The conduct of Lord Lester of Herne Hill Contents

Annex 2: Report from the Commissioner for Standards


1.This is the first investigation by me, or my predecessor, as House of Lords Commissioner for Standards into a complaint of sexual harassment. As such, I have had to adapt the normal investigation process to ensure fairness.

2.One adaptation is that the complainant is not named in my report, and, as far as is consistent with justice, I have removed information from the report that could identify her by triangulation. She and I both know that her identity may nonetheless be revealed when this report is published. I hope that those who understand the value of offering anonymity in these circumstances will not seek to identify her.

3.The second adaptation is that, unlike the usual practice, the published report does not have attached to it all the documents referred to within it, and has been written in such a way that it can be understood without these documents. This is partly an attempt to protect the identity of the complainant and witnesses, and also to deal with the sensitivity of some of the information provided, about which there is no public interest requirement to disclose. The sub-committee on Lords’ Conduct, however, has seen all the unredacted statements, transcripts and documents referred to in the report.

4.The third adaptation relates to the process of investigation. Generally speaking, a complainant has to provide my office with all the information upon which they rely in support of their complaint, and I subsequently investigate the complaint without further reference to the complainant. In this case, the complainant did provide me with the evidence in support of her complaint, in a detailed statement, and she also gave me the names of four people to contact who could corroborate aspects of her statement. However, as the investigation continued, detailed below in section e, it became apparent that, in the interests of justice, I would need to go back to the complainant to get responses to some of the challenges made by Lord Lester of Herne Hill. I did so, and also gave Lord Lester the opportunity to comment on the complainant’s and witnesses’ responses, where the interests of justice required this.

5.In my report, direct quotes from written or oral evidence are in italics and findings are in bold.

6.This report consists of nine sections:

(a)Executive summary;

(b)The complaint;

(c)An outline of the relevant parts of the House of Lords Code of Conduct and the Guide to the Code of Conduct;

(d)Events prior to obtaining the consent of the sub-committee to carry out the investigation;

(e)The investigation;

(f)Lord Lester’s challenges to the complainant’s evidence and her responses to his challenges;

(g)Other matters requiring explanation;

(h)Analysis of the evidence;

(i)Representations by Lord Lester, with my responses; and


a) Executive summary

7.In November 2017 I received a complaint alleging that Lord Lester of Herne Hill had sexually harassed the complainant, had offered her a corrupt inducement to become his mistress, and had warned her of unspecified consequences if she did not accept his offer.

8.I considered that, if the allegations were true, Lord Lester would have breached the requirement in the House of Lords Code of Conduct that he should act on his personal honour in the discharge of his parliamentary duties.

9.If complaints of breaches of the Code of Conduct are made more than four years after the alleged behaviour complained of, the permission of the sub-committee on Lords’ Conduct has to be given before I can investigate the complaint. Permission was given in February 2018, and Lord Lester was then informed of the complaint.

10.He denied all the allegations, and also said that he had not behaved in a way that could have given rise to a misunderstanding about his conduct.

11.I interviewed 10 witnesses, six suggested by the complainant and four by Lord Lester.

12.The complainant told me that she had spoken to her witnesses at the time of the alleged behaviour, and all of them confirmed this, and provided different levels of detail.

13.The evidence of the complainant’s witnesses was extremely important, as, although it could not directly confirm the complainant’s allegations, it did confirm that she had told them about Lord Lester’s alleged behaviour at the time. Her witnesses included a judge, a senior lawyer and a senior civil servant, as well as other colleagues.

14.Lord Lester’s witnesses were all people who had met the complainant at the relevant time. They included Lady Lester, a judge, a barrister, and a member of a campaigning organisation. They all confirmed that they had never seen, heard of, or experienced any sexually inappropriate behaviour from Lord Lester; or noticed anything unusual between him and the complainant.

15.Lord Lester also challenged a variety of matters raised by the complainant and her witnesses, in addition to denying the specific allegations. These challenges, perfectly appropriately, were intended to show that the complainant had not been telling the truth in her allegations.

16.Some of these challenges were accepted by the complainant; with others she provided explanations that I accepted, and in a few cases I decided that, as the truth was impossible to establish, I would, as justice requires, not include them in deciding if a breach of the Code had occurred.

17.I found that all the witnesses had been honest in their accounts to me.

18.As I could not think of any plausible reason why the complainant would make detailed but untrue allegations about Lord Lester, and take no further action for many years, I considered that she was more likely than not to have been telling the truth when she spoke to her witnesses and complained to me.

19.This preliminary finding was not altered by the various challenges put forward by Lord Lester, and I therefore concluded that the allegations of sexual harassment, corrupt inducement and threat of retaliation were more likely than not to be true, and I uphold her complaint that Lord Lester breached the Code of Conduct.

20.During the investigation Lord Lester admitted to having breached the Code of Conduct by telling another Member of the House that the complainant had been responsible for him being suspended by his political party since February 2018.

21.Sanctions for breaches of the Code, other than in minor cases where rectification is possible, are not within my remit, but are recommended by the sub-committee on Lords’ Conduct.

22.In considering the appropriate sanction, I invite the sub-committee to take into account that:

b) The Complaint

23.The context for the complaint was set out in the complainant’s redacted statement as follows:

“The complainant was born in the 1960s and has a partner and adult children. She is well-known to government as an expert in her field, and is an international speaker. She met the member of the House of Lords complained of in the context of work that was being done on [REDACTED—parliamentary business] that was within her area of expertise. The first time that she met him was at a meeting on the [REDACTED—parliamentary business], at which she spoke about her expertise, following which Lord Lester invited her to join other meetings concerned with the [REDACTED—parliamentary business]. She attended several meetings and debates in the House of Lords and surrounding buildings.

The nature of her relationship with Lord Lester was purely professional. She communicated with him by email and occasionally by telephone; only saw him at meetings and other events related to the [REDACTED—parliamentary business]; and always in the presence of other people.”

24.The following details of the complaint are taken from the complainant’s statement, edited and paraphrased where necessary to remove identifying information:

“I attended a meeting followed by a meal in the House of Lords with a number of others including NGOs and Lord Lester. I was living out of London at the time and by the end of the meeting I had missed my intended train. I could have caught a later train but this would have meant arriving home sometime in the early hours of the following morning. Lord Lester suggested that I stay at his home in London. I initially said no as I did not wish to impose on his hospitality, but he insisted and said he would call his wife. Shortly after this he said he had telephoned his wife who is looking forward to meeting me, that his wife was at home and that she worked in an area that related to my work, and would love to meet me. I had no reason to be concerned about staying overnight, especially with his wife present and had by that time been working with him for a few months, and so I accepted his invitation.

Lord Lester’s car was parked in the House of Lords car park, so he drove me back to his house. In the car on the way to his house, he kept repeatedly missing the gearstick with his hand and instead very firmly placed his hand on my right thigh. The first time it happened I thought it must’ve been an accident, but when it continued I realised it was not. I removed his hand and asked him to stop. He just smiled. I felt incredibly uncomfortable knowing that I was on the way to staying at his house. He continued to grope my thigh for the length of the journey, despite my protests.

When we arrived at his house, we were greeted by his wife who had made tea for us. We chatted, and his wife told me she would bring me a cup of tea to my room in the morning. Lord Lester then said he would show me to my bedroom for the night. Once we had reached where I would be sleeping, he said it was not far from his bedroom, which he insisted on pointing out to me, saying he would not be far from me. This made me feel very uncomfortable, as his remarks and his earlier behaviour made me feel that he had other intentions notwithstanding my unequivocal rejection of his advances.

I went into my bedroom and immediately placed the chair under the door; I felt afraid, recalling what had happened in the car. I immediately called T, who had been a friend for many years. I was in the bedroom at this time and I told her what had happened and I felt trapped in his house. She advised me that I put the chair under the handle of the door, which I had placed as I feared Lord Lester might come into my room in the night and she suggested I leave first thing in the morning. I scarcely slept all night, sleeping fully clothed. I removed the chair in the early hours of the morning as I knew his wife will be coming to bring me a cup of tea. This she did, and I then got ready and came down to leave for home.

By this time, his wife had left, it was only Lord Lester in the house and I went into the kitchen. At some point, I went over to place the crockery in the sink. It was then that he came up behind me and put his arms around my waist. I pushed him away. Again, he placed his arms around me and further up my body. I had to force myself away. He pursued me around the kitchen and I pleaded with him to stop. Once he stopped, I told him that I wished to leave. I wanted to call a cab, but he insisted that he went with me. I allowed him to, as I just wanted to get out of the house. Before leaving, he insisted on showing me his shed in the garden containing items of interest to him so I followed, after he agreed not to touch me again.

Once we got to the train station, he told me that he had strong feelings for me. I responded by saying I did not feel the same way. I said that he should know better as he had a wife. He told me personal matters about his life which I would not have expected to have been told in the circumstances of a professional relationship. I made it very clear that I did not feel the same way and did not want to be involved with him in any way other than professionally. He persisted and told me that he loved me and said he could not help himself. I was relieved to get my train home, feeling uncomfortable and violated by this behaviour. I called T shortly afterwards and told her the whole story of what happened.

After the incident at Lord Lester’s home, I avoided being in his company alone. I did have professional contact with him as I continue to have a role in contributing to the draft legislation.

Not long after the event set out above, I attended a meeting in the House of Lords. I went out for some fresh air whilst on a break from the meeting and Lord Lester suggested he joined me. I did not wish to comment in front of others, so I accepted. We walked outside the House of Lords until we came to a bench (as you leave the House of Lords we turned left), where we sat down. He then proceeded to tell me that he had strong feelings for me. He questioned whether I was concerned that he would not be able to have sex and told me that there were “things” he could buy for this. I was shocked and did not respond. He went on to make other inappropriate sexual comments. I stood up and went to walk back inside.

