SNP MP cleared of allegations of sexual misconduct as investigation was 'flawed'

23 June 2022, 12:23 | Updated: 23 June 2022, 12:27

Patricia Gibson MP
Patricia Gibson MP. Picture: Alamy

By Gina Davidson

An MP who was accused of sexually harassing one of her party's staff by allegedly propositioning him in a House of Commons bar, has been cleared of the charge on appeal, with the original investigation process criticised for being flawed.

Patricia Gibson, the SNP MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, had been accused of "stroking" a young male employee and asking him to "come home and shag me".

He also alleged that she attempted to pull him into a taxi after an evening of socialising in Stranger's Bar in 2020.

The young man is the same employee who was found to have previously been sexually harassed by another SNP MP, Patrick Grady.

Grady, MP for Glasgow North was suspended from the Commons for two days after a parliamentary standards investigation found him guilty of "unwanted touching of a sexual nature".

A formal complaint against Mrs Gibson was made to Westminster authorities last year but she strongly denied the claims, which included stroking his arm and back through his clothes while she was drunk.

An investigation by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, which involved a number of witnesses, upheld the complaint of sexual misconduct, with the Commissioner concluding they were "satisfied that [the respondent] propositioned the complainant on more than one occasion and that this was conduct of a sexual nature."

However the MP appealed and she has now been cleared after the Independent Expert Panel reported that the initial investigation had been "materially flawed" in three key areas and not followed natural justice.

The report states: ""The investigator applied the wrong test in determining what constitutes conduct of a sexual nature in the Sexual Misconduct Policy.

"She failed to consider all the circumstances, including the complainant’s perspective, to decide whether it was reasonable to conclude that the conduct was sexual in nature.”

It said the "investigator placed too much weight on the complainant’s perception that the touching was sexual.

"Had the investigator applied the test correctly, then she would have taken account of perceptions of all of the witnesses and may have come to a different conclusion.“

And the report added that "unfairness" had also arisen "because of the substantial changes that the investigator made to the draft Formal Assessment Report after the Factual Accuracy Check.

The panel’s report, published today, also summarised Gibson’s denial of the allegation: “The respondent denied, and continues to deny, the allegation.

"Her evidence was (in essence) that she was intoxicated, and therefore unable confidently to recall her exact words and actions.

“The respondent asserted, however, that she would not have stroked the complainant in the manner alleged and would never have used the word “shag”, nor would she have propositioned the complainant.”

Commenting on the report, Patricia Gibsonsaid she was grateful to the panel for its "comprehensive assessment" of the case.

"I am reassured that the Independent Expert Panel has exonerated me, and has found that I am not guilty and that the investigation into this case was materially flawed.

"I have always maintained my innocence. It has been a very difficult 16 months during which my reputation has been wrongly and repeatedly traduced in the press and on social media, which has also jeopardised my personal safety with threats, abuse and harassment.

"I have found this period extremely traumatic but I am pleased that my reputation has been restored and now wish to draw a line under this matter and look to the future."