The conduct of Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Contents

Chapter 2: Executive summary

Complaint by Christian Bombolo

7.Christian Bombolo, a parliamentary security officer, reported that on 7 January 2020 he was on duty at the entrance to the parliamentary estate from Westminster tube station. At that entrance people are required to use their parliamentary passes to release the doors and enter.

8.Lord Maginnis came in from the tube station to enter the estate and asked to be let through the entrance. Mr Bombolo asked to see his pass. Lord Maginnis replied that he did not have his pass with him. Mr Bombolo informed him that he would need to get a temporary day pass from the Pass Office and that he could not grant him access at that entrance.

9.Mr Bombolo reported that Lord Maginnis then became abusive and shouted at him. Mr Bombolo called for support from his managers and they attended the scene. A police officer also came through from the tube station.

10.Lord Maginnis ultimately gained access to the estate.

11.The following day Lord Maginnis spoke to a journalist from the HuffPost about the incident in which he was reported to have referred to Mr Bombolo as “crooked”, a “little git” and a “jobsworth”.1

Immediate and longer-term effect on Mr Bombolo

12.Mr Bombolo said that the incident had left him feeling “humiliated” and “worthless”. He said that he had “lost my esteem, my dignity”. He also noted that by Lord Maginnis speaking to the HuffPost, the incident had become publicised and “an international matter”.

Lord Maginnis’s response

13.Lord Maginnis responded to the complaint in various emails and in an interview with us. In his emails he described Mr Bombolo’s complaint as a “remarkably one-sided version of the incident”. In writing and orally Lord Maginnis queried whether Mr Bombolo had been coached by Hannah Bardell MP in making his complaint (see below for details of Ms Bardell’s complaint).

14.Lord Maginnis said that he had been in pain due to arthritis at the time and he did not consider that he had been “intentionally rude” and that he had “[n]ot consciously” shouted but he remembered saying to Mr Bombolo “something like, “You’re being crooked” or “You’re being awkward”. If that’s shouting, yes, I shouted, but I don’t think you would call that shouting.”

15.He also said that he thought that Mr Bombolo was someone “who thinks he can make an example of me”. In his view this was because Lord Maginnis had previously had a “row” with another security officer and that Mr Bombolo had “a pre-conceived attitude” towards him and took an opportunity to take advantage of his position to be “bloodyminded”.

Finding

16.Lord Maginnis confirmed most of the essential facts of the incident and did not contest others. His remarks to HuffPost are a matter of public record. Therefore the facts of the case have been demonstrated to an extent beyond the required standard of the Code of “on the balance of probabilities”.

17.The Code of Conduct describes bullying as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour involving an abuse or misuse of power that can make a person feel vulnerable, upset, undermined, humiliated, denigrated or threatened.”

18.Lord Maginnis’s behaviour met these criteria for bullying, and was therefore a breach of the Code of Conduct.

Complaint by Hannah Bardell MP

19.Hannah Bardell MP was present during the incident with Mr Bombolo at the entrance to the estate.

20.She complained that when she attempted to intervene during that incident she was treated rudely and aggressively by Lord Maginnis. She later raised the incident on the floor of the House of Commons as a Point of Order.2 As a result of this, both she and Lord Maginnis were later approached by the press. Lord Maginnis spoke to the HuffPost and made what she considered to be “homophobic and derogatory” remarks about her, including using the phrase “Queers like her do not particularly annoy me”.

21.Ms Bardell’s complaint also included third party reports of allegations about Lord Maginnis’s conduct. These were provided to Lord Maginnis and he provided a response but they were not part of my investigation.

Immediate and longer-term effect on Ms Bardell

22.Ms Bardell said that during the incident she “felt really intimidated and just really scared”. After the incident at the entrance she felt very upset and “sick and shaky”. During an interview with us, Ms Bardell became visibly upset recalling how the incident had affected her.

Lord Maginnis’s response

23.Lord Maginnis’s response to Ms Bardell’s complaint was to complain that she had “imposed herself on me, covertly and dishonestly”. He considered that her complaint was based purely on his opposition to same-sex marriage and that Ms Bardell’s complaint was part of an organised campaign to persecute him. He said that he would not “be ‘hung-out-to-dry’ by Stonewall or its acolytes”.

