costs – estimated to be at more than £80,000.
The matter was referred to the local government watchdog, the Standards Board for England after a complaint by the Jewish Board of Deputies.
The Standards Board’s costs total approximately £45,000. The greater part of this has been due to complex legal issues raised during the four day case.
It is understood that the costs for the Adjudication Panel are approximately £7,000.
Trouble flared as Mr Livingstone was approached by Mr Finegold as he left a party marking 20 years since former Culture Secretary Chris Smith became Britain’s first openly-gay MP.
Mr Livingstone asked Mr Finegold whether he had ever been a “German war criminal”.
On hearing that Mr Finegold was Jewish, the Mayor likened him to a Nazi concentration camp guard.
The panel was told Mr Livingstone had been expressing his long and honestly held political view of Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail and Evening Standard.
Mr Livingstone accused Associated Newspapers of a history of anti-Semitism and the Evening Standard of “harassing” the largely gay private reception. The City Hall party had been paid for by public money.
In the storm which arose after his outburst, Mr Livingstone said he had never meant to downplay the horror of the Holocaust or offend the Jewish community.
He refused to apologise despite pressure from the Jewish community, Holocaust survivors and other politicians.
He said he had hit back after a 24-year hate campaign by the media. He said he was using his freedom of expression and that he had been rude to journalists for 25-years and would continue to be so.