Lord Lester hopes decision to block suspension ‘means the end of my ordeal’
A senior peer who was accused of groping a woman and promising her a peerage for sex says he hopes a decision by the House of Lords to block his immediate suspension “means the end of my ordeal”.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill was facing the longest suspension in modern parliamentary history after an inquiry found the 82-year-old had sexually harassed Jasvinder Sanghera and offered her “corrupt inducements” to sleep with him.
The Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee recommended he should be suspended until June 2022.
But on Thursday, peers backed a call to send his case back to the Lords’ Committee for Privileges and Conduct by 101 votes to 78, amid claims that the investigation was “manifestly unfair”.
Following a lengthy and impassioned debate, members agreed that the Commissioner for Standards Lucy Scott-Moncrieff had failed to comply with the code of conduct which required her to act “in accordance with the principles of natural justice and fairness”.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Lord Lester – who denies the allegations against him and says they are “completely untrue” – said the decision was “a triumph for Parliament, and for equal justice under the law”.
The prominent QC blasted the investigation process, and said he had been “treated despicably”.
He told the paper: “I hope this means the end of my ordeal. But I also hope it means the introduction of long-delayed reform, and a new, fairer procedure to combat sex discrimination against women and girls.
“It’s vital this encourages genuine victims to come forward, while protecting those accused.”
Women’s rights campaigner Ms Sanghera, who was not identified in the committee’s report but has waived her right to anonymity, branded the House of Lords’ decision a “complete disgrace”.
Speaking to the Press Association shortly after the vote on Thursday, she said: “It was as if my greatest fear was developing before my very eyes.
“Watching it has made me feel abused all over again, even bullied. These were his chums, his peers, I didn’t feel as if anyone there was speaking for me.
“What does it say about justice when his friends are making the decision about sanctions?
“He has an advantage over the victim.”
Ms Sanghera, a campaigner against forced marriage, had been working with Lord Lester on the passage of a parliamentary bill when the alleged incident occurred in 2006.
According to her statement to the commissioner, Ms Sanghera said the peer had told her that if she slept with him he would make her a baroness “within a year”, but if she refused he would ensure she never gained a seat in the Lords.
She finally lodged a complaint in November 2017 with the rise of the #MeToo movement.