Weymouth Councillor Goes On Trial Over Sex Offences

The trial starts today of a Weymouth Councillor, accused of sex offences.

Ryan Hope, from Norfolk Road, denies seven charges, including rape.

The 22-year-old was suspended from the Liberal Democrats in January. His trial, at Bournemouth Crown Court is due to start on Monday 28 April, and last for four days.

In January, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told Heart he was 'angry' the Liberal Democrat party in Weymouth failed to notify the leadership one of its councillors had been charged with serious child sex offences.

Councillor Hope was finally suspended as a member of the party six months after he first appeared in court on charges of rape and sexual assault.

The Lib Dems blamed the delay on a "failure to communicate'' between Hope's local party in Dorset - where he sits as a member of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council - and the national party HQ in London.

Mr Clegg said it had been a "very serious mistake'' by the local party not to notify the leadership and steps had been taken to ensure it did not happen again.

"The local party did not tell anyone in my office or in the party centrally what was going on. That was, in my view, a very serious mistake. At the moment it was finally brought to my attention, we suspended him immediately,'' he said.

"Clearly, when a local party is aware of allegations of that gravity, of that seriousness, and choose not to pass it up the food chain, something has gone wrong. I am not happy at all, to put it mildly.

"Of course, there are rules in place which say that if there are allegations that come to light like that, then action should be taken promptly. When people don't follow those rules, that is something which I both regret and is a source of immense frustration to me. I'll make sure that this doesn't happen again.''

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