As we were approaching the House of Lords building, he pointed to it and said “do you see that building”, to which I replied “yes”, he told me that it was the most powerful of decision-making. He said, “if you sleep with me I will make you a Baroness within a year”. He even spelt it out putting my surname in, and asked me how that sounded. I responded immediately without hesitation by saying that if I were ever to become a member of the House of Lords, it had to be purely on merit. We then enter the building where he proceeded to start pointing out individuals in the House of Lords and commenting on the reasons they have reached the positions they were in – including that one individual had slept with someone, another had relatives and good connections, and so on. I did not know who these people were. He made reference to the colour of the carpet and said that only members of the House of Lords are allowed to walk on the red carpet and the “commoners” were to walk on the blue carpet. The impression he conveyed was that he was a man of power who could make things happen and that I was powerless in comparison. I felt angry of the impression he gave of the House of Lords having a culture where this type of behaviour was acceptable and not unusual.

Once we had reached a private space and were not in full view of anyone he asked me again if I would sleep with him and suggested that I took some time to think about it. Again, I said no. He said that if I did not, he would see to it that I never had a seat in the House of Lords and warned me that there would be other repercussions for me, which he did not specify. He said that if I was a “good girl” and did what he was asking, I would be in the House of Lords and could visit his house abroad with him. He made a number of further inappropriate sexual comments to me such as that he could see me becoming a demanding mistress. I was distressed and shocked by his behaviour.

When I left the House of Lords I rang T and told her what had happened. The following morning I rang M, who is a district judge, and N who is a crown prosecutor. I told them what had happened.

Shortly after this, I received a text message from Lord Lester saying, “you want to think about my proposal”. It was very unusual for him to text me. As indicated above we normally communicated by email and phone communication. I understood this comment to refer to my sleeping with him. I could not think of anything else that could refer to. Given my unequivocal response to him I found his behaviour and persistence most disturbing. I have not kept that text in the intervening years.

Lord Lester had said there would be “further repercussions”. He had not explained what he meant by that threat. What in fact happened was that I was no longer invited to take part in any meetings relating to the [REDACTED—parliamentary business] despite the fact that my expertise in supporting the people who are intended to be the beneficiaries of that [REDACTED—parliamentary business] meant that I had much to contribute to this work. Whereas I had been attending meetings consistently, I was no longer engaged with the work over a number of weeks, until it became apparent that I was completely out of the loop. At first I thought it might just have gone quiet but I concluded I have been excluded. I went from attending regular meetings to none.

After a few weeks of non-involvement, A, a civil servant involved in the [REDACTED—parliamentary business] who now works at an embassy abroad, rang me and asked why I was no longer attending meetings given I was a significant contributor. At this point I felt as if my commitment to these issues have been questioned so I told him exactly what it happened and how I felt Lord Lester was now excluding me because I rejected his advances. He appeared shocked and thereafter ensured that I was kept involved which included inviting me to attend meetings.

Early the following year I was at an event when I was due to be interviewed by the media, as was Lord Lester. I was apprehensive to see Lord Lester and had no wish to be alone with him due to past events and fear of more unwanted sexual advances. However I considered that raising awareness of the issue I was to be interviewed on was of great importance. I asked T to join me. Lord Lester was in the reception area and walked over to us both and acknowledged T’s presence by saying, “oh, I see you’ve brought a chaperone with you”. T immediately responded by saying, “why? Does she need a chaperone?” And at that he walked away.

Before the events complained of, I had invited Lord Lester to attend an event that I was hosting, as the key guest speaker. The event had been well publicised, as had his presence. In the week of the event he rang me to say he needed to talk to me urgently about the event. He said that because of my poor behaviour, and being a bad girl, he would not be attending the event. I was shocked and very dismayed at this last minute change of plan which I believed was as a result of my rejection of his advances. I rang his secretary to check if anything had changed with his attendance and she reassured me that he was still attending and it was clearly in the diary. I felt that this was another instance of Lord Lester’s harassing behaviour and exercise of power and it left me feeling worried as people were expecting him. In the event he did attend the event. I have not had any meetings with him since then.

Several years later Lord Lester emailed me out of the blue to my work email address criticising me for campaigning for something that he did not agree with. The email stated how I should not be wasting my time doing this and should instead be supporting the proposal that he agreed with. The tone of the email made me feel as if I was being reprimanded and again he had the power to send me such an email. It felt worse because of how he had treated me in the past which was harassment tantamount to bullying.”

c) An outline of the relevant parts of the House of Lords Code of Conduct and the Guide to the Code of Conduct

25.Paragraph 3 of the Code of Conduct explains the purpose of the Code.

“The purpose of this Code of Conduct is:

a) to provide guidance for members of the House of Lords on the standards of conduct expected of them in the discharge of their parliamentary duties; save for paragraphs 16 and 17, the Code does not extend to members’ performance of duties unrelated to parliamentary proceedings, or to their private lives;

b) to provide the openness and accountability necessary to reinforce public confidence in the way in which members of the House of Lords perform their parliamentary duties.”

Personal Honour

26.Under paragraph 8(b) of the Code of Conduct, members of the House “should act always on their personal honour”. Personal honour is not defined in detail per se, but is elaborated upon in paragraph 7 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct, which quotes from a report of the Committee for Privileges:

“The term ‘personal honour’ has been used within the House for centuries to describe the guiding principles that govern the conduct of members; its meaning has never been defined, and has not needed definition, because it is inherent in the culture and conventions of the House. These change over time, and thus any definition of ‘personal honour’, while it might achieve temporary ‘legal certainty’, would quickly become out-moded … the term ‘personal honour’ is ultimately an expression of the sense of the House as a whole as to the standards of conduct expected of individual members … members cannot rely simply on their own personal sense of what is honourable. They are required to act in accordance with the standards expected by the House as a whole. ‘Personal honour’ is thus … a matter for individual members, subject to the sense and culture of the House as a whole.”

27.Paragraph 9 of the Guide to the Code continues:

“… a written Code can never cover every eventuality. Paragraphs 8(a) [which requires members to comply with the Code] and 8(b) of the Code, taken together, mean that members are required not only to obey the letter of the rules, but to act in accordance with the spirit of those rules and the sense of the House.”

Exceptionality and the public interest

28.The Guide to the Code states in paragraphs 119-20:

“The complaint must usually be made within four years of the conduct complained of. In exceptional circumstances the Commissioner may investigate conduct which occurred more than four years before a complaint is made, provided that the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct agrees and that it is satisfied that there is a strong public interest in the matter being investigated.

The complaint must also be supported by evidence sufficient to establish a prima facie case that the Code has been breached.”

Notification of an investigation

29.The Guide to the Code states at paragraph 122:

“Following her preliminary assessment, the Commissioner informs both the complainant and the member concerned whether or not she will investigate the complaint. If she has decided that the complaint does not merit investigation, she provides the complainant with a brief explanation of her reasons for dismissing the complaint. The Commissioner publishes a webpage setting out basic information about a case when she has decided to investigate a complaint.”


30.Paragraph 130 of the Guide to the Code states:

“From the point that the Commissioner decides to undertake an investigation all evidence and correspondence relating directly to the inquiry is covered by parliamentary privilege. It must remain confidential unless and until it is published. If such evidence or correspondence were to be published or disclosed to anyone else without the agreement of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct or the Commissioner, this would be a contempt of the House.”

The standard of proof

31.Paragraph 128 of the Guide to the Code states:

“The civil standard of proof is adopted at all stages in the enforcement process, not only by the Commissioner, but by the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct and the Committee for Privileges and Conduct. Thus, in order to find against a member, the Commissioner will require at least that the allegation is proved on the balance of probabilities.”

d) Events prior to obtaining the consent of the sub-committee to carry out the investigation

32.In November 2017, in the light of the allegations in the media about inappropriate behaviour and a culture of sexual misconduct at Westminster, and after being advised that no complaint about such conduct had ever been made to my predecessor, I considered whether such conduct was covered by the House of Lords Code of Conduct.

33.I looked at the parts of the Code dealing with personal honour, and considered that the current standards of the House would view some forms of sexual misconduct as a breach of personal honour, concluding that sexual misconduct, if it occurred in the context of the discharge of a member’s parliamentary duties, could engage the Code.

34.Also in November 2017, a journalist, whom I later discovered was known to the complainant, wrote to the House of Lords Press Office raising the following queries:

The journalist said that he had looked through the Code of Conduct and he could not necessarily see complaints of this nature being covered by it.

35.He received the following reply, which had been agreed by me, the clerk to the sub-committee on Lords’ Conduct and the Clerk of the Parliaments.

“If a complaint were raised with the administration of a Member behaving inappropriately to anyone on the House of Lords estate we would advise the complainant on the options available to them given the circumstances of the complaint.

Members of the House of Lords are subject to a Code of Conduct which provides guidance on the standards of conduct expected of members in the discharge of their parliamentary duties. This includes a requirement to act on their personal honour. If a member of the public, or a research assistant, was subject to harassment by a member then they could make a complaint to the Commissioner who would make a preliminary assessment of whether the allegation was linked to the discharge of parliamentary duties and, if so, whether it could constitute a breach of the Code which requires members to act on their personal honour. If the preliminary assessment concluded that these two tests had been met the Commissioner would investigate the allegation and if she became aware that it was likely that a criminal offence had taken place she would alert the police.

The Code of Conduct states that a complaint must usually be made within four years of the conduct complained of. In exceptional circumstances the Commissioner may investigate conduct which occurred more than four years before a complaint is made, provided that the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct agrees and that it is satisfied that there is a strong public interest in the matter being investigated.

It would be open to the House in the future to amend the Code of Conduct to require members to abide by an anti-harassment policy.”

36.As the journalist’s enquiry mentioned that he was not sure if the Code covered the behaviour complained of, I put a note on my webpage shortly thereafter, clarifying the position. The note had been drafted with the help of officials, and had been seen by Lord McFall of Alcluith, Chairman of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct. The note said:

“Message from the Commissioner

The House of Lords Code of Conduct provides guidance on the standards of conduct expected of members in the discharge of their parliamentary duties. This includes a requirement to act on their personal honour in the discharge of their parliamentary duties. In relevant circumstances, I take personal honour to include personal conduct towards others.

