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THE housing chief exposed by the Sunday Mercury as a convicted criminal with a violent history now faces a scrutiny committee.

John Lines, aged 59, has been asked to explain himself after we revealed he had once battered a neighbour with a wooden plank and beat up a barman who refused to serve him after-hours last summer.

The Tory councillor, who as Birmingham's new head of housing is waging war on neighbours from hell, is facing calls for his resignation after our revelations.

Mr Lines admitted causing actual bodily harm to barman Mark Smith, 21, last May and received a police caution. But the case never received publicity because it did not go to court.

Mr Smith and his family pressed for prosecution, but West Midlands Police said a caution was appropriate because it was the Tory councillor's first offence.

But, in fact, Mr Lines already had a conviction for smashing a wooden plank over his elderly neighbour's son-in-law, Thomas Denny, in a row over a greenhouse in 1983.

The then fledgling politician was fined pounds 200 by Birmingham magistrates and bound over in the sum of pounds 100 to keep the peace for a year. News of the assaults is said to have sent shockwaves through council circles.

Coun Steve Bedser, the lead Labour member on the Housing Urban Renewal Overview and Scrutiny Committee, is demanding Mr Lines's resignation.

'I raised questions at a meeting of the committee on August 17 after the Sunday Mercury revealed that Coun Lines had been convicted of assaulting a neighbour,' he said.

'We have a housing chief who has promised to hand out antisocial behaviour orders 'like confetti', and yet was himself convicted of behaviour which would warrant an order and even eviction.

'The committee's role is to scrutinise the housing department's performance. There are key questions here.

'Are the allegations true? If theyare - and they certainly appear to be - then how can John Lines be deemed a fit and proper person to run one of the biggest housing departments in the country?

'And is he able to give reassurance that these are the full extent of the disclosures, or are they just the tip of the iceberg?

'These questions will be raised at the next meeting of the committee on September 21. Mr Lines usually attends these meetings and I would urge him to come and explain himself.'

Deputy council leader John Hemming this week went out on a limb to defend the under-fire Tory over last year's assault on barman Mark Smith.

Mr Lines received a caution for punching Mr Smith three times in the car park of the Cobham Arms in Halesowen after a night out with his son Bruce, who is also a Tory councillor for Bartley Green.

Liberal Democrat leader Mr Hemming told the Sunday Mercury: 'He told me that he was just defending his son from a much taller man. I don't have a problem with a man defending his son from an attack.

'I believe John is the victim of a Labourwitchhunt.As for accepting a caution, a councillor who found himself in such a situation might well feel it was better to accept a caution, even if he didn't feel he did anything wrong, rather than proceed to trial with all the attention that would involve.'

But Mr Smith said he had done nothing to provoke the vicious attack.

'The whole incident was captured on CCTV cameras which the police took away,' he said. 'It was also witnessed by the landlord's wife.'

CounBedseradded: 'If JohnLines disputed the circumstances of the incident and disputed whether the caution was fair, then why did he accept a caution?'


BATTERED A NEIGHBOUR: city housing boss Coun John Lines; REVEALED: how the Mercury broke the story and (right) Coun Steve Bedser who is calling for Coun Lines to quit
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Aug 29, 2004
Previous Article:DID MUM KNOW KILLER? Gun was kept in victim's house.

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