August 9, 2020

Conservative Party stands by decision not to suspend MP arrested over rape allegaton as criticism mounts

Conservative Party stands by decision not to suspend MP arrested over rape allegaton as criticism mountsThe Conservative Party is standing by its decision not to suspend a former minister who has been arrested and bailed after being accused by a woman of rape and sexual assault. The senior Conservative MP, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was taken into custody on Saturday morning shortly before the Metropolitan Police announced it had launched an investigation. The man, in his 50s, was placed in custody at a police station in East London but has now been released on bail to a date in mid-August. A Metropolitan Police Service statement said officers received allegations relating to “four separate incidents involving allegations of sexual offences and assault.” The complaints were lodged with the constabulary on Friday. In a statement, a spokesman for Mark Spencer, the Government Chief Whip, said that he took “all allegations of harassment and abuse extremely seriously and has strongly encouraged anybody who has approached him to contact the appropriate authorities, including Parliament's Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, which can formally carry out independent and confidential investigations." Separately, a spokesman for the Conservative Party said: “These are serious allegations and it is right that they are investigated fully. The Whip has not been suspended. This decision will be reviewed once the police investigation has been concluded” However, Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow safeguarding minister, on Sunday said it was “shocking” that the Conservative Party had not withdrawn the whip from the MP. She added that the case reminded her of Charlie Elphicke, the former Conservative MP who was last week found guilty of three charges of sexual assault. Speaking to Times Radio, the Labour MP said: "It is very difficult to comment on the case itself because it is quite rightly in front of the criminal justice system. "But what I would say in this matter is in any organisation - especially one like Members of Parliament who every day work with vulnerable people, young activists, members of staff - in any other organisation, were this police investigation to be going on, somebody would be suspended while the investigation was taking place "I find it shocking this morning in the news that the Conservative Party has decided not to withdraw the whip in this case. “I'm afraid to say it reminds me of another case that has been in the papers this last week, and that was the conviction of the ex-Tory MP Charlie Elphicke where myself and a number of others were making demands throughout to the chief whip of the Conservative Party about how inappropriate it was that while the police investigation was going on that he was allowed to maintain the whip, which they removed and gave back based on political expediency in my opinion. "While pending a police investigation for a sexual crime, I think it is only right that the whip is withdrawn." According to The Sunday Times, the alleged abuse towards the woman, who must remain anonymous for legal reasons, took place last year. While Scotland Yard did not name the man they said the incidents are alleged to have taken place in Westminster, Lambeth and Hackney in London between July 2019 and January 2020. A Scotland Yard statement said: “On Friday, 31 July, the Metropolitan Police Service received allegations relating to four separate incidents involving allegations of sexual offences and assault. “These offences are alleged to have occurred at addresses in Westminster, Lambeth and Hackney between July 2019 and January 2020. The Met has launched an investigation into the allegations. “A man in his 50s was arrested on Saturday, 1 August on suspicion of rape and is currently in custody in an east London police station.” In a statement, the Conservative Party said: “We take all allegations of this nature extremely seriously. As this matter is now in the hands of the police it would be inappropriate to comment further.” The MP has been approached for comment.


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