It has been drawn to my attention that this may not be obvious from the wording of the Code and its guidance. Anyone wishing to establish whether the particular behaviour of an individual could amount to a breach of the Code, may contact me for further information.

Contact should be in the usual way, but may be through an intermediary if the person concerned wishes to remain anonymous during the preliminary discussion. Any preliminary discussion will be strictly confidential.”

37.On 17 November, my office was contacted by a solicitor, acting for a complainant who wished to remain anonymous. The solicitor spoke to an official, and then to me, and explained that his client needed to know whether her identity would be kept confidential if she made a complaint to my office and I investigated it. We discussed the possibilities and problems of preserving her confidentiality, and I had a meeting with her, her partner and the solicitor, at which I set out my assessment of the circumstances in which her identity might be revealed, even if I did all I legitimately could to protect her anonymity. We did not discuss the details of her complaint at the meeting. During this meeting I pointed out the possibility of the complainant contacting Lord Lester without involving my office, but for what seemed to me to be valid reasons she confirmed that she wanted to have the matter dealt with formally.

38.After the meeting, I wrote to the complainant, confirming that I would do my best to keep her name and any identifying details private, except that, of course, the Member complained against would have to see all the evidence. I explained that the investigation process was confidential, but that I could give no guarantee that her name would not leak out in due course. On that basis, she decided to proceed with her complaint.

39.Shortly after this meeting, the solicitor forwarded the complainant’s statement to me. I subsequently contacted four people, to whom the complainant told me she had spoken at the time of the allegations. They provided written statements which set out their accounts of what the complainant had told them at the time of the alleged behaviour complained of (T, A, N, M - see appendices B-E). [References are to documents that have not been published.]

40.After careful consideration, I satisfied myself that the alleged behaviour engaged the Code, as the allegations included physical and verbal sexual harassment on more that one occasion; abuse of power by making threats of retaliation; and a corrupt inducement to accept Lord Lester’s invitation to have a sexual relationship with him. Moreover, I was satisfied that the alleged behaviour had clearly taken place in the context of Lord Lester’s parliamentary duties, in that the only basis for contact between Lord Lester and the complainant was the [REDACTED—parliamentary business] - thus engaging the Code. The alleged behaviour, however, had occurred over a decade ago.

41.In my view, there were exceptional circumstances that justified an investigation being conducted in accordance with paragraphs 119 and 120 of the Guide to the Code, referred to at paragraph 28 above. These were:

42.I also considered that there was a strong public interest in investigating this complaint, because:

43.Furthermore, the statement of the complainant amounted to a prima facie case, and was supported by statements from witnesses who confirmed that the complainant had spoken to them about the allegations at the time. These witnesses include a senior lawyer, a senior civil servant and a district judge.

44.The Code requires that complaints are not accepted if made anonymously. This was not an anonymous complaint as I knew who the complainant was from the time I received the complaint.

45.In the light of the above, I sought the sub-committee’s agreement to investigate the complaint as the alleged incidents occurred more than four years ago. At a meeting held on 6 February 2018, the sub-committee agreed that I should investigate the complaint. They were provided with redacted copies of the complainant’s statement and those of her initial witnesses, but they did not know the identity of either the complainant or the member when they took their decision. All information and communications were shared with the sub-committee only after redacting names and identifying information. After the sub-committee had reached their decision, Lord Lester’s identity was then revealed to them, though not that of the complainant.

e) The investigation

46.On 8 February 2018, I met Lord Lester in order to provide him with details of the complaint, and inform him of the decision of the sub-committee and the complaints investigation process. I also asked him to provide a written response to the complaint. He was supplied with the complainant’s statement, unredacted, and those of T, A, N and M.

47.On 9 February, as paragraph 122 of the Guide to the Code dictates, I published a note on my website setting out the most basic information about the case: Lord Lester of Herne Hill – alleged breach of the Code in relation to personal honour.

48.Unfortunately, shortly after the fact of the investigation was posted on my webpage, information about the investigation was leaked to the press, and reports appeared in The Times and a little later, The Sun. The complainant was not named but Lord Lester was. He was subjected to the most distressing headlines before the investigation had barely begun. This was extremely regrettable. I have no evidence as to the source of the press reports.

Lord Lester’s response to the complaint

49.On 28 February, Lord Lester wrote to me, setting out why he did not consider the process to be fair, and saying:

“Both parties are entitled to a fair process. [The complainant] wishes to have her concerns addressed and I wish to have a fair opportunity to clear my name. While I reserve the right to enter a detailed formal legal challenge to the process, I am aware that this will do nothing to address [the complainant’s] concerns. I would therefore, first, ask for consideration to be given to whether an alternative process can be agreed which might achieve these objectives.

I wonder whether you would be willing to consult [the complainant] about her willingness to enter into a dialogue to explore this question? I am flexible as the format of such a dialogue. It could take place through her legal representative or with the assistance of an experienced mediator.

To be clear: this is not an attempt to avoid dealing with the allegations. Rather it is a constructive proposal to discuss an alternative process. [The complainant] is, of course, entirely free to decide how she wishes to proceed.

I understand that you have to balance carefully the interest of both parties and the House. As such, I would hope that you are open to facilitating such a discussion.”

50.I replied on 8 March and, in relation to this particular proposal, wrote:

“A complaint was received and I am bound to investigate it under the system as it stands if the Code is, in my view, engaged. It would be highly inappropriate to seek to alter the current procedure during the investigation. The current procedure has been approved by the sub-committee, the Privileges and Conduct Committee, and the whole House. Any change would require the agreement of these committees and the House.”

51.On 13 March I received a letter from Lord Lester’s solicitor, asking for details of the complainant’s legal representatives, so that they could make contact. I did not reply to this letter, but on 15 March I wrote to Lord Lester as follows:

“It is now exactly five weeks since I passed you the complaint that has been made about you, and I am yet to receive a substantive response to the allegations. I would remind you that the House of Lords Code of Conduct states at paragraph 22: “Members shall co-operate, at all stages, with any investigation into their conduct by or under the authority of the House.” At paragraph 126, the Guide to the Code of Conduct states: “Members are expected to co-operate with any investigation into their conduct. They should supply written evidence as requested, and in their own name. Letters sent on their behalf by legal advisers or others will be disregarded.”

I expect to receive a substantive written response by close on Friday 23 March. If I have not, consideration will be given to proceeding directly to the interview stage.

Incidentally, I have received a letter from your legal representatives. In accordance with paragraph 126, I am not proposing to reply, and in any event I am not at liberty to disclose details of the complainant’s legal representatives, and would stress that I am investigating this complaint on behalf of the House of Lords, not the complainant.”

52.On the same day, Lord Lester wrote to Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, the chair of the sub-committee on Lords’ Conduct (copying me in) setting out his concerns about the fairness of the procedure, asserting that complaints of sexual harassment were not covered by the Code, and asking the sub-committee to rule that the complaint of sexual harassment was not covered by the Code.

53.Lord Brown, on behalf of all the members of the sub-committee, wrote to Lord Lester on 21 March to confirm that they all agreed that I was bound to investigate the complaint in accordance with the procedure as laid down in the Code and the Guide to the Code. He wrote: “there is no reason to doubt that the Commissioner will act fully in accordance with the principles of natural justice and fairness”, and concluded that:

“in granting leave under para 119 of the Guide, we did not regard this as, simply, ‘a sexual harassment complaint’. A fair reading of the complainant’s statement [redacted] – not least paras 12 and 13 – surely makes it plain that the allegation (whether true or false is yet to be determined) is of still more serious misconduct. It alleges what can only be regarded as a grave abuse of power in the performance of a member’s parliamentary duties.”

54.In a written statement dated 26 March (see Appendix M) [reference is to a document that has not been published], Lord Lester provided a response to the complaint in which he strongly denied all the allegations. He questioned some of the dates and the chronology set out in the complaint (dealt with in section f) and noted that the complainant was important in terms of the promotion of the [REDACTED—parliamentary business], but not in its [REDACTED—activity relating to the parliamentary business] and preparation.

55.Lord Lester recalled the complainant staying overnight with him and his wife after she missed her train. He denied, however, groping her thigh or making any other sexual advances. As far as he and his wife were concerned, her stay was uneventful, and her allegations of sexual harassment were untrue. Lord Lester said that the supposed trauma being endured by the complainant was not at all evident to him or his wife.

56.Lord Lester stated that he had no recollection of the conversation with the complainant in which he allegedly expressed his feelings for her, or any conversation in which he spoke of matters of a sexual nature or made any sexually inappropriate comments. Furthermore, he categorically denied making the complainant an offer of a peerage or threatening the complainant by saying that she would not receive a peerage if she refused to sleep with him, emphasising that:

“I have no power to make such offers or threats in respect of peerages and the allegation that I did so is ridiculous and untrue.”

57.He provided evidence which he said showed that the complainant was not telling the truth, which is dealt with in section e.

58.Lord Lester stated that, until I passed him the complaint, he had at no time after the complainant stayed overnight at his home, more than a decade ago, received any suggestion, still less any complaint, from the complainant or anyone else, that he had behaved inappropriately, sexually or otherwise.

59.In conclusion, Lord Lester outlined the very considerable work he has undertaken during his career to promote equality for women, stating that while his body of work in this area: “does not prove my innocence … it demonstrates the inherent unlikeliness of the complainant’s allegations being true.”

60.He provided the names of 12 people who could confirm aspects of his statement.

61.I sent a copy of Lord Lester’s statement to the complainant, who sent a further statement in response dated 17 May (see Appendix R) [reference is to a document that has not been published]. In turn, I sent this to Lord Lester, who sent a further statement in response, dated 25 May (see Appendix U) [reference is to a document that has not been published].

