Reporter: Stuart Littleford
Saddleworth Parish councillor Mike Buckley has told Saddleworth News this morning that he is now “considering his position” on the parish council but will not be resigning.
Cllr Buckley said the campaign to try and make him resign is “politically motivated” and stems from his involvement with the Save Diggle Action Group (SDAG).
Speaking exclusively to Saddleworth News editor Stuart Littleford, Cllr Buckley said: “I took on the whole political establishment at Oldham in my campaign to keep the school in Uppermill. This led to my resignation from the Liberal Democrats and my standing for re-election last May as an Independent.
“Grudges run deep in politics and the present attacks are clearly motivated by an attempt to discredit me and the Save Diggle Action Group Campaign.
“The political pressure on my Independent colleagues, SDAG campaigners, and friends has been enormous and I apologise sincerely to them for a lapse of judgement on my part that has caused them so much anguish.
“My Independent colleagues are doing an excellent job on the Council and I don’t want this to be diminished in any way by what I have done.
“I am considering my position on the Council and the difficulties that will be created if I am barred from serving on the council’s committees.”
Cllr Buckley, 68, from Dobcross was convicted at Manchester, Minshull Street Crown Court, in December of 16 counts of making – referring in these instances to downloading – the images.
Returning for his sentence this month, he was told by Judge Jonathan Foster QC that he had “lived an exemplary and upstanding life” but this trial was a “public fall from grace”.
He was also told he must take part in the Internet Sexual Offenders Treatment Programme, which includes 35 two-hour sessions with extra work in between.
A 28-day curfew between 8am and 4pm was imposed on the independent Parish Councillor from Monday, January 18.
He will also be supervised by the Probation Service for the next two years and will also be subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for five years.
He was also told he must pay prosecution costs of £2,000 in the next six months, and his computers on which the indecent images were found will be destroyed.
Judge Foster QC told the court: “I have four references from members of the community in support of your work, role as a councillor, work for the local church and as an author in respect to local heritage.
“But I sit as a judge in a crown court and we need to recognise the fact that a criminal offence has been committed. It is a public fall from grace and that is your chief punishment.”
The images – deemed as lowest category c – were discovered after police executed a search warrant at Buckley’s home in March 2014 and seized computers and hard drives.
They included still and moving images of naked boys in groups or individually swimming in a pool, playing with water blasters, skinny dipping, and playing sports.
Last week chairman of the Saddleworth Parish Council Neil Allsopp issued a statement calling for him to step down.
Cllr Allsopp said: “Following the conviction of Cllr Buckley and the sentence passed, it is my personal opinion it would be inappropriate for Cllr Buckley to continue to serve on Saddleworth Parish Council.
“I have subsequently invited him to tender his resignation. I believe this is in the best interests of all concerned.
“Furthermore, it is my intention to refer the matter to the borough solicitor for investigation under the Members’ Code of Conduct.”
Cllr Rob Knotts told Saddleworth News this morning that Cllr Buckley’s position on the council was “untenable” and that he should resign.
“Mike Buckley’s conviction and sentence makes his position as a Parish Councillor totally untenable. In my opinion he should not be allowed to continue to serve in a public office as a sex offender. His behaviour has totally undermined the trust placed in him.”
There have been many other calls in the last week for Cllr Buckley to resign including a petition setup on Change.org with almost 400 signatures to date.
There have also been threats to picket future Saddleworth Parish Council meetings.