Ex-Tory MP rightly cleared of grope claim, watchdog rules

Former Aberdeen South MP Ross Thomson was accused and then cleared of sexual misconduct.

Ex-Tory MP rightly cleared of grope claim, watchdog rules UK Parliament

An appeal against the decision to clear a former Tory MP of sexual misconduct allegations has been thrown out.

Ross Thomson was cleared by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in October following claims by former Labour MP Paul Sweeney, who said the Conservative had “groped” him in a Westminster bar in October 2018.

The Independent Expert Panel (IEP), established last year as part of a complaints process developed following a major report on bullying and harassment in the House of Commons by Dame Laura Cox, considered an appeal by Sweeney against commissioner Kathryn Stone’s decision.

But the eight-person panel ruled there was no case to answer for Thomson, who had been elected in 2017.

Thomson said he hoped the panel’s decision, which related to allegations submitted in March 2019, marked the “end of the smear campaign against me”.

In a statement posted on social media, Thomson said he planned to “restart” legal action.

The Tory, who ran Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign in Scotland, stood down as the party’s candidate for the Aberdeen South seat in November 2019 after Sweeney went public with the accusations.

A spokeswoman for the IEP said it considered each of the five grounds of appeal made by the complainant – whom the panel did not name – “with some care”.

“Their judgment found there was no merit in any of the grounds and do not accept that there are any valid grounds for an appeal,” she added.

Sir Stephen Irwin, a former Lord Justice of appeal and chairman of the IEP, said: “The panel made the decision in this first case guided by the principles of natural justice, fairness for all parties, transparency and proportionality, and will treat all further cases with the same regard and diligence.

“We understand the seriousness of, and the harm caused by, bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct.

“We are rigorously independent, impartial and objective, acting without any political input or influence.”

Thomson said: “l welcome the decision of the Independent Expert Panel to reject Paul Sweeney’s appeal.

“This is the second time his false and malicious allegations have been formally dismissed.

“I find it astonishing that Mr Sweeney had the brass neck to appeal (against) the commissioner’s original decision, which was based on extensive evidence, including witness statements and CCTV footage, contradicting his story.

“I hope today’s decision finally marks the end of the smear campaign against me.

“l intend to restart legal discussions now that the appeal process has concluded.”

A spokesman for Mr Sweeney highlighted the panel’s finding that Thomson had invaded the accuser’s personal space.

He added: “We also note the counter-allegation that the complaint was made maliciously was thrown out by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

“We are considering the implications of the decision in full and have no further comment at this time.”

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