62.I interviewed Lord Lester in my office on 10 April (see Appendix O) [reference is to a document that has not been published]. The purpose of the interview was to discuss aspects of his statement and to give him the opportunity to tell me anything else that he thought was relevant. During the interview, we agreed which of his proposed witnesses I would contact for interview.

63.I subsequently interviewed the complainant on 17 May (see Appendix S) [reference is to a document that has not been published] to discuss points made by Lord Lester, and to see if she had any further evidence. She agreed to put me in touch with H (see Appendix X) [reference is to a document that has not been published], who she told me had been the person who received Lord Lester’s phone call about the event at which he was due to speak. Subsequently, she also suggested I speak to J, a counsellor and friend, to whom she had spoken to over the years about what had allegedly happened and how it had affected her (see Appendix Y) [reference is to a document that has not been published].

Witnesses and further evidence

64.The complainant’s initial four witnesses were those to whom she told me she had spoken during or shortly after the alleged events complained of. I emailed each of them, explained who I was, that I was investigating a complaint by the complainant, and asking that they respond by describing:

“the circumstances in which you knew the complainant at the time of her disclosure to you, the circumstances by which you have kept in touch and your current circumstances; your recollection of what the complainant told you after the alleged events; your recollection of any discussions with her about reporting the allegations; details of your recent contact with her; and brief details of your work/career.”

65.T, a friend and colleague, sent me a detailed account (Appendix B) [reference is to a document that has not been published]. She recalls the complainant telephoning her from Lord Lester’s home, to tell her that he had groped her. T’s statement suggests that this happened after the alleged incident at the House of Lords. She also confirmed that she had accompanied the complainant to the media event referred to in the complaint. Some of the details she gives differ from the account given by the complainant. She also said that she remains a close friend and has frequent personal and professional contact with the complainant.

66.A, in a senior position in a British Embassy when I contacted him, had at the time of the alleged incidents been involved with the [REDACTED—parliamentary business] (Appendix C) [reference is to a document that has not been published]. He recalled the complainant telling him about the alleged events but could not remember the specifics of those conversations. I subsequently spoke to A on the phone, but he was unable to provide any more information. Apart from a brief contact on an unrelated matter in 2009 he had not had any contact with the complainant until 2017, when they spoke on the phone and she told him that she was planning to make a formal complaint.

67.N, a senior lawyer, was a director in the Crown Prosecution Service at the time the complainant spoke to him about her allegations (Appendix D) [reference is to a document that has not been published]. He already knew her through their shared professional interests. He recalled her telling him that Lord Lester had been ‘coming onto her’ including at his home with his wife present. He recalled advising her to consider reporting him, but she could not be persuaded to do so because it would put everything at risk, by which he understood the [REDACTED—parliamentary business], and also it would be her word against his.

68.He also explained that he had contacted her in late 2017, when allegations of harassment on the Parliamentary estate were being made, and had asked her if she was considering reporting her concerns. When she said that she was, he recommended speaking to the journalist referred to at paragraph 34 above, whom she said she also had in mind.

69.M, a District Judge, said that she had met Lord Lester once during the relevant period, and he had behaved appropriately towards her (Appendix E) [reference is to a document that has not been published]. She has known the complainant for 16 years, as they have shared professional interests. She recalled that the complainant rang her “totally distraught” in a way M had never known her, and described the alleged events at Lord Lester’s house, giving more details, which vary from the details given by the complainant in her statement, as discussed in section f. M advised the complainant to contact the then Home Secretary, Theresa May MP, who M knew was very committed to issues affecting the abuse of women, and also advised her to contact N, whom they both knew.

70.M did not discuss the matter again with the complainant until “recently”, when the complainant told her that she felt compelled to report it to the appropriate authorities. This was triggered by her conversations with an intern in the House of Lords who had reported a similar experience (against a different Member), which made the complainant feel that she must act.

71.Lord Lester’s witnesses were: Lady Lester; B, now a barrister; S, a judge, and HS and P, members of a campaigning organisation, all of whom knew the complainant at the relevant time, and the last four of whom had worked with Lord Lester on the [REDACTED—parliamentary business].

72.HS was unavailable. I interviewed Lady Lester, B, S, and P in my office or by phone.

73.Lady Lester (Appendix P) [reference is to a document that has not been published] confirmed that she recalled the complainant’s stay at her house, and her recollection of what took place in her presence accords, in all important respects, with the accounts of the complainant and Lord Lester. She did not recall the complainant being distressed in any way: “I remember her being friendly and that is about the size of it”. She was quite sure that her husband had not behaved in the way alleged; had no idea what was motivating the complainant to make these allegations; and wondered if she could have misinterpreted his friendliness.

74.B, who had worked with Lord Lester for a considerable period, and was a young woman when she had started doing so, confirmed that his behaviour towards her and other women had always been respectful and appropriate (Appendix Q) [reference is to a document that has not been published]. She had known the complainant at the time of the alleged behaviour, as she had been working on the [REDACTED—parliamentary business] with Lord Lester, but had noticed nothing unusual about the interaction between Lord Lester and the complainant, nor had any comment been made to her by others to suggest anything unusual between them.

75.S (Appendix AA) [reference is to a document that has not been published] told me that she had attended the event and dinner after which Lord Lester had offered to put the complainant up for the night “because the complainant had missed the last train home”. She was able to identify the date of this event, which was several weeks after the complainant had thought it had taken place. I asked the complainant if she accepted this date, and she said that she did.

76.S’s records show that she attended a meeting near London 6 weeks later at which Lord Lester and the complainant were also present. She clearly remembers that Lord Lester and the complainant were speakers and were on the main table and she was at a different table. She recalls the complainant appearing to be warm towards Lord Lester, smiling, and comfortable in his company, but a bit frosty towards her, which she put down to professional differences between their approaches to the [REDACTED—parliamentary business] and the complainant perhaps feeling edged out in the creation of the [REDACTED—parliamentary business] after the meeting 6 weeks before.

77.She also recalled, although she did not have the records to identify the date, that two or three months after the event outside London she and the complainant spoke at another event where the senior judge who introduced them commented that Lord Lester had been asked to speak but that he had suggested the complainant and S speak instead.

78.She forwarded to me an email exchange from the relevant time which included an email that the complainant had sent to Lord Lester, signed off with affectionate words (Appendix V) [reference is to a document that has not been published].

79.She ended by telling me that she has been in Lord Lester’s presence on many occasions on her own and is aware that other women have been too. She has never seen or heard anything that would suggest he has behaved inappropriately, at all, with anyone.

80.After I received the email sent by S referred to in para 78 above, I asked the complainant to provide evidence of her usual way of signing emails to people with whom she only had a professional relationship, and she sent me some examples, in which she provided affectionate and informal sign offs to professional contacts (see Appendix AL) [reference is to a document that has not been published].

81.The complainant had also asked the university where she had been working at the time to look for any relevant emails, and it discovered emails from Lord Lester to the complainant, from some years after the alleged events, one of which also had an affectionate and informal sign off (see Appendix AF) [reference is to a document that has not been published].

82.I asked Lord Lester to comment on the significance of his sign off, and he replied:

“The emails to which you refer are further examples of a normal and friendly course of dealing between me and the complainant that is incompatible with her allegations of abuse of power and sexual harassment.”

83.P (Appendix T) [reference is to a document that has not been published] worked for a campaigning organisation which had been involved in the work on the [REDACTED—parliamentary business], and had been aware of the complainant for a number of years before that time, as they had shared professional interests. She met the complainant during their work on the [REDACTED—parliamentary business], and recalls that the complainant was not at any of the meetings that their organisation had with Lord Lester but was at a larger meeting at the House of Lords that was organised for a number of women’s organisations. She said that Lord Lester had first contacted her organisation after one of their members published a piece in The Guardian about the [REDACTED—parliamentary business] and at that time the complainant was not in the picture.

84.Her organisation had a number of meetings with Lord Lester: “and were not aware for some time that Lord Lester had contacted the complainant and was working with her closely. She also recalled a meeting in her borough which Lord Lester had organised and at which the complainant spoke, but to which her organization was not invited, despite their highly relevant expertise. Her perception was that Lord Lester saw the complainant as having the more significant voice, because of her personal experience. This event is discussed in a later section.

85.I spoke to the complainant’s two further witnesses on the phone. H, who had been the complainant’s personal assistant at the relevant time, recalled very clearly receiving a call from Lord Lester, saying that he might not be able to attend the event at which he was an advertised speaker, and asking that the complainant ring him (Appendix X) [reference is to a document that has not been published]. She recalled getting into a panic about this, and discussing it with someone else in the office, as all the leaflets for the event had been printed and she did not know what they would do if he did not attend. H passed on the message to the complainant, and recalls being told that the complainant contacted Lord Lester’s secretary, who said that he was still due to attend.

86.She also told me that the complainant called her on the night she was at Lord Lester’s home, and said that she was feeling very awkward because of what had happened on the way there and was unable to sleep.

87.J, who is a friend of the complainant, and also a counsellor, told me that she has had conversations with the complainant about the alleged events, but that these were not professional conversations and she has not kept notes (Appendix Y) [reference is to a document that has not been published].

88.She recalls the complainant speaking to her after the incident and telling her she could not believe what had happened: “what does he think I am?” The complainant mentioned Lord Lester’s name at the time, which she remembered as her sister lives in Leicester. The complainant was upset at what had happened, but also annoyed with herself, because she had not stuck up for herself. She said that she thought she would not be believed as she was just a small woman and Lord Lester was a powerful and important person, and that any kind of publicity would be damaging to her and her cause, because her reputation would suffer in the context of not being believed. As time has gone by she has felt like a failure for not speaking up, and this has been eating away at her. She is also aware that there may be other victims who might come forward if she speaks up.

89.As a result of my conversations with S, T and the complainant, I was able to establish with some certainty that the individual incidents referred to in the complaint had taken place over about 9 days, in the following order:

(1)overnight stay

(2)conversation at the House of Lords

(3)[REDACTED—media event]

(4)event at which Lord Lester was an advertised speaker.

