Saturday, June 25, 2022

Sleaze watchdog accused of sexually harassing victim of SNP MP Patrick Grady

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The MP, who was suspended for two days in the House of Commons, said he was “deeply sorry” for molesting a young male staffer in 2016

Former SNP chief whip Patrick Grady has been suspended from the House of Commons for two days after he admitted making unwanted sexual advances to a 19-year-old staffer in 2016.

The watchdog investigating sexual harassment in Westminster has been charged with “victim blaming” after he criticized a younger staff member for speaking publicly about the MP who sexually harassed him.

He was also suspended by his party pending a meeting on the content of the report on his misconduct.

But the Independent Panel of Experts (IEP) investigating the case said it opted for a shorter sanction because the complainant had repeatedly breached confidentiality, saying those breaches were “a deliberate attempt to publicly discredit Mr Grady.” ‘ which led to him suffering ‘intrusive press relations and abuse on social media’.

The Women’s Equality Party described this as “Victim Charge 101” and that the confidentiality is there to protect victims, not suspects.

Mr Grady, who was 36 at the time, made the unwanted advances towards the employee at an SNP social event, including touching and stroking his neck, hair and back.

The IEP said that “unsolicited physical contact with sexual intent from a senior MP to a junior staff member, even on a single occasion, constitutes a material breach of policy. It must be marked by a period of suspension from home.”

Mr Grady did not appeal the IEP’s suspension and in his apology to the House of Commons said he was “deeply sorry” and acknowledged that the case “was aggravated by a significant difference in age and authority between myself and the complainant and by Excessive alcohol consumption was further exacerbated my part”.

The IEP sub-panel, which was considering a sanction, also said that while MPs are not prohibited from engaging in sexual relations with staff, “it is evident that enormous care must be taken if such relationships are to be engaged in”.

The activists questioned why this was relevant to the case as the harassment involved unwelcome sexual advances, not a relationship.

Because Mr Grady had “sincere remorse for his actions in not being repeated when they were dismissed and for his efforts to address his conduct since the incident”, he was suspended for just two days of sessions and had to issue a public apology in the House of Commons and one private to the complainant.

The IEP said anyone involved in a case involving Westminster’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme has a duty to keep all details confidential until a report is made public.

However, the ICGS was formed as part of the #MeToo movement, where victims of sexual harassment and assault felt empowered to break their silence about the abuse.

The IEP said: “Confidentiality is also important to protect MPs from false or exaggerated reporting of unsubstantiated allegations, which can permanently damage reputation.”

But it was previously reported that when the staffer originally complained about Mr Grady’s behaviour, the SNP handled the matter informally, including “ambushing” the victim at a meeting with the MP, at which he was asked to give his apology to accept

Amy Killen of the Women’s Equality Party said: “Patrick Grady MP has been suspended for just two days for sexually harassing a 19-year-old staff member.

“The panel ‘justified’ the sanction reduction by holding the employee accountable for how he had handled a process that had already failed him.

“This is Victim Charge 101. It has no place in our society, least of all in the institution responsible for making our laws.

“Investigators were more concerned with the reputation of a sexual harasser and the Commons itself than with any real accountability.

“The confidentiality of the process is important to protect the victim’s identity, not the perpetrator’s reputation. It couldn’t be more obvious that the focus here was on the opposite.

“Sanctions for men of power should not be determined by how a victim has dealt with an onerous process in a system that has already failed them.

“It’s just the kind of inappropriate scrutiny of complainants we see all the time, and it’s one of many reasons people don’t report it.

“Westminster has a culture of impunity that cuts across party lines and protects powerful men accused of abuse or harassment. Complainants are treated as communication risks and not as people because in politics image is more important than people.”

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