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Lord Lester handed longest EVER suspension from the House of Lords for sexual harassment

Lord Lester was today handed the longest ever suspension from the House of Lords over sexual harassment.

Peers will be asked to rubber stamp the suspension of until June 2022 – the expected date of the next election – on Thursday.

The peer, 82, was found to have breached the code of conduct by harassing the complainant and making ‘corrupt inducements to sleep with him’ by offering to get her a peerage.

The former Liberal Democrat was accused of telling the woman: ‘If you sleep with me I will make you a Baroness within a year.’

The Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee rejected an appeal over the facts of the case. He was suspended from the Lib Dems when the allegations emerged earlier this year.

Lord Lester flatly denies the allegations against him, branding them ‘completely untrue’. 

Ex-Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester was today handed the longest ever suspension from the House of Lords over sexual harassment

He had faced expulsion from the Chamber but the appeal downgraded it to a record-breaking suspension.

The reason for the downgrade was because the behaviour took place around a decade ago before it was possible to expel members of the House of Lords. 

Lord Lester offered to secure the woman a peerage in return for sleeping with him, the committee concluded.

She also made a statement detailing a night where he repeatedly touched her thigh while driving her to his house following a delayed train, before propositioning her.  

He denied the allegations against him and claimed the woman informed the press before lodging a formal complaint. He insisted the investigation into him was ‘seriously flawed’. 

Lord Lester told the inquiry: ‘I did not offer her a peerage in return for sex or threaten her. 

‘I did not threaten her with repercussions if she did not sleep with me. It is not in my character to do any of those things, and I did not do them.’ 

But in her report, the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said she believed the victim.

She said: ‘As I could not think of any plausible reason why the complainant would make detailed but untrue allegations about Lord Lester, and take no further action for many years, I considered that she was more likely than not to have been telling the truth when she spoke to her witnesses and complained to me.’ 

The suspension until June 2022 is the longest ever from the House of Lords and longest from either chamber since World War II

The suspension until June 2022 is the longest ever from the House of Lords and longest from either chamber since World War II

The Commissioner concluded: ‘My decision must apply the standard of the balance of probabilities. Where the allegations are particularly serious, it is important that the evidence is suitably strong and cogent.

‘Applying the test of the balance of probabilities I find the complaint upheld, on the basis of the strong and cogent evidence of the complainant and her witnesses.

‘I have carefully considered the challenges to this evidence, but do not find that those challenges undermine the strength of the evidence to any significant degree.’ 

The Privileges and Conduct Committee said the victim of Lord Lester’s harassment was entitled to keep her anonymity. 

In his statement, the peer said: ‘These allegations are completely untrue. I produced evidence which clearly demonstrated that what I was said to have done 12 years ago did not happen.

‘Independent counsel who previously advised the committee on its procedures provided an advice which concluded that the investigation was flawed. I regret the committee’s conclusions in the light of these materials.

‘There has to be a fair process for investigating sexual harassment claims in Parliament. Parliament is supposed to be a bastion of the rule of law but has ignored calls to reform this procedure properly for 20 years.

‘I hope to be judged by my work over decades for gender equality, race relations and free speech.’ 

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: ‘Anthony Lester has been suspended from the Liberal Democrats and is no longer a member of the Liberal Democrat group in the House of Lords.’

The finding comes in the wake of the ‘sexminster’ scandal which rocked parliament.

Politicians have been accused of abusing their power by bullying and sexually harassing women who worked for them. 

Report finds that ‘boorish’ male MPs groped and propositioned women  

‘Boorish’ male MPs groped, lunged and propositioned women in Parliament, a damning report into the sexminster scandal has today revealed.

Dame Laura Cox said many MPs will be ‘horrified’ at the conduct of their colleagues.

Some male politicians were guilty of ‘predatory’ behaviour, the judge said.

Women who worked in Westminster complained that male MPs had touched their bottoms and breasts, patted their heads and had been abused in ‘vulgar gender-related terms’.

Dame Laura said: ‘The most serious allegations related to the alleged ‘predatory’ conduct of a few individuals, but overall the allegations indicate that sexual harassment has been a more widespread problem, and it crosses the political sphere. 

‘All of the allegations were made against men. Some are no longer in the House but others continue to serve as elected Members.’

Some male MPs were so well known for their lewd advances that women were privately warned never to be in a room alone with them, the report said. 

She added: ‘There were reports too of groups of male MPs becoming increasingly boorish on occasions when they were together, of frequent sexual innuendos, lewd comments or sexual gestures, or women repeatedly being asked questions about their sex lives, or about their personal lives generally, which they found offensive and humiliating.’ 

Dame Laura added: ‘Some men who came forward spoke of witnessing ‘some atrocious treatment of young women by MPs,’ and of ‘some women being treated as their personal servants, with veiled threats to have them moved if they failed to comply with requests.’ 

‘Some men also spoke of their shame, looking back now, that they had stayed silent at the time when such incidents occurred, and that they had not done more to help.’

Parliament was dominated by a ‘macho’ culture which saw some male employees – including some ‘serial predators’ – also target women. 

The report states: ‘Young women graduates in their first job have been particularly shocked and upset by such treatment when ‘running the gauntlet’ in this way.’

 

 

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