90.I am accustomed to working with experienced colleagues when conducting investigations, but did not have the option of doing so in this case. Therefore, to ensure that I had left no stone unturned in seeking evidence to assist me in making a decision, I sent all the evidence to Camilla Parker QC (Hon), one of the directors of YESS2, and a solicitor and judge with great experience in dealing with allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, with a request that she should advise me whether there were any further steps that I should take. I made it very clear that I was not seeking her opinion on the complaint. She found no major unmissed steps, and made some minor suggestions, which were taken into account by me in finalizing the investigation

Further alleged breach

91.At a late stage in the investigation I was informed that Lord Lester had told another Member of the House, who knows the complainant, that it was she who had made the complaint against him. The Member confirmed that this had happened (Appendix AB) [reference is to a document that has not been published].

92.This was a breach of the confidentiality requirement in the Guide to the Code (paragraph 130), and I therefore asked Lord Lester to respond to the evidence of a breach of confidentiality. He replied:

“As regards the allegation that I named the complainant to [another Member] this is correct. I spoke briefly and privately to [the Member] I apologise. I am not responsible for what occurred thereafter.”

f) Lord Lester’s challenges to the complainant’s evidence and her responses to his challenges

i. Evidence

93.The complainant alleges that Lord Lester sexually harassed her, offered her a corrupt inducement to accept his sexual approaches, and threatened her with unspecified consequences if she did not.


94.Lord Lester denies all these allegations, and says that his contacts with the complainant were purely professional and appropriate. At interview (Appendix O) [reference is to a document that has not been published], I asked him if he could think of any reason why the complainant should have made false allegations against him. He replied: “I wish I could. I speculate and I speculate. It is mere speculation. I wish I could.”


95.The complainant confirms her account of events.

ii. Evidence

96.Six people provided statements or spoke to me on the telephone to confirm that the complainant had spoken to them about her allegations at the time.


97.Lord Lester has seen the statements of these witnesses. In his statement, he pointed out inconsistencies and contradictions in the first 4 statements, which were the only ones he had seen at that time.

98.At interview, I asked him whether he accepted that T, M, N and A had truthfully recalled that the complainant had made allegations against him at the time of the alleged behaviour. Lord Lester gave a long reply, which identified differences between the recollections of some of those to whom the complainant said she had spoken at the time of the alleged behaviour and her own statement.

99.I asked him the same question in a slightly different way: “Do you think this is a conspiracy by the complainant and those who say that she spoke to them about these matters at the time, or do you accept that, whether she was speaking the truth or not, she did speak to them at the time?”

100.Lord Lester said that he found it extremely hard to give a fair answer to the question, and then spoke about another remark made by one of the witnesses which he said was completely untrue, and concluded by saying, “so, of course it is horrible for me to have to say to you that I feel this is a pack of lies told by her and her supporters, but I’m afraid that is what I now believe.”


101.I did not ask the complainant or the witnesses to respond to the allegation, as they had already asserted the truthfulness of their evidence and Lord Lester’s response did not contain any factual material to which a response should be sought.

iii. Evidence

102.In her initial statement, the complainant said that she felt “uncomfortable and violated” by Lord Lester’s alleged behaviour when he was driving her to his house, at his house that evening and the following morning, and after leaving his house.

103.In the same statement, she states that after the alleged incident outside the House of Lords, she was shocked by his comments at the beginning of the interaction; angry about the impression he gave of the House of Lords having a culture where corruption in appointment was acceptable and not unusual; and distressed and shocked when he allegedly suggested that there would be repercussions if she would not sleep with him, and made further inappropriate sexual comments.

104.After he allegedly texted the complainant, making a further approach, she said that she found his behaviour and persistence “most disturbing”.

105.She explained that as a survivor it has taken her many years to empower herself and she continues to experience turmoil because she did not have the courage to speak out, when she has spent many years breaking the silences of many women silenced by different forms of gender-based violence. She has increasingly felt that she has not been true to herself by not speaking out about the allegations.


106.Lord Lester gave examples of the complainant’s behaviour in the days, weeks, months and years after the alleged behaviour which contradict her claims of the alleged effect of his alleged behaviour on her.

107.In relation to the night she spent at his house, he said, in his first statement: “the alleged trauma being suffered by the complainant at my hands was not evident to me or indeed my wife in any of her words or actions; then or ever.”

108.Lady Lester’s evidence to me when we met confirmed that she did not recall the complainant being distressed in any way: “I remember her being friendly and that is about the size of it”.


109.In her second statement (Appendix R) [reference is to a document that has not been published], the complainant said:

“So far as my interaction with her [Lady Lester] was concerned, it was a perfectly normal incident with social conversation late at night and a cup of tea. The conduct of which I complained in paragraph 23 of my statement [in the morning] took place after she had left. I did not feel that it was appropriate to complain to her about the matters to which I refer in paragraph 20 [hand on thigh]”. [References are documents that have not been published]

110.Lord Lester’s response to this response, in his second statement (Appendix U), was:

“The complainant does not dispute paragraph 10 of my statement where I explained that the alleged trauma being suffered by her was not evident to me or my wife in any of her words or actions on the morning after she stayed overnight. She does not explain how her apparently normal appearance and behaviour were compatible with her allegations of seriously distressing sexual misconduct the night before.” [reference is to a document that has not been published]

iv. Challenge

111.Lord Lester recalls that he went to the event hosted by the complainant, at which the complainant gave him a copy of her book with a handwritten inscription:


“Antony [sic]

Thank you so much for your love and support. It has been my pleasure to meet you.

Love and admiration.”

112.This dedication, Lord Lester contends, is “impossible to reconcile with the allegation that I had been guilty of harassing behaviour and an abuse of power.”


113.I put this contention to the complainant, who responded:

“As regards the dedication, LL came to the front of the queue and asked me to sign a book for him. As was my practice, I asked him what message he would like me to put in. I was by this time disconcerted and intimidated by his behaviour. His attendance at the launch event organised by the University had been long advertised and I did not know whether he would in fact turn up. He told me to spell his name correctly (which it seems that I failed to do) and to sign it With Love and any other message. It was a difficult moment and I wrote it under this pressure and did what seemed best at the time. I went along with his request. I was surprised by the fact that LL had made such a request. It is the case that I did admire the work that he had done.

I am asked to sign books for a number of reasons and I am usually happy to accommodate those reasons. I tend to write such dedications in quite flowery language. LL was at the front of the queue of around 100 people and [an important milestone in the [REDACTED—parliamentary business]] was due to take place a few days later. I thought it was better to do what he requested.”

114.Lord Lester was shown this explanation, describing it as “untrue and graceless.” He subsequently commented:

“The reason I described her explanation as “graceless” is because I had taken the trouble to take time off from work to go [out of London] to support her… and would have expected her to have thanked me as she did.”

v. Challenge

115.Lord Lester states that he subsequently received a complimentary pre-publication copy of the complainant’s second book with a note from the publisher’s press office explaining that the complainant: “greatly appreciates your support and it’s particularly important to her that you have an opportunity to read it now.” The book contained a handwritten note:


I share this book with you & hope it continues to inspire you. I thank you for all your support with our cause and send you love and respect.



116.Lord Lester suggested that this dedication is “impossible to reconcile with what the complainant alleges against me.”


117.In response, the complainant stated:

I believe that the publishers sent books to a number of people on their list from the time of the publication of [my first book] and that they would, as LL says, have sent a copy of the book to him without any request from him. I would have worked with the publishers in the circulation of pre-publication copies. I did and continue to respect the work that he had done [REDACTED—relating to the parliamentary business]. For the reasons I state elsewhere in my statement, I had decided at that stage not to make any formal complaint about his behaviour and to get on with my life. I tend to make fairly expansive dedications so I will write things like ‘Deep appreciation and admiration’ or ‘Big love and respect’, sometimes on the basis of what strangers have told me when they ask for the book to be signed.”

118.I asked the complainant to provide evidence of her usual way of signing emails to people with whom she only had a professional relationship, and she sent me some examples, in which she provided affectionate and informal sign-offs to professional contacts (see Appendix AL) [reference is to a document that has not been published]. She had also asked the university where she had been working at the time to look for any relevant emails, and it produced emails from Lord Lester to the complainant some years after the events, one of which also had an affectionate and informal sign-off (see Appendix AF) [reference is to a document that has not been published].

119.I asked Lord Lester to comment on the significance of his sign-off, and he replied:

“The emails to which you refer are further examples of a normal and friendly course of dealing between me and the complainant that is incompatible with her allegations of abuse of power and sexual harassment.”

vi. Evidence

120.The complainant provides a number of reasons for why she did not make her complaint sooner:


121.In his statement, Lord Lester said that he regards the complainant’s reasons for not making a complaint sooner as unconvincing, stating that she is a confident and determined campaigner with the benefit of friendship with, and advice from, a senior prosecutor and circuit judge - yet no complaint was made. Furthermore, he pointed out that while the complainant could have pursued her case in a number of ways - civil or criminal proceedings, for instance - she “has had recourse to a Parliamentary procedure that was not designed to deal with allegations of sexual harassment or abuse of power of this kind.”


122.In her second statement the complainant commented: “As regards the criticisms of my behaviour on this point, these comments do appear to be surprisingly self-serving given his area of expertise and to fail to understand the thought processes of victims.”

vii. Evidence

123.The complainant says that Lord Lester stopped informing her of, or inviting her to, meetings regarding the [REDACTED—parliamentary business] after she rebuffed him.


124.Lord Lester claimed that he did not exclude the complainant from meetings; rather, she continued to attend meetings to rally support for the [REDACTED—parliamentary business], highlighting, by way of example, a meeting mentioned by a member who referred to the complainant’s presence, reference to which was recorded in Hansard.


125.In her second statement, the complainant said that this meeting took place after A had intervened to ensure she was invited to meetings again. Subsequent clarification of dates makes it clear that this event preceded the events complained of, and the complainant accepts this. The complainant accepts that her recollection of what happened when is unclear, as she did not keep notes or a diary at the time, and has had to rely on her memory of events over a decade ago.

viii. Evidence

126.The complainant says she first met Lord Lester in March of the relevant year.


