A man who suffered a Scottish MP’s “unwanted sexual advances” has said the parliamentarian’s two-day suspension sends the “wrong message” to victims.
Speaking to STV News, the junior SNP worker, who was 19 years old at the time of the incident, hit out at the leniency of the sanction against the party’s former chief whip Patrick Grady and called on him to resign.
He said his life had been turned “upside-down” and made a “living-hell” over the last 16 months since he made the complaint against Grady.
It comes after the Glasgow North MP was found to have inappropriately touched the teenager at a social gathering in 2016.
The staffer, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he was “delighted” at being vindicated by the Independent Expert Panel For Sexual Misconduct.
“But on the other hand, the leniency of the sanction from both the party and the ICGS (The Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme), I think sends out the wrong message to any victims of sexual harassment and sends out the wrong message to not just staff in Westminster, but to the public as a whole,” he said.
The staffer said he believes the way the SNP and ICGS have handled his complaint and the punishment they have administered will prevent victims coming forward.
“To be ripped away from my work, have my career pulled out from under me like that for something that I didn’t do, that’s not my fault, it hurts and it’s confusing as well.”Complainant
“It shows there’s not zero tolerance to sexual harassment,” he said.
“There is a level of tolerance that will be tolerated.”
Grady has been suspended from the House of Commons and the party’s Westminster group for two days.
The staffer said he wanted to see a suspension long enough to trigger a recall petition in Glasgow North so that Grady’s constituents could “decide for themselves if they want him to remain their MP”.
“The panel and the party have deprived the constituents the chance of doing that now,” he said.
“To be ripped away from my work, have my career pulled out from under me like that for something that I didn’t do, that’s not my fault, it hurts and it’s confusing as well.
“It seems to me the Scottish National Party are the only people on the planet that think that the response to this is acceptable.”
“I didn’t know how to react to it at 19 years old, so I just froze up.”Complainant
Following the publication of the parliamentary watchdog’s report on Tuesday, Grady apologised in the House of Commons.
He admitted to breaching standards in his behaviour during the incident in 2016.
The staffer said he does not accept Grady’s apology.
“He’s only made it because he was ordered to, to keep his job,” he said, “He’s not genuinely remorseful.”
The party staffer described sitting on a couch at the work event at a pub outside of Parliament.
“What was a good night kind of turned sour towards the end,” he told STV News.
“Patrick had perched himself on the side of the couch I was sitting on, on the arm of the chair.
“He started putting his fingers down the back of my neck quite forcefully. I had a suit on with a tie because it was an after-work event, so in order to get your finger down the back of my neck, it had to be kind of like forceful.
“I’m currently in the situation where I’ll have to return for work and face the guy who harassed me.”Complainant
“He does it for quite a prolonged period. And for me, I’d never had this attention from a man before, I didn’t know how to react to it at 19 years old, so I just froze up. There [were] people there who saw it.”
The Independent Expert Panel For Sexual Misconduct found Grady, who represents Glasgow North, touched and stroked the man’s neck, hair and back in a bid to “initiate a relationship”.
“It has been quite traumatic for me,” the staffer told STV News.
He said he did not make the complaint for years after the incident because he feared his career and would be “derailed”.
“That is exactly what ended up happening”.
The staffer said that the time following making the complaints against Grady and the way he has been treated since then has been even more traumatic that the MP’s actions themselves.
“I’m not sure anyone after this is going to have any trust in the SNP’s process,” he said.
“Their complaint process is not fit for purpose.
“I’m currently in the situation where I’lll have to return for work and face the guy who harassed me.”
Grady underwent training mandated by the SNP as well as “valuing others” training offered by the House of Commons, but the complainant said he felt “intimidated” into accepting an apology by the MP when he met with him and group leader Ian Blackford in his office.
“I hopes he’s got better,” the staffer told STV News, “I hopes he’s not going to pose a risk.”
In a statement to the panel, Grady accepted the findings of the report, adding: “I deeply regret my behaviour, and am very sorry for the distress and upset it has caused the complainant.”
A spokesperson for the SNP Westminster parliamentary group said: “The Group accepts the recommended actions from the Independent Expert Panel.
“Mr Grady has admitted a breach of standards in his behaviour during a social event in 2016. We welcome Mr Grady’s apology and note that he previously apologised for this incident when the matter was dealt with informally in 2018.
“As the report states, Mr Grady undertook relevant training at the instigation of the party.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insisted the party had a “zero tolerance policy” for sexual misconduct, adding lessons would be learned from the complainant’s criticism of the apology process.
She told STV News: “Zero tolerance of inappropriate sexual behaviour is of course important. How that is applied in individual cases, of course, has to take account of the context, the nature of the behaviour, the seriousness, and this is serious, and also whether somebody is genuine in their remorse and has shown a genuine understanding.
“An independent process has recommended the sanction here and as I say, I think it’s important that we understand and look at the reasons for that and accept the outcome of what has been an independent process.”