A COUNCILLOR has been disciplined after a standards hearing concluded he had repeatedly viewed pornography on his council laptop.

Richmondshire district councillor Malcolm Gardner has been ordered to return his computer equipment and told to apologise to the officers who found the adult material on the laptop.

A council disciplinary hearing heard that the member for Swaledale was warned in August 2012 about his inappropriate use of the computer.

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However, officers found that he had frequently viewed pornography on the laptop over a two-year period after receiving the warning.

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

The Northern Echo was unable to contact Cllr Gardner, from Healaugh, in Swaledale, on Wednesday evening.

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

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

He added: "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 Councillor Malcolm Gardner had breached the council’s information systems acceptable use policy by using his council laptop to access pornographic material."

The panel ruled that Cllr Gardner should return all his IT equipment for the remainder of the council term.

It also ordered that the disciplinary hearing decision notice should be published on a prominent position on the council's website.