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Researcher’s ‘relief’ at arrest of Tory MP accused of rape

The woman who has accused a Tory MP of rape last night claimed that ministers care more about protecting him and the party than about safeguarding victims.

The former Parliamentary researcher in her 20s told of her relief after learning that the ex-minister was arrested at the weekend.

But she said she was ‘devastated’ when the Conservatives decided not to suspend the MP, who cannot be named for legal reasons. 

The alleged victim, who also cannot be named, said senior ministers ‘seem to care more about protecting the MP and the party than protecting victims and other women’.

She told ITV News: ‘It’s taken me a long time to build up the courage and strength to finally go to the police. It was a relief…to see he was arrested so quickly.’

The woman raised her allegations with Conservative chief whip Mark Spencer in April but claims he did not take any action or encourage her to contact police.

She accused him of evading questions about when he would suspend the whip from the MP, adding: ‘I felt like he did not take me seriously or recognise the severity of what had happened.’

It is understood Mr Spencer does not believe that a sexual assault was reported to him in their conversation, but he acknowledges that she told him of abusive behaviour and threats.  He suggested that she take her allegations to the appropriate authority.

The woman said: ‘I feel like the chief whip has never taken my allegations seriously or even cared. Since the news of the arrest the chief whip – or anyone from the party – has not contacted me at all, not to…offer support or anything.’

Mr Spencer yesterday insisted that the allegations against the MP are being taken ‘very seriously’ as the party came under increasing pressure over its decision not to withdraw the whip.

Boris Johnson was accused of ‘reneging’ on his promise to take sexual harassment complaints seriously. 

Former Tory deputy chief whip Anne Milton urged the MP to act voluntarily. She said: ‘Giving up the whip is a serious step. It would provide an appropriate way forward and should not be considered an admission of guilt.’

Mrs Milton told The Times: ‘In any other profession it wouldn’t happen that a person suspected of a crime would be carrying on as normal.’

Claire Waxman, the victims’ commissioner for London, quoted the Prime Minister. 

She said: ‘”Women must have the confidence that crimes, domestic violence and sexual abuse, are treated seriously” said Boris Johnson last year. 

‘However, not suspending an MP accused of rape while investigations are ongoing conveys a different message.’

MPs have previously chosen to suspend themselves after being accused of wrongdoing. 

Conservative Nigel Evans gave up the whip and the deputy speaker role in 2013 as he faced allegations of sexual assault. 

He was later cleared and recently became deputy speaker again. Amy Leversidge, of the FDA civil service union, said: ‘If this scenario occurred in any other workplace it would be quite reasonable and proportionate for the employer to suspend the individual to allow an investigation to take place. 

‘At this stage, it isn’t about guilt or innocence but rather a duty of care to everyone involved.’ 

Tory MP Caroline Nokes, chairman of the Women and Equalities Committee, called for reform of the system for making complaints against MPs. 

She said: ‘There needs to be a simple, well-publicised and known process for this sort of incident to be reported. 

‘It should not be reliant on a young (because many staff in Westminster are young) man or woman having to make their way to the chief whip, who can be a very daunting figure, or to the Leader of the House – whose very job title makes them sound remote from most people’s experiences.

‘I have long thought there needs to be a system whereby staff are directly employed by IPSA [Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority], giving them a direct route to complain to their employer who is then not the MP.

‘In any large organisation there needs to be a transparent process whereby a complaint can easily be made and, whilst Parliament has made progress, I am far from convinced we yet have a system that is fit for 2020.’ 

One senior female Tory MP said: ‘Of course, the MP should be suspended if there’s no way of identifying the victim.’

Labour said it sent a ‘terrible message’ that senior figures were able to secure ‘protection’ through their Westminster status.

Yesterday Mr Spencer said the police must carry out their investigation before ‘we can assess where we’re at’. 

He stressed: ‘I think it is down to the police to do that thorough investigation, not for the whips office to investigate this alleged crime.’

On Friday police received allegations relating to four incidents in London. They said a man was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of rape. 

He has been bailed until mid-August. The MP is accused of coercing the woman into sex while they were in a relationship. 

Chief whip Mark Spencer today stood by his decision not to suspend the senior Tory MP arrested on suspicion of rape.

The party is under mounting pressure, including from the alleged victim, to strip the ex-minister of the Conservative whip.

But Mr Spencer said it was right to allow the police to conclude their investigation before taking any action, while also stressing the need to protect the identity of the accuser.

The former parliamentary researcher in her 20s has alleged she was assaulted and forced to have sex.

She claims that she was left so traumatised by their relationship last year that she ended up in hospital. 

Defending his handling of the case, Mr Spencer today said: ‘They are very serious allegations and we do take those allegations very seriously.

‘I think it is down to the police to do that thorough investigation, not for the Whips Office to investigate this alleged crime, it is for the police and the authorities to do that.

‘Once they’ve come to that conclusion, then we can assess where we’re at and the position that the MP find themselves in.’     

Opposition politicians have condemned the ‘shocking’ decision not to withdraw the whip from the MP. London’s Victims Commissioner, Claire Waxman, accused Boris Johnson of breaking a vow to treat abuse against women ‘seriously’.

However, a senior Tory source told MailOnline that suspending the MP would inevitably lead to them being identified. 

It was claimed today the Chief Whip was aware the MP was in a sexual relationship with a woman when she made a complaint about his behaviour – but not that there was an allegation of sexual assault.

Sources insisted that when Mr Spencer spoke to the woman in April he was not told of any accusation of serious sexual abuse by the unnamed former minister. 

A spokesman for Mr Spencer said: ‘The Chief Whip takes 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.’

Mr Spencer is understood to be adamant that when he spoke to the woman she did not refer to any ‘serious sexual abuse’.

However, sources confirmed he was aware that the pair had a sexual relationship.

The alleged victim has hit out at the party for not taking swift action, telling The Times: ‘It’s insulting and shows they never cared.’ 

Women within the Tory ranks are demanding the Party takes action after a former Conservative MP was last week convicted of sexual assault in a separate case.

An ex-Tory minister told the Daily Telegraph: ‘I’m surprised the whip hasn’t been removed considering what happened to Charlie Elphicke. I think the chief has a lot to answer for.’

The PM told MPs last year women ‘must have the confidence that crimes, domestic violence and sexual abuse, are treated seriously by our law enforcement system’.

Bur Ms Waxman warned on Twitter that ‘not suspending an MP accused of rape while investigations are ongoing conveys a different message’.

Asked about the situation in a round of interviews this morning, business minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News he did not know the details of the investigation.

‘There’s a victim here as well. I think it’s a right for us to wait until the police can do their investigation, and then you’ll be hearing from the chief whip as to what action will be taken,’ he said.

Supporters of the accused MP, who cannot be named, say he ‘totally’ denies the allegations after he was questioned and bailed by police. He has also been given the ‘100 per cent’ backing of his local party. 

In a statement issued by the former minister’s local association, its chairman said the MP disputed the allegations.

‘[The MP] has made us aware of allegations made against him,’ they said.

‘He denies these totally. And this association give him our 100 per cent support.

‘Some of the officers of this association have known him for around 25 years and from our knowledge of him in a political and personal capacity we can’t accept that there is any truth whatsoever in these accusations.’ 

The Metropolitan Police said it had received allegations on Friday of sexual offences and assault relating to four separate incidents at addresses in London, including in Westminster, between July last year and January this year.

A spokesman said: ‘The Met has launched an investigation into the allegations.’ 

A man in his 50s was arrested on suspicion of rape and was taken into custody at an east London police station, the force added. He was later released on bail to a date in mid-August.

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