Open letter condemns 'inaction' over Nunn case

Jonathan Nunn. A man with a beard and he is wearing a black suit and tie
Jonathan Nunn was Conservative leader of West Northamptonshire Council since 2021 [BBC]

Five charities have signed a powerful open letter accusing a council of "inaction" and delivering a "dangerous message" about domestic abuse "that could literally cost lives".

Jonathan Nunn, 59, resigned as leader of West Northamptonshire Council on Thursday amid claims of attacks on women.

The accusations, which Mr Nunn "strenuously denies", include threatening or controlling behaviour.

Council chief executive Anna Earnshaw said a domestic abuse allegation had not been "downplayed or downgraded".

The letter, signed by five domestic abuse charities, said: "We are expressing our deep concerns over the handling of the situation to date, the messages this inaction send to victim survivors across the county and to protect the reputation of the council and services in Northamptonshire."

Conservative Mr Nunn stood down after the BBC published accounts from five women.

'Urgent action'

The letter has been signed by Black Women's Domestic Abuse Group, Northamptonshire Domestic Abuse Service, Nene Valley Christian Family Refuge (Eve), Northamptonshire Rape Crisis and Creating Equalz.

It reads: "We are writing to request urgent action be taken with regards to the widely publicised and numerous accusations of domestic abuse against Councillor Jonathan Nunn.

"The council have said repeatedly that domestic abuse is a personal matter and investigations are a matter for the police, this is a dangerous message.

"It is imperative that victim survivors know that their experiences will be listened to and that they will be believed if they come forward."

Adam Brown. A man with brown hair and a beard. He is wearing a blue suit
Deputy leader Adam Brown has been appointed interim leader of the authority after Mr Nunn's resignation [Sam Read/BBC]

Co-author of the letter, Christine Morgan from Eve, told the BBC: "I think in any other profession, to protect someone from these allegations, that person is likely to have been at least suspended when that investigation was undertaken and with so many serious allegations, we would have expected the same here."

She added: "This sends out the wrong message to victims and survivors of domestic abuse. There should be a consistent, coherent message that you will be believed."

The letter calls on the council to respond to the allegations against Mr Nunn "to prove victims will be believed".

"Inaction," it reads, "serves to reinforce that domestic abuse has to be proven first, that your disclosure will not be believed, that your word alone is not enough, you don't matter and nor does your pain; an idea that could literally cost lives."

Christine Morgan. She has white hair and is wearing glasses and a jumper while sitting on a chair outdoors
Christine Morgan, from Nene Valley Christian Family Refuge, co-wrote the open letter to the council [Jon Ironmonger/BBC]

Mrs Earnshaw said: “I fully appreciate and understand the concerns raised by our local domestic abuse charities over how these recent events have unfolded in the media and how the council’s actions may be perceived.

“It has been an exceptionally challenging time for everyone with the allegations stirring up many emotions for those who have experienced domestic abuse, including among our own staff.

“I would like to assure them that at no time has the allegation of domestic abuse received by the council been downplayed or downgraded."

'Move forward'

She said that "neither myself as the chief executive nor any other officer or member of the council has the legal powers to suspend or remove an elected member from their role as a councillor".

“We are committed to working with and supporting our partners on tackling the issue of domestic abuse and I will be contacting their representatives tomorrow responding to the concerns in their open letter and proposing a meeting to see how we can move forward together in a united and strong stance for supporting victims.”

Mr Nunn previously said he was "pursuing discussions with the police relating to the relentless harassment I have experienced", which he said was a "huge distraction not only to me but also to all the good work of the council".

He added: "With all this having a massive impact on my mental health and wellbeing, I have decided to step down as council leader while I deal with these issues."

Northamptonshire Police confirmed "preliminary inquiries" were under way to investigate the allegations.

The authority confirmed a new leader would be elected at the annual meeting on 16 May.

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