SNP sexual harassment complainer attacks party's 'close-ranks' response to allegations
A complainer who accused an SNP MP of sexual misconduct has said the party still wishes to “close ranks”, protect their MPs and blame victims.
The person, who did not wish to be named, has spoken out after SNP MP Patricia Gibson last month had a finding of drunken sexual misconduct thrown out on appeal because the original investigation was judged to be “materially flawed”.
The victim has accused high-profile SNP figure Joanna Cherry of having an “ill-judged and disappointing attitude” towards sexual misconduct allegations, accusing the MP for Edinburgh South West of “misinformation”.
The SNP staffer has also alleged he was being forced out of a job within the party.
The intervention comes as an SNP councillor faces allegations of sexual misconduct, reported by the Sunday Mail, in a separate case.
Ms Cherry used the latest allegations to criticise the lack of an “adequate” complaints system within the party.
The backbencher, who has clashed with SNP party leadership over trans rights, on Twitter referenced a conference resolution set to be debated at the party’s conference in October.
This resolution would ask pro-independence campaigners to sign up to a code of conduct, which critics have said would exclude those with gender critical beliefs.
Ms Cherry said: “It’s a sad irony that while many activists are busily engaged drawing up (unlawful) codes of conduct designed to silence women who don’t subscribe to their belief system, we don’t have an adequate complaints system for allegations of predatory behaviour by men.”
When challenged that she had excluded women, referencing Ms Gibson, Ms Cherry said: “Patricia was exonerated.”
However, this exchange was criticised by the complainer in Ms Gibson’s case, who has attacked the claim the MP was exonerated as “misinformation”.
The complainer said: “Anyone that has read the report will know that Patricia has not been exonerated of anything.
"Patricia claims she was too drunk to remember sexually harassing me. However, witnesses and myself do remember what happened, as I was not drunk and [it] was a traumatic experience for me.”
Ms Gibson was accused of sexually harassed an SNP staffer by drunkenly propositioning them in a Commons bar, but vociferously denied the claims, labelling them malicious.
She was found guilty by a standards commissioner of having “subjected the complainant to unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature”.
This allegedly included stroking his arm and back, asking him to “come home and shag me” and repeatedly propositioning him.
However, the finding was thrown out on appeal after the initial investigation was found to be “materially flawed” and “inconsistent and procedurally unfair”.
No final judgement on the substance of the allegations has been reached, with Westminster’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) choosing to drop and not reinvestigate the complaint.
The victim said Ms Cherry’s claim showed the SNP had “learned nothing”.
They said: “This shows the SNP have learned nothing and still wish to close ranks, protect their MPs and blame the victims.
"I am now in a position where I am going to have to leave my job, for exactly this kind of ill-judged and disappointing attitude displayed by Joanna Cherry … claims of Patricia Gibson being exonerated is simply misinformation.”
The complainer said the ICGS had questions to answer on why it would not investigate again despite the conclusion its own investigation had been “flawed”.
Another anonymous SNP activist also criticised Ms Cherry, who was a specialist sex crime prosecutor for the Crown Office, for using sexual harassment allegations to make political points.
They said: “It's demoralising to see an MP using reports of sexual misconduct for internal point scoring.”
Ms Cherry was contacted for comment.
An SNP Westminster parliamentary group spokesperson said: "As employers, it would not be appropriate to comment on staff employment matters.
"The SNP Westminster Parliamentary Group has accepted the recommendations of the independent ICGS process as well as initiating a review of staff support."