March 2022

Ex-Walsall Council leader given community order for child sex offences

A former council leader has been handed an 18-month community order for sexual offences against children.

Sean Coughlan, 65, from Willenhall, Walsall, admitted attempting to cause a female aged 13 or over to engage in a penetrative sexual activity.

The ex Walsall councillor also pleaded guilty to attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child.

He was charged after an operation by a paedophile hunter group saw a video of him being confronted shared online.

The offences happened between August and December 2021.

At the sentencing hearing on Thursday, Judge Michael Chambers said the former councillor had suffered a “great fall from grace”.

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard Coughlan had set up a secret Facebook page, posting intimate pictures and encouraging what he thought was a 14-year-old girl to engage in sexual activity.

“In reality, there was no child. This was a team purporting to perform a public duty,” the judge said.

A 30-minute video was posted online by the paedophile hunter group, which resulted in him being arrested and charged by West Midlands Police, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

“There was an element of grooming and clearly a disparity in age. There was an intention of penetrative sexual activity, but there was no harm as there was no child,” Judge Chambers said.

Coughlan resigned as a Walsall councillor days after the paedophile sting film had been posted, and had initially denied the charges, but changed his plea last month.

At Thursday’s sentencing hearing he was also made subject to a five-year sexual harm prevention order.

Coughlan was elected as a councillor for Walsall borough in 1995, representing the ward of Willenhall South.

During his career, he became deputy leader and then leader of both the Labour group and the authority, of which he was in charge between 2016 and 2018.

During court proceedings he was suspended from the Labour Party and the Walsall Council Labour group.

February 2022

Paedophile ex-Walsall Council leader admits child sex offences

Ex-Walsall Council leader Sean Coughlan has pleaded guilty to two child sex offences.

The 65-year-old admitted one count relating to sexual communication and one count relating to attempted sexual activity with a child under 16 between August and December 2021 when he appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Friday.

Coughlan spoke to change his plea to guilty from not guilty.

There was no application for bail.

A trial had been due to be held on July 18. However now the veteran politician has pleaded guilty he will be sentenced in four weeks.

Coughlan, of Martin Drive, Short Heath, Willenhall, was remanded in custody until then.

Coughlan was the elected representative for the Willenhall South ward but resigned in December following his arrest after being caught in an internet sting.

Paedophile hunters confronted Coughlan and posted a 30-minute video of them questioning the Labour politician on social media. He was then arrested and charged by West Midlands Police and spent Christmas behind bars after being kept in custody.

He was first elected in 1995 and has successfully defended the seat on a number of occasions, the latest being in May this year.

During his career he rose to become deputy leader and then leader of both his party and Walsall Council, which he was in charge of between 2016 and 2018.

He stepped down as leader of the Walsall Labour Group in 2019.

It is understood that Councillor Coughlan was also suspended from the Labour Party following his arrest.