Victim of SNP MP's sexual harassment slams party for failures

16 June 2022, 00:02

Nicola Sturgeon posing for a selfie with SNP MPs including Patrick Grady on the far right.
Nicola Sturgeon posing for a selfie with SNP MPs including Patrick Grady on the far right. Picture: Alamy

By Gina Davidson

The SNP put protecting one of its MPs ahead of the wellbeing of the 19-year-old young man he sexually harassed, LBC has been told.

The victim of Patrick Grady's unwanted sexual advances - an SNP employee at Westminster - has spoken to LBC revealing how he "froze" when the 36-year-old touched him and stroked his hair while in a London pub and how he feels "abandoned" by colleagues and other MPs after making his complaint.

Now 25, he also believes the investigation by the Commons' Independent Expert Panel (IEP) as well as his "side-lining" by his party, has "retraumatised" him and he has called for Grady to resign as an MP.

The investigation by the IEP, which recommends punishments for MPs over bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct, published its findings on Tuesday. In the report the investigators wrote: "Any unwanted physical touching, with sexual intent, from a senior MP to a junior member of staff, even on a single occasion, is a significant breach of policy."

While it said Grady had shown "genuine remorse" and made "efforts to address his behaviour", it recommended just a two day supension from the Commons and that the MP make a public apology and a "private one to the complainant."

A report by Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone, had also found that Grady had, under the influence of alcohol, made an "unwanted sexual advance to the complainant that included the touching and stroking of the complainant's neck, hair, and back" after an SNP work social event on 20 October 2016.

Grady's victim says he feels "vindicated" by the result of the investigation, but believes sanctions should have gone further and the party should kick out the MP for good.

Recalling the night in the pub he told LBC: "It was quite a nice night until towards the end of the evening. I was sitting on a couch in the pub with three or four colleagues, and then Patrick perched himself on the arm of the couch and proceeded to start touching me.

"He was playing with my hair and making comments about how he wished he had hair. He was putting his fingers on the back of my neck, behind my shirt collar, quite forcefully, and you know, at that time when I was 19, I didn't know how to deal with it.

"I just froze up and the colleagues witnessing that - they didn't really do anything. I think they were shocked as I was, at what was going on."

Asked if Grady had sexually harassed him at other times, he added: "When you think back you think actually maybe yes... that you didn't think it was at the time, you know, inviting people back to hotel rooms and things at conferences and that kind of thing. He did ask me on one occasion at a conference."

Grady, who represents Glasgow North, stepped aside as SNP chief whip last year amid claims over his behaviour.

The pub incident was initially reported to the SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford, not by the victim himself, but by another person altogether, who hasn't been identified.

"I was asked to Ian Blackford's office for a meeting. When I walked in - a big sort of Gothic Westminster type office with big oil paintings staring, and a quite intimidating atmosphere anyway - there was the leader Ian and Patrick, the chief whip, two people that you know, have so much influence over my career, and there was Patrick, a middle aged guy crying on the couch and I didn't know how to react.

"I didn't know he was going to be there. I felt pressured to accept the apology he gave - only after he was ordered to by his boss, Ian. So yeah, it was a very intimidating atmosphere to be in."

The young man - who is still employed as an SNP staffer - also described how since he made an official complaint to the Commons about Grady he has been isolated from his colleagues and other SNP MPs - to the extent that despite being in a taxpayer funded role he is given very little work to do.

"I look at the email inbox and it remains empty," he says. "I do feel bullied. I feel partly to blame as well, even though it's irrational - but with so many people that I considered friends, colleagues, people I trusted for so long... and for them to just to close ranks, turn their backs give the silent treatment... it's been hard.

"It's textbook stuff for how political parties deal with this. But the reason why I was a member of the SNP and work for them is because I thought they were different, providing sort of a cleaner version of politics, but it seems to me that actually, you know, they're not any different from the other parties in that regard.

"I don't know how they can go to constituents and ask them to vote for this man again, but they seem quite happy to have him representing the party going forward.

"It seems very short sighted to me, and it seems at no point have they taken the victim in this into consideration. It's all been about protect Patrick, protect the Member of Parliament. It's a lot easier to get rid of me as a junior member of staff. But just because it's the easy route doesn't mean it's the correct one."

Asked if he believed Nicola Sturgeon had been aware of his case he said: "I have certainly copied her into emails and things whether or not she has read them I don't know.

"I don't know how much the First Minister knows, and some clarity on that would be good. I don't know how much information has been passed on to her from my employer, the Westminster group. There is a divide between the Holyrood group and the Westminster group. They don't talk to each other as much as you might think they do. So it's difficult to know who or what and when knew about things."

Nicola Sturgeon has now spoken on the issue for the first time and apologised and promised a change in how such harassment cases are handled by her party.

"The most important thing I need to say is that a member of staff was subjected to an unwanted sexual advance by an SNP MP and that should not have happened, and I'm sorry that it did happen.

"Now in terms of the SNP's handling of it... I think like all organisations in these situations we need to reflect on any view from a complainant, that the process that was undertaken rather than helping to resolve an issue, perhaps made the experience more difficult.

"That's what the complainer in this case has said. And rather than being defensive or saying we don't agree with all the details of that, I think it's right for the SNP and to reflect on how we make sure in future processes are what people would expect them to be."

She said she understood why the victim would seek tougher sanctions, but the "independent process has determined what an apporpriate sanction is" and said she and Ian Blackford would "reflect properly" on his criticisms of how the party had handled the case.

However she also appeared to suggest that a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment may have limitations.

"Zero tolerance of inappropriate sexual behaviour is of course important - how that is applied in individual cases has to take account of context, the nature of the behaviour, the seriousness, and this is serious, and also whether somebody is genuine in their remorse and hs shown a genuine understanding. An independent process has recommended the sanction here and its important we understand the reasons for that and accept that."

The young man at the centre of the case is now facing returning to work in London - and his harasser - on a daily basis again.

"It has been traumatic, you know, in the last year or two since making the complaint, it's been a living hell, it really has and the process itself has been far more traumatic and difficult than the harassment itself .

"The process and the way the party has handled that has retraumatised me."

Nicola Sturgeon said it was now "incumbent on the Westminster group as an employer to make sure that somebody with that experience is not in any way disadvantaged in their working environment. That is for those who are responsible for the employmen relationships there to ensure is the case."