A Sunderland councillor who wrongly accused a grandad of being a paedophile did not breach the council's code of conduct, a committee has found.

Labour councillor Michael Essl accused Len Lowther, 66, from Roker, of having child abuse images on his computer in a number of shocking social media posts.

But on October 28, 2020, the councillor, who represents the Ryhope ward, posted an apology on Facebook after Len took legal action against him.

Coun Essel posted a statement on Facebook "unreservedly" apologising and paid £20,000 in compensation in addition to legal fees.

Len also took his complaint against Coun Essl to Sunderland City Council which the assessment sub-committee considered during a meeting held on February 17.

The committee was to decide whether the councillor had breached the council's code of conduct which all members much follow.

1. You must treat others with respect, including Council officers and other elected Members.

2. You must not bully any person (including specifically any Council employee) and you must not intimidate or improperly influence or attempt to intimidate or improperly influence any person who is involved in any complaint about any alleged breach of this Code of Conduct.

3. You must not do anything which compromises or is likely to compromise the impartiality of anyone who works for or on behalf of the Council

In a copy of the decision notice, seen by ChronicleLive, the committee found that when Coun Essl made the posts, he was "not conducting council business".

It also said that "no impression" was given that Coun Essl was making the posts as a representative of the council.

It, therefore, found that Coun Essl was acting in his personal capacity and no breach of the code had taken place.

A statement from Sunderland City Council said: "Procedures are in place for alleged breaches of the council’s Code of Conduct to be considered by the City Council’s Standards Committee.

"For legal reasons, it would not be appropriate for the council to comment any further."

Len, who has three daughters and six grandchildren and runs Pier Fish and Chips in Roker, previously opened up about the toll of the false allegations, saying it had been a "year of hell".

He said at the time: "It's been a year of hell for me and for my family.

"I run a fish and chip shop and cafe so I'm well known in the area and this has been absolutely horrendous.

"Forty years ago, I became a single parent to three daughters, I'd be the last person in the world to be that way inclined.

"It's massively affected my family, my partner was talking about leaving me, not because she had any doubts about me but because of the pressure and the stress."

Labour North declined to comment while Coun Essl has been approached for comment.