RESIDENTS have raised concerns after a Conservative councillor was given a 12-month suspended sentence for GBH just TWO days after canvassing with the Prime Minister.
On Saturday, February 2, Jean-Jacques Ellis was pictured on the Woodley Conservatives Facebook page with fellow councillors and Theresa May after they had been door-knocking in the town’s Coronation Ward.
But on Monday, he was disqualified from being a councillor after his sentencing at Derby Crown Court – he had pleaded guilty to assaulting his victim at a wedding reception last year.
And the residents’ concerns over his proximity to the Prime Minister were heightened by the fact that Ellis has a previous conviction, dating back to 2004.
In addition to the jail sentence, Ellis was ordered to undertake 200 hours of community service and pay a fine of £1,500.
The court heard that Ellis had been at The West Mill in Darley Abbey on August 26 last year to celebrate a wedding.
At the reception, the 31-year-old punched a fellow guest, Luke Drinkwater, and then threw a glass at him. The incident was caught on CCTV. Drinkwater needed stitches following the assault. He also suffered a broken tooth.
The story made national newspapers on Tuesday, with the Daily Mirror reporting that prosecutor Luc Chignall told the court: “The result was serious injury”.
The Daily Mail said that Drea Becker, who was defending Ellis, told the court that had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, adding: “Mr Ellis admits full responsibility for throwing the glass.”
She also said that Ellis had attempted to contact the victim to apologise and he has ‘expressed remorse’ to those at the reception. It was also out of character for him she added.
Ellis, known to his friends as JJ, is an account manager for Amy’s Kitchen and was only elected as a councillor to Woodley Town Council’s South Lake ward last May.
Although he had pleaded guilty to the incident when he appeared at Derby’s Magistrates Court on January 14, it appears that he kept this quiet from his colleagues. Sources close to The Wokingham Paper said that the first they knew about the charges was late on Monday evening this week.
And the party had said it takes a dim view of bad behaviour from its members.
But the councillor’s secrecy over the charge has angered residents.
One said on social media: “Very surprised to see Jean-Jacques Ellis out canvassing with the PM on Saturday when he had already been convicted of a violent crime. Did none of you have any idea?”
Another accused Ellis of being a ‘scumbag’ for ‘glassing someone in the face in an unprovoked attack’.
And someone else said that they thought ‘he should be locked up’.
There were plenty of people airing their concerns of Ellis being so close to Theresa May.
“He was out canvassing, with the Prime Minister no less, over the weekend, when he was, at that stage a self-admitted and [previously] convicted violent offender,” said one.
Woodley Town Council leader Cllr Keith Baker told The Wokingham Paper: “The Conservative Party holds all its councillors to the highest standard of behaviour and any breaches are dealt with quickly.
“I can confirm that this individual is no longer a member of the Conservative Party.
“I can also confirm that [on Monday] the Woodley Town Council accepted his resignation as a Town Councillor.”
Days earlier, the unknowing Woodley Conservatives group posted a photo of Ellis with the Prime Minister and fellow councillors to their Facebook page with the caption: “Woodley residents of Coronation ward were delighted that their Member of Parliament was door-knocking this afternoon with borough and town councillors.
“The Conservative team is out every weekend to seek local views and offer help with any concerns.”
Ellis had sat on four committees at Woodley Town Council: Leisure Services Committee, PR/Marketing Working Group, Woodford Park Leisure Centre Regeneration Task and Finish Group and the Bulmershe SULV Joint Working Party as a Substitute.
Under the Local Government Act 1972, Ellis had to stand down as a councillor as a result of his conviction. Because there is only four months to the May local elections, the seat will remain vacant until that time.
When Ellis announced his candidacy last April, his election leaflet said that he moved to Woodley as it had “everything a small town should” and that he was “a sporty 30-year-old” who played ruhby and was a keen runner.
“I’m happy to stop for a natter while out on a run, to hear your views and discuss any concerns,” he added.
The leaflet ended with the plea to “please support Jean-Jacques Ellis and elect a local man to take action on local issues”.
And the Woodley Conservatives endorsed him by saying “We are delighted to have selected a dynamic young man as our Conservative candidate for the South Lake North town council by-election.
“Jean-Jacques Ellis (JJ to his friends) moved to Woodley when he and his wife Hannah bought their first home here. He is enjoying living here so much he wants to represent his community on the Town Council.”
The Wokingham Paper attempted to contact Ellis for a comment but was unable to get a response.