A COUNCILLOR has apologised after being disciplined for repeatedly viewing pornographic material on his council laptop.

Richmondshire district councillor Malcolm Gardner, from Healaugh, was ordered by a standards hearing to return his computer equipment and told to apologise to the officials who discovered the material on the laptop.

In a letter published in The Darlington & Stockton Times today (Friday, August 15), Cllr Gardner said: “As the Richmondshire District Councillor for Swaledale, may I offer my sincere apologies for the recent article.

“Let me assure you all that I did nothing illegal and I am sorry that the article caused concern and embarrassment to you all and my family.

“Let me further assure you all that this will not happen again. This will not reflect on my ability to be your district councillor and I will continue to work tirelessly on all of your behalf.

“I hope that this can put an end to the matter, and that we can all move on.”

The disciplinary hearing heard Cllr Gardener had been warned in August 2012 about the inappropriate use of the computer – but continued watch pornography over the following two years.

The council standards hearing panel ruled it constituted a breach of the council's member code of conduct as it could bring the authority into disrepute.

Cllr Gardner is a member of the ruling independent group on the local authority, as well as a member of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

Council leader John Blackie confirmed that he had spoken to the councillor in 2012 about his use of the laptop after council officers found evidence of improper use.

"I'm very disappointed that his conduct has fallen below the level that would be expected of a local councillor.

"He was given a last warning in respect of his use of the council laptop by myself as his leader and by the officer.

"I am disappointed that he has chosen to overlook that warning but I am sure that he has learnt his lesson.

"He is a hard working local councillor and I know from my own experience that he goes the extra mile for the local communities which he represents."

The standards panel report stated: "Following information received by junior officers of the council, the monitoring officer considered that there was evidence that Cllr Malcolm Gardner had breached the council’s information systems acceptable use policy by using his council laptop to access pornographic material."