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Independent Expert Panel upholds appeal by Patricia Gibson MP against sexual misconduct complaint

23 June 2022

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The Independent Expert Panel (IEP) has today (23 June) published a report setting out why it has upheld an appeal by Patricia Gibson MP against a decision by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to uphold a complaint of sexual misconduct against her.

Complaints made under Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) of sexual misconduct, bullying or harassment against MPs are investigated by an independent investigator appointed by the ICGS who makes recommendations to the Commissioner. The Commissioner then decides based on the investigator’s report and recommendations whether to uphold the complaint. That decision can be appealed to the IEP.

The IEP sub-panel who considered Ms Gibson’s appeal found that the “investigation was materially flawed in a way that affected the decision of the Commissioner”; because the investigator had:

  • Applied the wrong test in considering whether Ms Gibson’s actions were “conduct of a sexual nature” and therefore could be sexual misconduct;
  • Treated evidence that might have been relevant to their recommendation inconsistently; and,
  • Made a significant change to their findings in response to comments from Ms Gibson on their draft report in a way that was procedurally unfair.

In relation to the last point the sub-panel explained that;

“the flaws in the investigator’s approach were such that the Commissioner was placed in a very difficult position. She could have decided […] that the investigation had to be carried out again […] [alternatively] she could properly have decided […] that there was sufficient primary evidence for her to reach her own conclusions, setting the reasoning and recommendations of the investigator to one side. What she could not properly do […] was to rely on the report and recommendations of this investigation.”

The sub-panel therefore set aside the Commissioner’s decision to uphold the complaint.

Neither the Commissioner nor the sub-panel decided that the complaint had been made vexatiously or in bad faith.

The IEP does not normally publish reports on successful appeals by respondent MPs if the confidentiality of the process has been respected. However, there has been significant media reporting relating to this case.

The IEP found that this led to “Ms Gibson receiving pronounced negative media attention; online abuse and harassment, including sexual threats; and physical damage to her constituency office.”

It was “therefore appropriate that the decision that the complaint against her has not been upheld, and the reasons why, should be published.”