127.Lord Lester points out that the decision to work on the [REDACTED—parliamentary business] was not made until after he returned from a summer holiday that year, and he dates his first meeting with the complainant to October or September of the year.


128.In her interview with me, the complainant accepted that she must have got her dates wrong, and explained that she had written her statement from memory, and did not have any appointments diary or other record of events for the period in question.

ix. Evidence

129.The complainant says that Lord Lester told her he would not be attending the event where he was an advertised speaker.


130.Lord Lester said, in his first statement, ‘I did not threaten to cancel my participation.’


131.H recalls taking this call from Lord Lester.

132.Lord Lester was provided with H’s statement, and responded:

“I have read the recent statement by H and accept that it is possible that I may have attempted to cancel my visit. I cannot now recall doing so but accept that it may have happened. A visit [out of London] away from work was burdensome. Although I cannot recall my attempt to cancel the visit I can say with complete confidence that this was not because the complainant had refused to have sex with me, nor is there any evidence to support any such suggestion. I am hindered in trying to answer the claim on this and other issues because it relates to events [REDACTED—over a decade] ago.”

x. Evidence

133.In his statement, N said that he became aware that Lord Lester had asked the complainant to help him [REDACTED—activity relating to the parliamentary business]. The complainant asked for N’s assistance “but didn’t really need it”.


134.In his interview with me, Lord Lester said:

The whole of that is untrue. Either he is making it up or she is making it up, but of course I didn’t ask her to help me [REDACTED—activity relating to the parliamentary business]. I had a very good team doing that and she wasn’t a lawyer and she didn’t even agree with the idea of [REDACTED—activity relating to parliamentary business]. The idea that she asked him for his assistance also cannot be true”.


135.I have not asked the complainant to respond to this, as I would not expect her to have a precise recollection of what had been said during what must have been an uncontroversial conversation between herself and N over 10 years ago.

xi. Evidence

136.The complainant and T both say that at the [REDACTED—media event] referred to in the complainant’s original statement, Lord Lester approached the complainant, who was accompanied by T, and said: “Oh, I see you have brought a chaperone with you”.


137.Lord Lester said he did not remember appearing with the complainant at this event, or of making the remarks attributed to him.


138.In her second statement the complainant wrote: “We both appeared [REDACTED—at the media event] and I attach a link which shows details of the [REDACTED—information about the media event] and its date”.


139.I have followed the link and confirmed that the complainant and Lord Lester were both on the [REDACTED—media event].

xii. Evidence

140.The complainant said in her second statement that Lord Lester ceased to involve her in the work on the [REDACTED—parliamentary business] and told her that her role would now be filled by S.


141.In his second statement, Lord Lester said:

“The complainant’s role in relation to [REDACTED—parliamentary business] was promotional and not that of a legal expert on family law, unlike the role of S who did not replace her (contrary to her second statement) and who was an experienced legal expert”.


142.I did not seek a response from the complainant, as Lord Lester’s reply did not relate to what he may or may not have said to her. Also, see the comments below.

g) Other matters requiring explanation

143.As referred to in paragraph 78 above, S sent an email exchange which included an email from the complainant to Lord Lester, at the relevant time, [REDACTED—about someone she was supporting through her work, and asked for his support, signing off ‘Lots of lovexx’].

144.I asked the complainant to comment on this email, and in particular its friendly sign-off. She responded:

“I believed that it was appropriate and the right thing to do in bringing it to the attention of LL and seeking his assistance as he was advocating protection for such victims and survivors. I was not going to allow my experience at that time to deter me from advocating for this cause and he responded to this appeal. It is also the case that I had made up my mind that I was not going to complain at that time for all the reasons I have shared with you. Therefore, with this in mind, getting on with things as an advocate was my way of coping. The signing of this email is consistent with how I would sign and I was trying to keep things as normal as possible. I did not want to put the advocacy of victims at risk.”

145.P told me that Lord Lester had organised a public meeting in the borough, at which the complainant was invited to speak, but her organisation was not told of the meeting, were not invited to it, and did not find out about it from Lord Lester.

146.S commented that she attended the meeting, at which Lord Lester and the complainant were seated together at a table separate from where she was seated. She recalls the complainant appearing to be warm towards Lord Lester, smiling, and comfortable in his company, but a bit frosty towards her, which she put down to professional differences between their approaches to the [REDACTED—parliamentary business] and the complainant perhaps feeling edged out in [REDACTED—activity relating to the parliamentary business] after the meeting of [REDACTED] at which she first saw the complainant. She said that Lord Lester had told her in a telephone call that the complainant had told him that S had arrived on the scene at a later stage and “had muscled my way in” (she could not remember the exact words but it was to that effect) and that Lord Lester had said that the complainant had been rather “rude” about her and that this had surprised him. She had also been told by others involved in the work that the complainant had felt “displaced” but she had not taken much notice of any of this, as she put it down to the inevitable tensions between people working on a joint project.

147.I asked the complainant about this meeting, and she told me that she remembered the event, which was one of many that she attended, and still attend, and which was not organised by Lord Lester. It was attended by over 100 people, which made her feel safe, and she also attended with a work colleague. Her recollection is that Lord Lester attended with S and they jointly presented. Her presentation would have been on the agenda alongside them both, but she presented it alone.

148.She accepts that she may have been at the same table as Lord Lester, but this was because she was placed there by the organisers and she accepted the seat because she did not want to draw anyone’s attention to the situation between her and Lord Lester. She knows that she did not arrive with Lord Lester and recalls that she left before him.

149.She commented that she was not prepared not to attend events just because Lord Lester might be in attendance, as she was not going to allow her experience to impact on her advocating these issues and supporting those who she felt she could help. She was not going to let what happened deter her and it was a source of strength for her to carry on.

150.She said that she had felt a little awkward when she spoke to S, but this was because Lord Lester had previously said, when she did not accept his advances, that she would be “replaced” by S - “if I appeared frosty it was nothing to do with anything other than what Lord Lester had told me…”

151.By this time, she had noticed that S appeared to become a spokesperson with Lord Lester, and her recollection is that they gave a presentation together at this event, which reinforced her opinion that she had been “replaced” to teach her a lesson. She did not believe that S had any knowledge of what had gone on between her and Lord Lester.

152.She also said that although she had a different view on aspects of the [REDACTED—parliamentary business] to that of Lord Lester and S, she had accepted the majority opinion on how [REDACTED—activity relating to the parliamentary business], and had worked wholeheartedly for it, and that this difference did not affect her opinion of, or attitude to, S - “I am thankful for S’s work to date”.

h) Analysis

153.The standard of proof that I have to apply is the civil standard of balance of probability; that is to say, unless I am satisfied that it was more likely than not that Lord Lester behaved in the way alleged by the complainant, the complaint must be rejected.

154.There is a good deal of case law on how the balance of probabilities should be applied when, for instance, the allegations are particularly serious or implausible, or where the consequences of a finding against the alleged perpetrator would be particularly serious, even if the alleged behaviour is not so serious. The current law in these cases was set out in the House of Lords case of In re D (HL(NI) 2008 in which Lord Carswell, who gave the leading judgement, approvingly quoted Richards LJ in R (N) v Mental Health Review Tribunal (Northern Region) [2006] QB 468, para 62:

“Although there is a single civil standard of proof on the balance of probabilities, it is flexible in its application. In particular, the more serious the allegation or the more serious the consequences if the allegation is proved, the stronger must be the evidence before a court will find the allegation proved on the balance of probabilities. Thus the flexibility of the standard lies not in any adjustment to the degree of probability required for an allegation to be proved (such that a more serious allegation has to be proved to a higher degree of probability), but in the strength or quality of the evidence that will in practice be required for an allegation to be proved on the balance of probabilities.”

155.In my view, this case is one which requires strong evidence to support a finding that the allegations against Lord Lester are more likely than not to be true. I consider that the allegations relating to Lord Lester’s alleged sexual remarks and persistent unwanted touching to be at the less serious end of the scale, while still amounting to a breach of personal honour, if true. However, the allegation that he offered a corrupt inducement to the complainant to become his mistress is a very serious matter, as is the allegation that he blocked her from attending meetings and threatened her with unspecified consequences if she did not accede to his demands, as, in each case, the alleged behaviour attacks the integrity of the House of Lords.

156.Therefore, in carrying out the investigation, I have followed up all challenges and disputed points, except those that are immaterial or impossible to verify, in order to test the strength of the evidence as hard as I could.

157.The complainant’s initial statement provided prima facie evidence that Lord Lester had breached the Code of Conduct. Lord Lester’s response to the complainant statement was to deny, in every particular, that he had behaved inappropriately in relation to the complainant. This then, is not a case of possible misunderstanding, misinterpretation or an inadvertent clash of expectations of what constitutes proper behaviour. Either the complainant or Lord Lester is not telling the truth.

158.It was therefore necessary for me to consider the credibility of the complainant and Lord Lester, to see if there was anything known about either of them that would tend to suggest that one of them was more likely to be telling the truth than the other.

159.Lord Lester and the complainant are both people with impeccable reputations, celebrated nationally and internationally for their work on behalf of vulnerable people, and each with a history of valuable public service, and, in consequence, they both have multiple entries on search engines. My online research found nothing to suggest evidence of dishonesty or any accusations of misconduct or misbehaviour against either of them.

160.I can find nothing in publicly available information that would allow me to say that one is more likely to be telling the truth than the other.

161.I therefore turned to the other evidence provided to me by the complainant and Lord Lester.

162.When she made her original complaint, the complainant said that she had spoken to other people about the alleged misconduct, and gave the names of four people who she said would be able to confirm to me that she had spoken to them at the time. She later gave me two further names.