24.In response to other aspects of Ms Bardell’s complaint, which were not the subject of this investigation, he described matters as “lies, damn lies, and an exaggeration beyond reality”. He suggested that the “whole lying tirade” suggested “serious mental illness and psychopathic disorder” on Ms Bardell’s part.

25.In relation to Ms Bardell becoming upset in her interview with us, Lord Maginnis responded:

“As for her informality to the Commissioner, that did surprise me as, indeed, does the official recorded observation of her interview … that she showed emotion!!!

I must remember to bring some concentrated pollen with me when we next meet; otherwise I doubt that I could match her acting ability!!!!”

Finding

26.Lord Maginnis confirmed most of the essential facts of the incident and did not contest others. His remarks to HuffPost are a matter of public record. Therefore the facts of the case have been demonstrated to an extent beyond the required standard of the Code of “on the balance of probabilities”.

27.The Code of Conduct describes bullying as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour involving an abuse or misuse of power that can make a person feel vulnerable, upset, undermined, humiliated, denigrated or threatened.”

28.Lord Maginnis’s behaviour towards Ms Bardell at the security entrance met these criteria for bullying, and was therefore a breach of the Code of Conduct.

29.The Code of Conduct describes harassment as “any unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct that has the purpose or effect of either violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. Under the Equality Act 2010, harassment is related to one or more of the relevant ‘protected characteristics’ which include age, sex, race, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.”

30.Lord Maginnis’s behaviour in his comments to the HuffPost met these criteria for harassment associated with the protected characteristic of sexual orientation, and were therefore a breach of the Code of Conduct.

Complaint by Luke Pollard MP

31.On 11 February 2020, Luke Pollard MP chaired a meeting of the Armed Forces APPG3 which Lord Maginnis attended.

32.The meeting was a dinner with a guest speaker followed by questions. Mr Pollard chaired a question and answer session with the guest. He said that he made it clear at the start of the session that he would prioritise new members of the group when calling questions and that time was strictly limited.

33.During the question and answer session he saw that Lord Maginnis wished to speak and he noted his name. As the session continued and he was not reached, Lord Maginnis began speaking loudly to complain and saying that Mr Pollard was the “worst chairman he has ever seen”.

34.When the time ran out for questions, Lord Maginnis had not been called. After the event, Lord Maginnis approached Mr Pollard to complain that he ought to have been called and, according to Mr Pollard, “kept staring at me and making similar remarks”. In response to this, Mr Pollard said “There’s no need to stare at me. I already have a boyfriend but have a good evening.”

35.Later in the evening Lord Maginnis sent an email to James Gray MP (the Chair of the APPG), copied to a number of other parliamentarians and to my office, with the subject heading “Discrimination by Homos”. In these emails he complained to Mr Gray that Luke Pollard had “deliberately not called” him despite acknowledging his indication of wishing to ask a question. He described his exchange with Mr Pollard after the meeting as one in which Mr Pollard had “threatened me with his ‘boyfriend’”. He continued:

“I have no contention whatsoever with people’s personal life but am well known as someone who has opposed to Cameron’s gay marriage legislation. I have, in the past, been nominated by “Stonewall” as ‘bigot of the year’ but lost out to a R.C. priest from Glasgow … a bit of a ‘come-down’ for an Ulster Unionist!!!!!

But, joking apart, I’m not prepared to be victimised by “queers” - not least by those like Pollard and that ‘lady’ Hannah Bardell, the Scots Nat. who recently sought to embarrass me.

Please note that if that chap appears again in the Chair of our group I will challenge his credentials. I’m neither someone to be bullied or intimidated.”

36.Mr Gray replied describing Lord Maginnis’s conduct at the meeting and the content of his email as “completely and utterly unacceptable”. He requested that Lord Maginnis withdraw his remarks and apologise, without which he would not be welcome at any future APPG events.

37.Lord Maginnis replied that Mr Pollard was “obviously part of the ongoing campaign against me because of MY views on the matter relating to the Cameron initiative [same-sex marriage]” and that he was “getting somewhat irked by being discriminated against so, as for any apology, forget it!”

