Livingstone 'Nazi' jibe suspension quashed by judge

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A month-long suspension levied against the Mayor of London after he likened a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration guard was quashed yesterday by a High Court judge.

Mr Livingstone was suspended in February this year by the Adjudication Panel for England for bringing his office into disrepute after he accused Oliver Finegold, a reporter from the London Evening Standard of being a " German war criminal".

The board had said Mr Livingstone's comment towards Mr Finegold after the reporter approached him as he left a function in February last year were "unnecessarily insensitive and offensive".

At the time, Mr Livingstone dismissed the finding and launched an appeal against the decision of the board, securing a delay to the suspension while the appeal was considered by the High Court.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Andrew Collins said the suspension would be overturned, regardless of whether or not the Mayor won his appeal against the Adjudication Panel's finding that he had breached the Greater London Authority's code of conduct by making the comments.

The Mayor has consistently refused to apologise for the remarks and said the panel that suspended him had overstepped its remit. During the High Court hearing, his counsel, James Maurici, argued that it was "wholly untenable" that the Mayor's comments were of sufficient gravity to bring his office into disrepute.

Mr Livingstone has said that Mr Finegold had been harassing him as he left the function to return home.

When the reporter identified himself as working for the Evening Standard, the Mayor asked: "What did you do? Were you a German war criminal?"

When Mr Finegold said he was Jewish and found the remarks offensive, Mr Livingstone replied that the reporter was "like a concentration camp guard ­ you are just doing it because you are paid to."

His comments sparked accusations that Mr Livingstone was anti-Semitic, an accusation he has alwaysdenied.

During the two-day hearing, Mr Livingstone's lawyers argued that the panel's decision, made in February, was legally flawed on a number of grounds, including the fact that the Mayor had not been acting in his official capacity at the time of the incident.

The judge said: "I have made it clear the suspension will be quashed whatever I decide on whether the Panel's finding was correct."