163.The first four provided me with statements before I made the application to the sub-committee to be able to carry out the investigation. Paraphrases of their statements are set out at paragraphs 64-70 above and my exchange with Lord Lester on this point is at paragraphs 97-100. It is Lord Lester’s contention that the authors of these four statements are lying about having been told at the time about the allegations. Lord Lester gives no reason for this, and he does not need to do so, save to say that they are her “supporters”.

164.The witness statements vary in content and detail. One of them, T, was made by a friend of the complainant, who has spoken to the complainant frequently about the behaviour complained of, and has said that she was present at the [REDACTED—media event] incident referred to by the complainant in her statement.

165.Another, M, a district judge, said she only had one conversation at the time with the complainant, the day after the overnight stay. As she refers in her statement to matters that the complainant says took place on one occasion at Lord Lester’s house, and on a subsequent occasion at the House of Lords, it seems likely either that this one conversation took place later than M recalls, or that there was more than one conversation. The complainant’s recollection, set out in her initial statement, is that she contacted M on the day after the House of Lords conversation.

166.N, a director in the Crown Prosecution Service at the time, says that he spoke to the complainant at around the time of the events, and then not again until recently, and his account includes his description of contact between himself and the complainant before the alleged behaviour complained of.

167.Finally, A, a civil servant involved in the [REDACTED—parliamentary business] at the relevant time, briefly confirmed that he recalls the complainant speaking to him about Lord Lester’s alleged behaviour, but cannot recall any significant detail.

168.In view of the different levels of contact that the complainant has had with these four people since the alleged events complained of, and in view of the lapse of time, I do not find it surprisingly that their accounts differ. In fact, I would have been much more concerned if they had all been the same as each other.

169.I do not accept Lord Lester’s contention that the differences and discrepancies in these statements show that they cannot be relied upon.

170.There is no evidence that these people, who do not all know each other, and who have had different relationships and levels of contact with the complainant over the years, have conspired with each other and the complainant to cause serious harm to Lord Lester, and no reason has been suggested why they might do such a terrible thing.

171.This is not a case where I have to examine in great detail each of the allegations made by the complainant, as there is no suggestion that the complaint arises from any misunderstanding between the complainant and Lord Lester or any misinterpretation of remarks made by Lord Lester. Lady Lester, when I interviewed her, suggested that possibly the complainant might have misunderstood Lord Lester’s “friendliness”, but Lord Lester did not make any such suggestion, and neither he nor the complainant suggest that they had anything other than a purely professional relationship, apart from the alleged behaviour.

172.I conclude from this that if I find, on the balance of probabilities, that something of concern took place between Lord Lester and the complainant that led the complainant to share her concerns with others at the relevant time, I am bound to accept her account of events, as no alternative is given, other than that the events did not happen.

173.I therefore do not have to reach a view on what exactly the complainant said to A, T, N and M, or exactly why their recollections do not always accord with the complainant’s account.

174.In my view, the evidence strongly suggests that the complainant did speak to T, N, M and A shortly after the alleged incidents in her complaint. The details given in the four statements are similar enough to the detail given in the complainant’s statement to be credible recollections of conversations over 10 years ago, and I consider that these statements show that the complainant spoke of the four incidents to her witnesses at, or shortly after, the alleged incidents

175.Of course, the fact that the complainant spoke to these four people about the alleged behaviour of Lord Lester does not, in itself, prove that Lord Lester behaved in this way.

176.For instance, the complainant could have contacted T, N, M and A because she believed, mistakenly, that Lord Lester had sexually harassed her, offered her a corrupt inducement and threatened her with consequences if she did not accede to his demands. However, for the reasons given above, this seems highly unlikely, as Lord Lester has said that he never behaved in any way that could have led to such a misunderstanding.

177.Another possibility is that the complainant could have been acting with malice in making these allegations against Lord Lester to T, N, M and A. However, if that is the case, some kind of possible explanation has to be given as to why she would wait over 10 years before making a formal complaint. No one has suggested any such explanation, and I cannot think of one that fits with what is known about the complainant.

178.The complainant does explain why she did not make an earlier complaint at paragraph 120, and Lord Lester’s criticism of this is at paragraph 121.

179.I consider that the explanation given by the complainant is plausible and rational. I accept Lord Lester’s point that there were a number of actions that she could have taken to seek redress, but I also accept the complainant’s perception that, in the culture of the time, she would have been unlikely to have been believed, with the result that both she and her cause would be significantly damaged.

180.I therefore conclude that the most likely explanation for the complainant speaking to T, N, M and A in the way that she did is that she was describing events that she had experienced, and that she subsequently set down in her initial statement to me.

181.However, this was not the end of the investigation. In his statements to, and interview with, me Lord Lester produced evidence that showed, in his view, that the complainant had behaved towards him, after the alleged events, in a way that was incompatible with her allegations against him. As Lord Lester was clear that he had not behaved as she had claimed, this evidence needed to be looked at carefully, to see if it showed that the complainant was inconsistent in important aspects of her evidence, sufficient to undermine the validity of her complaint.

182.Lord Lester points to Lady Lester’s evidence about the complainant’s behaviour when she spent the night at Lord and Lady Lester’s home. This is set out at paragraphs 106 to 110 above, along with the complainant’s response and Lord Lester’s comment on this response.

183.Lord Lester says that the complainant asserted that she was traumatised by the events at his house. However, this is not borne out by the complainant’s evidence. After she arrived at Lord Lester’s house, she says that she had a conversation with Lady Lester before going to bed, but does not suggest that, at this stage, she was traumatised. Rather, she said that after Lord Lester’s alleged behaviour in the car she had felt “incredibly uncomfortable”.

184.She says that Lord Lester made a remark, when showing her to her bedroom, that she found worrying, and which made her feel “very uncomfortable”, as a result of which she put a chair under her bedroom door handle, did not sleep and had a number of conversations with her friend T. In her statement to me, T said that the conversations were to keep the complainant calm and relaxed. Her personal assistant, H, told me that the complainant also rang her that night, and had said that she felt “very awkward” about what had happened in the car, and was unable to sleep.

185.The complainant does not say that she was traumatised while she was in the house with Lady Lester, although she describes herself as “uncomfortable and violated” after Lord Lester allegedly sexually assaulted her and propositioned her the following morning, after Lady Lester had left the house.

186.I note that M says that the complainant was “totally distraught” when they spoke, which she recalled was the day after the complainant had stayed at Lord Lester’s house. However, as explained above, it seems likely that this conversation actually took place after the House of Lords incident, when the complainant herself describes feeling “distressed and shocked”.

187.I therefore find nothing inconsistent in the complainant’s account of her feelings while in the house with Lady Lester, and Lady Lester’s perception that she was friendly, and not distressed, particularly as the complainant said that she had not felt it appropriate to complain to Lady Lester about Lord Lester’s behaviour in the car.

188.As I have found that it is more likely than not that Lord Lester sexually harassed the complainant while driving to his home, and at his home the following morning, I have considered what significance can be given to his offer to put her up for the night. If he did so with a view to harassing her in the way that he did, this would be an aggravating factor in assessing the seriousness of his conduct, as he would have engineered a situation where the complainant would not easily be able to avoid his actions.

189.However, Lord Lester’s explanation for the offer to put her up is that he was simply being helpful and friendly, and it is certainly possible that this was why he made the offer, but that something changed on the way to his home.

190.It is not possible to establish Lord Lester’s motive in offering to put the complainant up for the night.

191.At paragraphs 111-19, I set out Lord Lester’s challenges regarding two books in which the complainant had written inscriptions which suggested warm and respectful feelings towards Lord Lester, the complainant’s responses and a further comment by Lord Lester.

192.At paragraph 143 I also asked the complainant to explain why she had signed, at the relevant time, an email to Lord Lester, “Lots of lovexx”, and I set out her reply at paragraph 144.

193.Lord Lester has said, in relation to the book inscriptions, that the words the complainant used were impossible to reconcile with what she alleged against him.

194.I do not agree. The complainant’s responses show that she was writing in this way for pragmatic reasons, as she recognised that Lord Lester’s support was important for her cause. I find this believable, particularly as, in the initial statement that was written before Lord Lester produced the inscribed books, she had been clear that at the time of these events she put her cause before her own feelings. The events referred to in this investigation took place over several months with the behaviour complained about taking place taking place over about 9 days within that period, and during those months the complainant was continuing to appear with Lord Lester at relevant events, although, as she said, never alone after the House of Lords incident. Her determination to attend meetings hosted by Lord Lester, and her continued willingness to have him speak at an event she was hosting, show that she was well able to subdue her feelings during this time.

195.At no point does the complainant say that she was traumatised by Lord Lester’s behaviour, and her statement suggests that most of the emotional harm she has experienced over the years has been the result of a sense of helplessness at not being able to find an effective route for redress, and a feeling of failure for not speaking up about his behaviour.

196.I also note that both the complainant, to other professional contacts, and Lord Lester, to the complainant, used informal and affectionate sign offs. Lord Lester commented that his emails simply showed, a normal and friendly course of dealing between me and the complainant that is incompatible with her allegations of abuse of power and sexual harassment.”

197.The complainant clearly has an informal style of email sign-off, even with professional contacts. Lord Lester, going by this example and his comment on it, does the same. No adverse inference can be drawn about either of them.

Further matters

198.Lord Lester said that the complainant was wrong in saying that they had met in March of the year in question, and the complainant accepts that she must have mis-remembered the date.

199.She also now accepts that the date of the first alleged incident, when she stayed at Lord and Lady Lester’s home, was some weeks later than her original recollection.

200.As nothing turns on the dates of the incidents, the complainant’s inaccurate recollection of the timing of events is not significant in undermining her account.

201.Lord Lester says that he did not exclude the complainant from meetings, as alleged by the complainant. A, the official to whom she spoke, who she says made sure that she was invited to the following meetings, cannot remember much about the circumstances, but remembers her telling him about her allegations.

202.This allegation was communicated to A at the time of the events complained of. Therefore, for the reasons given above, I accept it.

