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Panel 'failed to scrutinise' appointment of Paris Brown as youth tsar

By Paul Francis
Paris Brown, with Ann Barnes, was forced to quit as youth crime commissioner
Paris Brown, with Ann Barnes, was forced to quit as youth crime commissioner

MPs have criticised the failure of Kent's crime commissioner watchdog to properly scrutinise what they said was the "fiasco" of the appointment of the county's first youth commissioner.

Paris Brown, 17, of Sheppey, was forced to quit the role last month after just a week in post after it emerged she had sent offensive tweets that were considered to be racist and homophobic.

MPs on the Home Affairs select committee have published a report which criticises the way the Kent and Medway Crime Panel dealt with the matter.

It said the panel, whose job it is to hold the commissioner to account, failed to scrutinise the appointment.

Paris Brown, with Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes
Paris Brown, with Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes

The report said: "We are concerned that incompetent legal advisers appear to have sought to prevent PCPs [crime panels] from even meeting to scrutinise key and highly questionable decisions by PCCs, for instance the suspension of the chief constable in Lincolnshire and the fiasco concerning the appointment of a 'Youth Commissioner' in Kent."

It added: "It is in such circumstances that a panel chair needs to ensure that the crime panel meets urgently.

If they fail to do so, on the basis of wholly inappropriate legal advice or otherwise, the process of local scrutiny of the PCP role falls into disrepute."

The panel is made up of councillors from across the county and lay representatives. It is chaired by the Kent county councillor Mike Hill.

At its last meeting, the panel was told that it could not question the commissioner about the appointment because at the time, Paris Brown was the subject of a police investigation into whether the tweets she had posted had broken any laws.

The MPs' report also criticised the high deposit candidates standing in crime commissioner elections, saying the £5,000 deposit "might also have an effect on competition and diversity in the PCC elections."

"While we recognise that PCCs must be of the highest integrity, we also believe that the rules barring anyone from standing who has a criminal conviction for an imprisonable offence, even as a juvenile, are excessive and should be brought into line with the rules for other public offices."

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