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Online council cabinet meeting interrupted by sex act

17 Jan 2023 3 minute read
County Hall, Flintshire County Council. Picture: Google.

Rory Sheehan, local democracy reporter

Viewers of Flintshire Council’s online cabinet meeting were stunned this morning when it was interrupted by an apparent sex act by a member of the public.

The interruptions to the meeting began towards the end of the cabinet discussion on Waste Strategy, when a voice could be heard speaking to councillors.

Further into the meeting the Zoom screen was taken over and a man could be seen indulging in what appeared to be a sex act. The meeting was then brought to an abrupt halt within seconds, later resuming.

While councillors taking part in the meeting access it via Zoom, and that link is available to non-cabinet council members as well, it is not available to the public or press who can only follow the meeting on the council website via its webcast function.

Security review

The council is now reviewing its security settings for online meetings.

Leader of the opposition, Connah’s Quay Central Cllr Bernie Attridge (Ind) was one of those watching on the Zoom link via his iPad and he said he could not believe what he was seeing.

“At that point in the meeting a councillor was saying they were concerned their account had been hacked as messages began appearing in the chat function”, Cllr Attridge said.

“Someone had joined the link which is strictly only available to elected members, not the public.

“This chap who was on the link kept changing his name in the chat. I sent a message asking a question and the next thing I knew there was a chap pleasuring himself full screen on my iPad for a few seconds before the screen went completely black.

“We were then sent a Teams invite which resumed the meeting.

“I’ve had messages from fellow councillors who were watching on to say they were shocked and appalled.”

County Hall

Cllr Attridge said the incident only served to reinforce his opinion that all council meetings should be held in County Hall, taking into account Welsh Government legislation that they are at least held in a hybrid format – accessible both online and in person. But he feels they should not be held in an online format only, as cabinet currently is.

“Not even elected members should be able to cut in to a live cabinet meeting”, Cllr Attridge, a former cabinet member himself, added.

“If the cabinet – which is just eight councillors – were back in the Clwyd Room at County Hall, or even the chamber, this wouldn’t happen.

“I do not understand why they are still meeting on Zoom only, cabinet is one of the most important meetings in the council.

“As a member of the planning committee I’m currently pushing for that to be back in the chamber, hybrid, as that’s another meeting people are unhappy that is online only and difficult to conduct.”

A Flintshire Council spokesperson said: “A member of the public was given access to the link for this morning’s Cabinet meeting on Zoom and shared some extremely inappropriate content.

“We expect that only officers and councillors can join meetings as a participant. As a result of this incident, we shall be reviewing the security settings in meetings so that only designated officers can share content.

“We shall also be reminding all councillors that the links are for them only and that the public can view meetings via the livestream on our website.”

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