A Birmingham city councillor faces a one-month suspension from his public duties after a publicity stunt went wrong.
Martin Mullaney will be subjected to disciplinary action following a High Court ruling that he trespassed on private property when making a video highlighting the dilapidated interior of the former Moseley tram offices.
Coun Mullaney, accompanied by fellow Moseley Liberal Democrat councillor Ernie Hendricks, made the film, which was posted on Facebook, in an attempt to expose what they claimed was shoddy work undertaken without planning permission by the owner of the listed building.
Both councillors claimed they had to resort to high-profile publicity because the city council planning department had ignored months of complaints about the state of the former tram offices.
Mr Justice Charles dismissed an appeal by Coun Mullaney against the decision of the council Standards Committee to impose a month-long suspension unless the councillor was prepared to apologise publicly to Safdar Zaman, the owner of the building.
He upheld an Appeals Tribunal ruling that Coun Mullaney broke the city council Code of Conduct by failing to show respect to Mr Zaman.
In a written ruling, the judge said that Coun Mullaney’s claim to have been acting in the public interest had no standing in law.
No reasonable person would have concluded that trespassing on Mr Zaman’s property was the only way to bring allegations about the poor state of the building to the attention of the planning authorities, the judge added.
He said: “There are many ways in which a reasonable person could have brought the situation as the claimant saw it to the attention of the relevant authorities without trespassing and with or without publicity.
“I reject the contention that there was any reasonable need to video the state of the building, and to trespass for that purpose, even if that part of the video adds to its dramatic effect in the eyes of its makers, or any of its viewers.”
The judge added that Coun Mullaney had behaved in a “high-handed and one-sided” manner by making the video and publishing it without giving Mr Zaman an opportunity to put forward his point of view.
Judge Charles did, however, agree that the Appeals Tribunal erred in law when telling Coun Mullaney that it was removing the opportunity for him to apologise to Mr Zaman – effectively introducing the one-month suspension in any case.
Coun Mullaney says he may take the matter to the Court of Appeal.
He added: “I have no regrets over the action I took. I believe that I stood for an issue that I am passionate about, namely saving our built heritage.
“My only regret is stating on the video that I was a councillor. In future, if I do anything contentious, I will make it clear I am a private citizen, so that I am not inhibited by the members code of conduct.”