38.Mr Pollard was made aware of these emails, which he considered to be homophobic and therefore contrary to the Code of Conduct.

Immediate and longer-term effect on Mr Pollard

39.Mr Pollard’s reaction to these incidents was that he was “shocked and surprised that this type of behaviour would happen within Westminster”. While he did not consider Lord Maginnis’s behaviour during the dinner to be acceptable, it was his remarks in the later email chain he had found most offensive. He said those emails made him feel like a “victim of abuse”. He had chaired the meeting and, while Lord Maginnis may have been dissatisfied with that, it was not “a justification for the language that he used subsequently about the motivation that he assigned to me.”

40.He noted that within Parliament the number of people who take a serious interest in defence matters was relatively small. He was now uncomfortable that that community of colleagues were aware of Lord Maginnis’s behaviour and comments. He said he had had numerous conversations about these matters which he found “kind of embarrassing because that group should be talking about defence policy”, not discussing equalities matters. He said “this is a group of people who come together from very, very different political views and political backgrounds to talk about defence and it has been … embarrassing that his behaviour towards me has become a distraction from that.”

Lord Maginnis’s response

41.Lord Maginnis responded to Mr Pollard’s complaint by email and during interview.

42.In an email he described the incident saying he and Mr Pollard had had a “normal disagreement before I even knew who or what he was - that he was ‘queer’. He stepped-up our minor disagreement by threatening to sort it out on the Terrace and that ‘my boyfriend is out there’.”

43.Because of the reference to his boyfriend, Lord Maginnis concluded that Mr Pollard’s behaviour was influenced by his remarks about Hannah Bardell MP.

44.Lord Maginnis contested some aspects of Mr Pollard’s account and accepted that some elements of the disagreement may have arisen from his misunderstandings. However, he still considered that Mr Pollard’s reference to his boyfriend was “aggressive” and that Mr Pollard was victimising him because of his views on what he described as Mr Pollard’s “behavioural inclinations”.

45.Lord Maginnis gave no comment on the email chain with James Gray and others.

Finding

46.Lord Maginnis confirmed most of the essential facts of the incident and others were corroborated by other witnesses. The content of the email chain is not disputed as it was copied to my office by Lord Maginnis when he initially wrote it. Therefore, the facts of the case have been demonstrated to an extent beyond the required standard of the Code of “on the balance of probabilities”.

47.The Code of Conduct describes harassment as “any unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct that has the purpose or effect of either violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. Under the Equality Act 2010, harassment is related to one or more of the relevant ‘protected characteristics’ which include age, sex, race, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.”

48.Lord Maginnis’s behaviour met these criteria for harassment associated with the protected characteristic of sexual orientation, and was therefore a breach of the Code of Conduct.

Complaint by Toby Perkins MP

49.Toby Perkins MP is a member of the Armed Forces APPG. On 4 March 2020 he attended a breakfast meeting of the group which Lord Maginnis also attended.

50.Before the meeting began, he saw Lord Maginnis in conversation with James Gray MP. He later understood that Mr Gray had told Lord Maginnis he could not attend the event due to his previous conduct towards Luke Pollard. According to Mr Perkins, Lord Maginnis “quickly responded aggressively refusing to leave and implying that the Chair would have to physically remove him”. He overheard Lord Maginnis saying “I am not going to be bullied by queers”.

51.When this exchange with James Gray had ended, Mr Perkins asked Lord Maginnis what it had been about. According to Mr Perkins, Lord Maginnis had said “he was being ‘bullied because he was against gay marriage’ and that he ‘wouldn’t be barred by a deviant’ which he made clear was his description of Luke Pollard, a gay MP with whom he had engaged in a run in at a previous dinner.” He also “referred to ‘a lesbian’ that he had previously had problems with over a pass”, which Mr Perkins understood to be a reference to Hannah Bardell MP.

52.Mr Perkins said that Lord Maginnis’s “entire tone was unapologetically homophobic, aggressive and disrespectful”.

