Sandwell election: Councillor who admitted beating charge re-selected
A councillor who admitted an assault by beating charge in court earlier this year has praised democracy after being re-elected to Sandwell Council.
Councillor Steve Melia held onto his seat at the count on Thursday with 1,335 votes to Conservative Connor Jones' 1,169 votes in the Great Barr with Yew Tree ward.
The Labour councillor said he was the "best candidate" for the role contrary to "lies and slurs" and people had trusted him – as they always had done – within the area.
Councillor Melia was ordered to pay £200 compensation for assault as well as court costs at a Dudley Magistrates' Court hearing in February after an incident in December last year.
He had knocked the mobile phone out of a hand of blogger Julian Saunders – known as the Sandwell Skidder – amid a protest outside Sandwell Council House in Oldbury.
And the court was told by Mrs Shelia Hicklin, mitigating for Melia, said: "This is is a sad day. He will live with a stain on his character. He accepts what he did was wrong. He will not be able to serve after so many years. He will lose his council nominated positions. In effect this is the end of his political life."
But it wasn't the end of his political life, with the councillor being selected to defend his seat in the latest set of local elections – which he did with a narrow victory over the Conservative candidate.
Speaking after his win, Councillor Melia accused his opponent of asking for "recount after recount after recount", adding: "Thank you everybody, thank you to Great Barr with Yew Tree for your votes. Democracy wins in the end as it will every time. I was and still am the best candidate, contrary to lies and slurs. Mr Jones had asked for recount after recount after recount and I got a better result. Unbelievable.
"I will, as always, be out and about the ward day in and day out. Thank you all for your support and thank you to the tellers for your dilligence. I'm sorry it has taken so long but it was worth the wait, wasn't it?"
The councillor, speaking to the Express & Star after his win, said: "In spite of all the slurs, democracy has come through. The people have trusted me as they have always trusted me.
"There was complications at the count – nothing to do with the Labour Party. I couldn't believe he thought people couldn't count up to 25 – he (Mr Jones) had questioned a count of up to 25.
"But I am very pleased and happy to represent Great Barr with Yew Tree. I will be there day in, day out, on the phone, on the doorstep, or by email – I'm always available for people."
Councillor Melia, of Friar Park Road in Wednesbury, was handed a 12-month conditional discharge for the offence, ordered to pay £200 in compensation and £130 in costs as a result of the court case.