A disgraced councillor convicted of racially aggravated assault was conspicuous by his absence at last night's full council meeting.

Last night's meeting should have been Councillor Stephen Fenwick's first public appearance since he pleaded guilty to racially abusing and assaulting a barman at a bar in Charing Cross station.

However, as tributes were paid to long-serving and retiring members of the council, Coun Fenwick was nowhere to be seen, having sent apologies for his absence to meeting chairman Sutton Mayor Coun Sean Brennan.

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Coun Fenwick's empty seat at last night's meeting

Despite his absence, his position as a councillor was discussed at length.

Coun Fenwick drunkenly assaulted the barman at Bonapartes bar in the central London station in January after a day out watching football. He was arrested and admitted racially aggravated assault.

He was handed a 12 month conditional discharge last month, meaning he will escape further punishment if he stays out of trouble for a year.

Despite the incident, Coun Fenwick has resisted calls for him to resign from Sutton Council or make a public apology, although he has resigned from the local Liberal Democrat group meaning he is now an independent member of Sutton Council.

Since the incident, it has emerged the council has no power to remove his status as a councillor as he was not carrying out council duties at the time and was not jailed for more than three months.

His status as a councillor was raised by Emily Brothers, the Labour party's parliamentary candidate in Sutton and Cheam, at last night's meeting.

"She branded the council's code of conduct and equal opportunities policies "paper tigers".

However Councillor Dombey said: "I have sympathy with what you say we can't change.
"[Coun Fenwick] has issues he needs to resolve and I hope you all have the humanity to recognise this, just as I hope he will recognise his problems and work to address them."

Conservative Coun Tim Crowley added: "We need to have a stronger mentoring system to ensure that when things get tough for councillors they don't end up in dark places.

"We've all known Councillor Fenwick and we know he has his problems, I urge the leader to ensure a system is put in place to make sure that if problems arise, they are looked after."

Coun Dombey said she would to make sure both new and existing councillors are looked after.

Members voted to remove Coun Fenwick from his posts on council commitees. It is not known he he will stand in May's council elections.