Immediate and longer-term effect on Mr Perkins

53.Mr Perkins said that at the time the conversation had made it “a very unpleasant environment”. He said he had found Lord Maginnis’s remarks “offensive” and added:

“It made me feel that it was not a safe environment for—I mean, particularly for people who were gay, but I think there is a sense to which we are all conditioned and harassed by the sense that we’re not all free to be at an event like that. So both the sort of the tone of the remarks and the content of them, I think, was upsetting.”

Lord Maginnis’s response

54.Lord Maginnis provided his response to the complaint in an interview. He described his conversation with James Gray and maintained that he had not been informed that he could not attend the meeting.

55.We explained that Mr Perkins had described his conversation as “unapologetically homophobic, aggressive and disrespectful”. Lord Maginnis responded, “That sounds fairly accurate.” His response to Mr Perkins having made a complaint was: “Well, that’s — guys — mutual support. I would do the same for somebody in my party”.

Finding

56.Lord Maginnis confirmed the essential facts of the incident. Therefore the facts of the case have been demonstrated to an extent beyond the required standard of the Code of “on the balance of probabilities”.

57.The Code of Conduct describes harassment as “any unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct that has the purpose or effect of either violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. Under the Equality Act 2010, harassment is related to one or more of the relevant ‘protected characteristics’ which include age, sex, race, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.”

58.The Code also provides that “[a] person may also be harassed even if they were not the intended ‘target’ of harassment. For example, a person may be harassed by jokes about a religious group that they do not belong to, if these jokes create an offensive environment for them.”

59.Lord Maginnis’s conversation with Mr Perkins met these criteria for harassment associated with the protected characteristic of sexual orientation, and was therefore a breach of the Code of Conduct.

Outcome

60.Lord Maginnis did not acknowledge that his behaviour was unacceptable in relation to any of the complaints. At times during the investigations he was dismissive of the incidents and the impact they had on the complainants, and continued to use disrespectful language in relation to Ms Bardell and Mr Pollard and was also disrespectful of Mr Bombolo by insisting he had not made an autonomous complaint but had acted under the direction of Ms Bardell. He has presented all four complaints as part of a campaign in which he was the victim due to his views about people’s sexual orientation. Not only does the evidence not support such a narrative, it fails to deal with the fact that each complaint was instigated by his own conduct: conduct which he either confirmed or which was demonstrated by corroborative evidence.

61.As the behaviour was neither minor nor acknowledged, this case is not appropriate for remedial action. Therefore, I make this report to the Conduct Committee. In such cases I must make a recommended sanction.

62.In considering my sanction I have taken into account the number of complaints covered in this report and the fact that Lord Maginnis’s response to each of these complaints lacked any acknowledgement that his conduct was unacceptable or recognition of the impact his behaviour had had on any of the complainants.

63.For the same reasons that make remedial action inappropriate, I do not consider any of the sanctions the Conduct Committee is able to impose on its own authority are suitable.4

64.The remaining sanctions set out in the Guide to the Code of Conduct are:

65.While the breaches of the Code of Conduct are serious, they do not, in my view, warrant expulsion.

66.Denial of access to services, facilities or financial support would not prevent Lord Maginnis from continuing to work in Parliament and would not, therefore, prevent other members of the parliamentary community from being the focus of his behaviour.

67.I recommend that:

68.If his bespoke training and behaviour change coaching takes longer than nine months, I recommend that Lord Maginnis remains suspended until that training is complete.

69.If Lord Maginnis has not yet completed the Valuing Everyone training all members are required to attend, he must do so within one month of his return to the House at the latest.

70.In proposing this sanction, I have been mindful of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Though the bespoke training and behaviour change coaching would usually be provided face-to-face, this will not be possible in this instance. I am assured that the training can be provided remotely via video-conferencing.


1 ‘Peer Accuses MP Of Calling Out His ‘Abusive’ Behaviour Because She Is ‘Queer’’, HuffPost (8 January 2020): https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/abuse-lord-maginnis-hannah-bardell_uk_5e161a09c5b6c7b859d48fbf [accessed 19 October 2020]

2 HC Deb, 8 January 2020, col 387

3 All-Party Parliamentary Group are groupings of members of both Houses on matters of mutual interest.

4 In brief, the sanctions the Conduct Committee may impose without reference to the House are training, an apology to the complainants or a personal statement in the House.




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