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Blackstone Chambers silk who resigned from House of Lords following sexual harassment claim cleared by BSB

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Lord Lester has always denied the allegations

Lord Lester

A barrister at Blackstone Chambers who last year resigned from the House of Lords following an allegation of sexual misconduct has been cleared by the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

Lord Lester, 83, was accused of sexually harassing campaigner Jasvinder Sanghera by offering her “corrupt inducements” to sleep with him. The public law silk described the allegations, which were from over a decade ago, as “completely untrue”.

The Lords’ Privileges and Conduct Committee had recommended Lord Lester be expelled from the upper house, though this was later reduced to a four-year suspension. The top barrister resigned from the House of Lords last December and self-reported to the BSB.

The BSB has now reportedly cleared Lester. “I was denied a fair hearing in the Lords,” the barrister told The Times (£). “I am delighted to be cleared but am disappointed that Ms Sanghera declined to take part in the process that would have enabled the credibility and veracity of her complaint to have been properly tested.”

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On her decision not to co-operate with the BSB’s investigation, Sanghera told the newspaper: “[I] did not consider it appropriate that, given the inquiry has been concluded in accordance with the procedure of the House of Lords, that it should… be reopened.”

Sanghera, whose complaint concerned Lester’s alleged misconduct as a Lord, not a barrister, continued:

“I do not regret making the decision as today the raft of changes to how the Lords intends to deal with sexual harassment, as a result of my complaint, will enable others to come forward and be supported.”

Blackstone Chambers has been approached for comment.

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20 Comments

TommyBoy

Is he still ‘Lord’ Lester if he has resigned from the HoL?

(6)(1)

JDA

Yes – the title is retained for life.

(7)(2)

Anonymous

Poor guy. We. We need firmer consequences for allegations that do not hold up to scrutiny.

(80)(35)

Anonymous

And deter victims who are afraid of not having enough evidence?

(19)(22)

Anonymous

No. Deter false accusers.

(73)(14)

Anonymous

Unsurprising – the HoL complaint ignored much of the evidence and looked like a hatchet job.

Good to see him formally cleared.

(72)(27)

Anonymous

He always looked like the victim in this.

(65)(19)

Anonymous

He probably was the victim here, but then again the BSB would probably clear Henry Hendron as he did rails off the table at his disciplinary hearing.

(13)(15)

Anonymous

Hendron hasn’t been accused of that though.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Has the BSB actually “cleared” him or merely decided that, although he was found by the Lords (commissioner, committee and the vote of the Lords itself) to have done that of which he was accused, such conduct was not worthy of professional censure by his regulator?

(18)(21)

Anonymous

The Times said he was cleared. This means he didn’t do what he was accused of. The Lords found the process unfair in a vote, so also found he didn’t do what he was accused of.

(59)(12)

Anonymous

Cleared certainly does not mean a positive finding he did not do what he was accused of in the English legal system or in the BSB procedure. It means there was no positive finding that he did do it.

(25)(33)

Anonymous

It means that it has been found that he didn’t do it. He’s been cleared.

(61)(18)

Anonymous

No, it doesn’t mean that. And since the complainant took no part in the process, it’s not surprising that the outcome was not a conviction.

I read the detailed evidence gathered by the complaint handler in the Lords. It was very, very strong against him.

Anonymous

Yes, it does mean that. The complainant chose not to take part in the process.

The evidence against Lester has mostly been disproven. Obviously the BSB didn’t feel it was strong.

Anonymous

But what did the BSB actually decide? Journalists often get things wrong. And no: the Lords found not only that he did what was alleged but that the process was fair: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201719/ldselect/ldprivi/220/220.pdf

“As the Guide to the Code of Conduct requires, our first task was to consider whether in our judgment, on the balance of probabilities, we endorse the conclusions of the Commissioner. We do not accept Lord Lester’s contention that the Commissioner was at fault in the way she carried out her investigation. We have also been mindful that it is not in our remit to re- open the investigation of the Commissioner. On this basis we do not uphold Lord Lester’s appeal. It is not disputed that the complaint relates to Lord Lester’s conduct in the course of his Parliamentary duties. We endorse the conclusions of the Commissioner that in respect of that conduct Lord Lester of Herne Hill breached the provisions of the Code in failing to act on his personal honour by sexually harassing the complainant and offering her corrupt inducements to sleep with him.”

(21)(17)

Anonymous

Yes – and this was repeated in their further report: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201719/ldselect/ldprivi/252/252.pdf

“1. In our last report on the conduct of Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC, published on 12 November 2018, we unanimously endorsed the findings of the independent Commissioner for Standards that Lord Lester had breached paragraph 8(b) of the Code of Conduct by failing to act on his personal honour. Specifically, she found that Lord Lester had, in the course of his parliamentary duties, sexually harassed a member of the public and offered her corrupt inducements to sleep with him.

2. We agreed the report after carefully considering Lord Lester’s appeal against both the Commissioner’s findings and the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct’s recommendation that he be expelled from the House. It was, and remains, our view that Lord Lester’s appeal against the findings did nothing to undermine the Commissioner’s thorough and fair investigation and report. We did however in part uphold Lord Lester’s appeal against the Sub-Committee’s proposed sanction, recommending instead that he be suspended from the House until 3 June 2022.”

(19)(13)

Anonymous

That was the Committee, not the Lords. The Lords voted that the process was unfair.

(18)(7)

Anonymous

The initial vote was that the process was unfair. The matter was then remitted to the committee to reconsider; the committee concluded the process was fair; the Lords then reconsidered the matter and voted to approve the conclusion of the committee that the process was fair. So the Lords decided the process was fair.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2018-12-17/debates/E9E8AE1E-3CD4-4166-BCF9-0765260054A9/PrivilegesAndConductCommittee

“The Senior Deputy Speaker

The noble Lord said that there were six contemporaneous witnesses. We invite Members to read their accounts.

In her own words,

“on the basis of the strong and cogent evidence of the complainant and her witnesses”,

the commissioner found that Jasvinder Sanghera was a victim of sexual harassment and that Lord Lester was guilty of a grave abuse of power. The Committee for Privileges and Conduct reviewed and endorsed this view. We ask the House to do the same. I hope the House will now agree to this report.

Motion agreed.”

(17)(13)

Anonymous

Not sure what other commenters are so gleeful about. The BSB obviously hasn’t made a finding of fact that the allegations didn’t occur. It has not upheld the allegation, which is not exactly surprising given that the accuser didn’t give evidence and the tribunal doesn’t do its own investigations – the only evidence will have come from Lord Lester who says he didn’t do it. The BSB doesn’t publish its findings about why allegations are not upheld unless the accused requests it – be interesting to see if Lord Lester does put this in the public domain.

(24)(20)

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