Labour back councillor appealing against gay slur conviction

A Labour party councillor convicted of making false allegations of paedophilia against her gay opponent is due to have her appeal heard today.

Miranda Grell was barred from public office for three years, fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £3,000 costs by Waltham Forest Magistrates Court last month.

The legal costs for her appeal were being covered by the national Labour party, following a local campaign to raise the £30,000 it is estimated the appeal will cost.

Yesterday, however, a party spokesman told The Independent:

“Following legal advice in the last few days, the Labour Party today withdrew its support for Miranda Grell’s appeal.”

Ms Grell won a formerly safe Lib Dem seat on the London Borough of Waltham Forest council in last May’s elections.

Her Liberal Democrat opponent Barry Smith saw his majority of 600 overturned by Ms Grell, who took the Leyton ward council seat with a majority of 28.

In September she was found guilty after a three-day trial of two charges of “making a false statement of fact about Mr Smith’s personal character or conduct,” contrary to election law.

Witnesses testified that while campaigning for the seat she had told voters that Mr Smith had a 14-year-old Thai boyfriend.

Ms Grell maintains her innocence and insists that the verdict goes against the weight of the evidence heard in court.

She has been suspended as a local councillor for the London Borough of Waltham Forest and as an aide to London Deputy Mayor Nicky Gavron pending her appeal, which is due to begin today at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

Gay rights campaigner and Green party parliamentary candidate Peter Tatchell attacked the decision of the Labour party to pay Ms Grell’s legal costs.

“If she had been convicted of racist smears, Grell would have been instantly dismissed from City Hall and no Labour MP would have defended her,” said Mr Tatchell.

“Labour is guilty of double standards. It is tough on racism and weak on homophobia.

“Defending a convicted dirty tricks campaigner is a new low for Labour. Gordon Brown says he wants to restore integrity to politics and that he supports lesbian and gay human rights. By backing Grell, Labour is endorsing homophobia and cesspit politics.”

Ms Grell claims the police investigation was flawed and that a racist plot to unseat her was one of the reasons that allegations were made against her.