203.Lord Lester cannot remember attending a [REDACTED—media event] at which he and the complainant were being interviewed, nor can he recall making the remark attributed at paragraph 136. The complainant has provided evidence that the event took place and that she and he were guests on the [REDACTED—media event]. T recalls attending with the complainant and hearing Lord Lester making the remark attributed to him.

204.I find T to be a credible witness, and as her account tallies with that of the complainant, I therefore accept that Lord Lester made the remark attributed to him on this occasion.

205.I also find that the remark strongly suggests that Lord Lester was aware that the complainant felt the need to protect herself from his advances.

206.Lord Lester also says that the complainant was wrong to say that he had told her that S would be replacing her in the work on [REDACTED—parliamentary business], because S had very different skills and abilities to the complainant. I did not ask the complainant to respond on this, as I would be asking her to comment on a conversation that Lord Lester says did not occur, which seemed unnecessary.

207.I accept the complainant’s recollection of what was said to her, but also accept that what was said to her was inaccurate, as S had a very different role to play to that of the complainant, and could not be seen as a replacement for her.

208.With regard to the allegation that Lord Lester phoned to inform the complainant that he would not be attending the event where he was the advertised speaker, Lord Lester has now accepted that, although he cannot remember doing so, he may have made this call. The reason he gives is understandable but has to be set against what I assume to be a generally conscientious willingness not to let people down, and by his undoubted presence at the event.

209.I accept that Lord Lester made this phone call.

210.In relation to these last two matters, I accept that there is some room for uncertainty about the context in which the events occurred, and so I have not included them when considering whether the Code of Conduct has been breached.

211.In my analysis, all the witnesses, both for Lord Lester and for the complainant, are people of integrity who have honestly done their best to tell the truth in their evidence.

212.Lord Lester acknowledged that he has breached the confidentiality of the investigation by naming the complainant to another Member. When I asked him to comment on this allegation his response, in full, was:

“As regards the allegation that I named the complainant to [another Member] this is correct. I spoke briefly and privately to [the Member] I apologise. I am not responsible for what occurred thereafter”.

213.This is an unsatisfactory response:

214.I should add that all those concerned have agreed not to reveal to others what they heard. Nonetheless, they are all now in an invidious position, as, if the complainant’s identity is revealed at some point, she, or others, may feel that the leak could have come from one of them.

215.Lord Lester deliberately breached confidentiality, for reasons unknown, and is responsible for all the reasonably foreseeable consequences of that breach.

i) Representations by Lord Lester, with my responses

216.As required by the Guide to the Code of Conduct (paragraph 136), I provided Lord Lester with those parts of my draft report that set out factual matters, so that he could comment on them. In his response he made a number of points which are dealt with in the analysis above, but also made representations which he asked me to include in the report. I set these out below, with my responses.


217.Lord Lester asked, in his comments of 11 July (Appendix Z) [reference is to a document that has not been published], that I record in the report his concern at the unfairness of the procedure that I have followed and of the need for a new procedure to deal with allegations of sexual harassment. He wrote:

“There is a new Code in draft form which is being consulted on. Parliament has recognised that the Code does not cover sexual misconduct and provide fair procedures for dealing with allegations of this nature, which would require cross examination, legal representation, an opportunity to comment on investigations of historic conduct, and many other safeguards of that kind”.


218.I am happy to record his concern, but do not accept the procedure I have followed has been unfair, or that the new procedure would have given him the rights set out in the paragraph above.

219.In July 2018, Parliament published its Independent Complaints and Grievances Scheme Delivery Report. This deals with bullying and harassment generally and has a specific policy and procedure for dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct.

220.The procedure for dealing with formal complaints is set out on pages 85 to 92 of the document. The procedure differs in some respects from that which I have followed in investigating this complaint. However, importantly, there is no provision in the new procedure to allow cross-examination to test credibility or the strength of the evidence, nor is it possible for any of the parties to be legally represented at any meeting. The standard of proof is the balance of probabilities, without any requirement that particularly strong evidence needs to be in place before serious allegations can be upheld.

221.Interestingly, an earlier report by the Cross Party Working Group on an Independent Complaints and Grievance Policy, published on 8 February 2018, set out the early thinking on how complaints of bullying and harassment should be investigated, and its section on sexual harassment contains no suggestion that those complained about would have the opportunity to be legally represented or to have complainants or witnesses cross-examined on their evidence.


222.Lord Lester considered that, under the new scheme, he would “have had a chance to make observations on the fairness of the [REDACTED] extension of the normal time limit to a [REDACTED—investigation which is over a decade old]”.


223.It seems likely that the complaint against Lord Lester could not have been investigated under the new scheme, as the allegations pre-date the 2017 general election which is the cut off date for complaints under the new process. However, the Delivery Report published in July states that complainants may use alternative ways of complaining, including existing rights to complain to me and my successors, instead of the new process. Therefore, Lord Lester has suffered no disadvantage in being investigated under the existing scheme before the new scheme is implemented.


224.Lord Lester was concerned that, when I interviewed him, I did not challenge key aspects of his evidence. He had expected, for example, to be questioned at least about the central allegation that he offered to get the complainant a peerage if she had sex with him, but the subject was not mentioned.


225.Lord Lester had provided me with a full statement, in which he categorically denied all the complainant’s allegations of improper behaviour. The purpose of the interview was to offer him the opportunity to add anything that he wanted to the evidence given in his statement, and for me to seek clarification on certain matters that he had raised. If there had been any lack of clarity in Lord Lester’s denial, I would have sought clarity. However, there was none, so there was no need to seek further clarification.


226.Lord Lester asserted that I had indicated during his interview with me that his reputation was well known to me and so it was not necessary to obtain statements from his list of character witnesses.


227.This is not quite correct. Lord Lester put forward 12 character witnesses, and we agreed that I would speak to the ones who had been working with him at the time, and who had met the complainant. If any of them raised concerns about his behaviour, I would then speak to his other character witnesses.


228.Lord Lester asserted that if the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of power were true, it would mean that he had a propensity to act in this manner, and that I had recognised this. He went on to say that it would be remarkable to conclude that his treatment of the complainant was an aberration, a one-off flaw in his character that had never revealed itself before or since.


229.I did not say that, if the allegations were true, it would show that he had a propensity to act in this manner. I did say, speaking generally, that some people found to have behaved in this way do so repeatedly.

230.As for there being a one-off flaw in his character, if he had treated the complainant as alleged, I would express this differently; we are all capable of acting out of character for reasons that may never be clear, even to ourselves, and this does not preclude a history of excellent behaviour.


231.Lord Lester says that as none of the key details of the allegations were put to him or to the other witnesses, and they were simply asked questions of a general nature, this was unfair.


232.Lord Lester was provided with the unredacted statements of the complainant and her witnesses, and therefore had every chance, which he took, of dealing with the key allegations. The complainant did not suggest that anyone else would have witnessed his alleged improper behaviour, and therefore there was no reason to ask other than general questions about their observations of Lord Lester generally, about his conduct towards the complainant, and about the complainant. His wife was the only witness put forward by him who could give evidence about specific parts of the allegations, and she gave detailed evidence in interview, but as the allegations did not include any suggestion that she knew about her husband’s alleged behaviour, there was no reason to ask her about matters that the complainant had said she did not observe.


233.Lord Lester asks me to state in the report that I declined to investigate the source of the leak to the press at the beginning of the investigation.


234.I am happy to confirm this. I did not then, and do not now, see how I could carry out such an investigation, as I have no powers to do so. My role is to investigate complaints made about Members of the House of Lords and their staff. No one made any suggestion to me that a named Member, or member of their staff, had been the source of the leak.


235.Lord Lester suggested to me in interview that the standard of proof should be a high civil standard commensurate with the gravity of the allegation. I disagreed and considered the appropriate standard is on the balance of probabilities.

236.Subsequently, in his comments on the factual parts of the draft report, he wrote:

“The leading case on this issue is re H (Minors) [1966] AC 563 (HL). In that case Lord Nicholls made it clear that where a serious allegation is in issue the standard of proof does not change, but ‘the inherent probability or improbability of an event is itself a matter to be taken into account when weighing the probabilities and deciding whether, on balance, the event occurred. The more improbable the event, the stronger must be the evidence that it did occur before, on the balance of probability, its occurrence will be established.’ He described this as having “much the same” result as a higher civil standard.”

He asked that this should be recorded in the report as being the appropriate standard of proof.


237.I disagree with Lord Lester’s view on the correct standard of proof, which I have set out at paragraph 235 above.


238.Lord Lester asserts that it is, to put it at its lowest, extremely improbable to claim that he would have acted as alleged – a happily married man aged [REDACTED] – in his home where his wife was, seeking to persuade the complainant to be his mistress, with no evidence at all of any similar behaviour before or since (and plenty of evidence to the contrary).


239.In fact, the behaviour complained of was said by the complainant to have taken place in the car on the way to Lord Lester’s house, and in the house the following morning, after Lady Lester had left the house.


240.Lord Lester asserts that the only allegation that brings the complaint anywhere near the scope and jurisdiction of this parliamentary Code is the allegation that he offered the complainant a peerage in return for sex (“If you sleep with me I will make you a baroness within a year.”) Even on that point, he says that the draft report does not identify any freestanding rule of conduct in the Code that I am said to have breached but merely the general principle of personal honour used to interpret those rules.


241.Personal honour is, deliberately, not defined in the Code. When I sought the consent of the sub-committee to investigate I had to give my reasons for saying that the alleged behaviour, including the alleged sexual harassment, engaged with the personal honour requirement of the Code. This was accepted by the sub-committee.

j) Conclusion

242.My decision must apply the standard of the balance of probabilities. Where the allegations are particularly serious, it is important that the evidence is suitably strong and cogent. Applying the test of the balance of probabilities I find the complaint upheld, on the basis of the strong and cogent evidence of the complainant and her witnesses. I have carefully considered the challenges to this evidence, but do not find that those challenges undermine the strength of the evidence to any significant degree.

243.In considering the appropriate sanction I invite the sub-committee to take into account that:

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