A Labour MP has resigned after a panel recommended his suspension for “serious sexual misconduct”.
Two allegations of sexual misconduct made against Christian Matheson by a former member of his staff were upheld by Westminster’s standards watchdog.
In a report, the panel indicated that Matheson, who represents the City of Chester constituency, should be suspended from the House of Commons for four weeks.
A suspension of that length would trigger the Recall of MPs Act 2015, which could bring about a by-election.
Following the publication of the report, Matheson said that he had tendered his resignation as an MP.
In a statement, he said that he believes the penalty to be “excessive and unfair”, but stated he could not challenge the process further.
Matheson was found to have invited the complainant to take a private trip abroad, with the panel concluding that the invitation “was sexually motivated, unwanted, and had placed the complainant under pressure and intimated her”.
During a work-related corporate event held outside of the Parliamentary estate, Matheson was also found to have “linked arms with her, made personal comments about her appearance while looking at her suggestively”.
The report continued that he “made her hold his hand as they left and insisted on accompanying her to her bus stop”.
It then noted that once there, “he invited her back to his flat, kissed her twice on the forehead and attempted to kiss her on the mouth”.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards concluded that these were all unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances.
Matheson has insisted that he had “no sexual motivation” in the matter.
He did not appeal the Commissioner’s decision, but did contest some of the findings during the process for determining sanction.
The Independent Expert Panel (IEP) sub-panel determining sanction concluded that on the findings of the Commissioner, Matheson’s actions were “non-consensual” and “threatening”.
They said: “There is no doubt that Mr Matheson was seeking to initiate a sexual relationship with the complainant, his junior employee.
“This wished-for relationship was unwanted and unwelcome throughout. This evidence confirms that his actions were entirely non-consensual, as well as threatening, intimidating, undermining and humiliating for the complainant.”
The sub-panel noted that it took account of Matheson’s acceptance that he had breached the sexual misconduct policy of Parliament.
However, it found that his “continuing failure to acknowledged the full extent of his misconduct was an aggravating factor”, and that this was “insulting to the complainant”.
The “clear imbalance of power” between Matheson and the complainant, her vulnerability and her reliance on him for employment, were further serious aggravating factors, they said.
Matheson appealed the decision of the sub-panel, but a new sub-panel appointed to consider his appeal dismissed it, concluding that he had not raised any substantive grounds of appeal.
In a statement posted online following the publication of the report, Matheson said that he was “dismayed” to be found guilty of “several allegations that I know to be untrue”.
“I have today, with great sadness, tendered my resignation as Member of Parliament for the City of Chester,” he said.
“This follows publication of a report which had found me guilty of sexual misconduct.
“From the start I accepted I had committed a minor breach of the code and had hoped that an honest and open approach would stand me in a fair light.
“This has proven not to be the case and I am dismayed that I have been found guilty of several allegations that I know to be untrue.
“Indeed my insistence on what I know to be true – that I had no sexual motivation in this matter – was held against me as a refusal to accept my guilt and caused an increased sanction which I felt was disproportionate.”
Matheson said that he required hospitalisation due to the toll of the matter on his health.
“Despite provable factual inaccuracies in the sanctions report, my appeal against sanction was not even considered, for the same reason,” he continued.
“Therefore, I faced a suspension from the House of four weeks. Whilst I believe that this is an excessive and unfair penalty, I cannot challenge this process further.
“I believe that the honourable and right thing to do now is to resign my seat and seek to rebuild my life elsewhere.
“I would ask for privacy for my family. This matter has also caused a great toll on my health, requiring my hospitalisation and I ask that my privacy is respected while I recover.”
He concluded: “I will forever be grateful to my constituency and my party for giving me the honour to serve and I apologise to the people of Chester and to the House of Commons for the disrepute I have brought.
“I once again apologise to the complainant in my case for the hurt I have caused.”
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