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Decision to clear ex-Tory MP of sexual misconduct claims upheld by new watchdog


By PA News

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A panel set up in the wake of the “Pestminster” scandal has concluded its first case by dismissing an appeal against the decision to clear a former Tory MP of sexual misconduct allegations.

Ross Thomson was cleared by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in October following claims by former Labour MP Paul Sweeney, who said the Conservative had “groped” him in a Westminster bar in October 2018.

The Independent Expert Panel (IEP), established last year as part of a complaints process developed following a major report on bullying and harassment in the House of Commons by Dame Laura Cox, considered an appeal by Mr Sweeney against commissioner Kathryn Stone’s decision.

Their judgment found there was no merit in any of the grounds and do not accept that there are any valid grounds for an appeal
Independent Expert Panel spokeswoman

But the eight-person panel ruled there was no case to answer for Mr Thomson, who had been elected in 2017.

Mr Thomson said he hoped the panel’s decision, which related to allegations submitted in March 2019, marked the “end of the smear campaign against me”.

In a statement posted on social media, Mr Thomson said he planned to “restart” legal action.

The Tory, who ran Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign in Scotland, stood down as the party’s candidate for the Aberdeen South seat in November 2019 after Mr Sweeney went public with the accusations.

A spokeswoman for the IEP said it considered each of the five grounds of appeal made by the complainant – whom the panel did not name – “with some care”.

“Their judgment found there was no merit in any of the grounds and do not accept that there are any valid grounds for an appeal,” she added.

Sir Stephen Irwin, a former Lord Justice of appeal and chairman of the IEP, said: “The panel made the decision in this first case guided by the principles of natural justice, fairness for all parties, transparency and proportionality, and will treat all further cases with the same regard and diligence.

“We understand the seriousness of, and the harm caused by, bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct.

“We are rigorously independent, impartial and objective, acting without any political input or influence.”

Mr Thomson said: “l welcome the decision of the Independent Expert Panel to reject Paul Sweeney’s appeal.

Sir Stephen Irwin, a former Lord Justice of appeal, is chairman of the IEP (Peter Byrne/PA)
Sir Stephen Irwin, a former Lord Justice of appeal, is chairman of the IEP (Peter Byrne/PA)

“This is the second time his false and malicious allegations have been formally dismissed.

“I find it astonishing that Mr Sweeney had the brass neck to appeal (against) the commissioner’s original decision, which was based on extensive evidence, including witness statements and CCTV footage, contradicting his story.

“I hope today’s decision finally marks the end of the smear campaign against me.

“l intend to restart legal discussions now that the appeal process has concluded.”


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