Tory MP Chris Pincher faces suspension after damning report on ‘egregious sexual misconduct’
Tory MP Chris Pincher has said he will “reflect” after he was found by a parliamentary committee to be responsible for “an egregious case of sexual misconduct”.
Pincher, the MP for Tamworth, faces an eight-week suspension following a Standards Committee report into sexual assault allegations against him.
The twelfth and conclusive report of the inquiry was published on Thursday (6 July), ruling that Pincher’s behaviour was “unwanted” and “upsetting.”
The inquiry was launched after allegations were made that, during a 29 June 2022 Conservative conference at the Carlton Club in London, Pincher groped two men without consent.
The complainant, who worked in the House of Lords at the time, told the committee that he was traumatised by the incident and that it had a significantly negative impact on his wellbeing.
Chris Pincher’s misconduct ‘damaged reputation of the House’
A civil servant and Carlton Club member who reportedly witnessed the initial incident also told attending Committee members that Chris Pincher approached him shortly after and groped his bottom and testicles, which was witnessed by other members of the Club.
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The Standards Committee commissioner stated in his ruling opinion that Pincher’s conducted had caused significant damage not just to the complainants and witnesses, but to the reputation of the House.
“The damage that has been caused to the reputation and integrity of the House and its Members cannot be described as trivial, unnoteworthy, or not important to address,” the opinion read.
“The damage is significant. It involves behaviour that by any standards was shocking, deeply inappropriate, and adversely impacted two unsuspecting individuals who had no expectation that they would be subjected to such behaviour.”
The allegations made against Pincher arguably contributed heavily to Boris Johnson’s eventual resignation as prime minister after the government was accused of attempting to cover up the allegations.
In that regard, the ruling opinion further added that Pincher’s behaviour “risks advancing a misplaced public perception that members of Parliament do not have to abide by normal standards of behaviour.”
It recommended that Pincher be suspended from the House of Commons for a minimum of eight weeks for causing “significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House as a whole.”
Tory MP Pincher avoids answering calls to stand down
The suspension will trigger a recall petition – if 10 per cent of constituents sign it, a by-election will be triggered.
Chris Pincher is facing calls to stand down immediately, having already stated that he won’t seek re-election.
In a statement, the MP said: “I apologise sincerely again for my behaviour at the Carlton Club last year, as I did the day I resigned from the government.
“I resigned as deputy chief whip and have already said that I will not seek re-election.
“I have sought professional medical help, which is ongoing and has been beneficial to me, for which I am grateful. I am truly grateful for the kindness that I have received from my constituents, family and friends.
“I only saw the report at 8am this morning so I want to read it carefully and reflect on it properly. I do not intend to comment further at this time.”
During the hearing, Pincher apologised for his conduct during the evening and said that he couldn’t recollect anything that happened following his return to the Carlton Club after he had fulfilled his duty as a guest speaker at the event.
He denied that his conduct breached the 2019 Code of Conduct for Members, arguing that he was fulfilling his speaker role as a former minister rather than an MP and that he had returned to the Club in a personal capacity.
Paragraph 17 of the Code states: “Members shall never undertake action which would cause significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole, or of its Members generally.”
Pincher denied that his actions had caused “significant damage” to the reputation of the House.
The Committee refuted these claims in its ruling decision, however, saying that the event included MPs, parliamentary staff, and civil servants, meaning he would have re-joined the occasion in the same public capacity, not in a “private and personal” capacity.
Additionally, members ruled that Pincher had breached Paragraph 17 of the Code of Conduct for Members as his actions “caused significant damage to the reputation of the Government and to the prime minister who appointed him.”
The Committee also found that an “especially grave” aspect of the misconduct was that it constituted an “abuse of power,” especially after one of the witnesses expressed fears that the incident would affect his job and “future career plans.”
“Mr Pincher’s conduct was completely inappropriate, profoundly damaging to the individuals concerned, and represented an abuse of power,” the committee wrote. “We, therefore, agree with the commissioner that Mr Pincher’s conduct… breached paragraph 17 of the 2019 Code.”
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