The conduct of Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Contents

Chapter 7: Complaint by Hannah Bardell MP: account of the key facts and evidence

Hannah Bardell’s complaint

165.On 10 February, Hannah Bardell MP wrote to me to complain about the conduct of Lord Maginnis during the same incident at the entrance to Parliament on 7 January and about Lord Maginnis’s subsequent comments to the press. The bulk of her complaint was a copy of the statement she had also made to the police about the incident.

166.She wrote:

“I write to you in your role as Lords Commissioner and in reference to an incident that has been reported in the media relating to the conduct of Lord Ken Maginnis and his abuse of both staff and myself on Tuesday 7th of January and subsequent homophobic comments made to the press”.

167.She described the incident at the entrance to Parliament:

“On Tuesday 7th January 2020 I travelled to London for parliamentary duties and made my way to the Palace of Westminster. It was my first day back in Parliament following the Christmas break and I had several meetings scheduled for that day.

Everyone working in Parliament has to undergo security checks, everyone should be aware that in order to gain access into Parliament and the estate and we are all required to display a valid Parliamentary ID badge for obvious security reasons.

Not least because on the day of the terrorist attack in 2017 a police officer PC Keith Palmer lost his life protecting us and following the attack the estate was in lockdown for many hours as police and security services searched for a potential additional assailant.

On this particular day I approached the subway entrance into the Palace of Westminster. To find there was an elderly male with his suitcase, directly in front of me. At that time I didn’t know who the male was, but I now know him to be Lord Maginnis, a peer within the House of Lords.

It became apparent that Lord Maginnis had forgotten his Parliamentary pass, but nevertheless he was still demanding that the security staff grant him entry.

Lord Maginnis began to raise his voice and shout repeatedly stating that the security staff should know who he was and that they were ‘crooked’ for not allowing him access.

I offered my assistance to Lord Maginnis because I noticed that he had a prosthetic leg. I think I suggested that he search himself online in order to verify his credentials. I do not recall exactly his response to this but I do recall that looked intently at my ID badge that was clearly attached to my rainbow lanyard, I assume that he was trying to view my name. Then a female uniformed police officer approached, she also attempted to defuse the situation by asking whether there was any other way we could resolve this situation but she failed to calm Lord Maginnis.

I was shocked by Lord Maginnis aggressive demeanour and sympathize with the security staff who were simply trying to do their job, trying to keep Parliament safe within this challenging climate.

Lord Maginnis continued to make a scene, he would not listen to reason despite the fact there was a large queue forming behind him. At one point I recall he actually attempted to physical [sic] force his way into the building. After a passage of time, I was able to display by ID badge and I was granted entry into Parliament while Lord Maginnis was held behind. I am unaware what happened to Lord Maginnis next.

On reflection, I felt that Lord Maginnis’s behaviour to the security staff and the police was wholly unacceptable. I was really shocked by what had just taken place. Lord Maginnis was screaming at the security staff and accusing them of being crooks and jobsworths.

Also I remember as I passed him to enter into Parliament he was up in my face saying ‘you’re useless as well’.

To which I replied ‘Look pal I’m just trying to help you, there’s no need to be so rude’.

I found the whole incident very intimidating. I also felt no one should be subjected to abusive behaviour of this kind.”

168.The following day, Ms Bardell raised this incident in the House of Commons as a Point of Order:

“On a Point of Order, Mr Speaker. I seek your advice. Yesterday, on re-entering the building for the first time after Christmas, I witnessed one of the worst cases of abuse of security staff that I have seen in my time here. One of the Members of the other place, who I will name so as not to incriminate anybody else—Lord Ken Maginnis—had forgotten his pass, something we have all been guilty of. However, instead of taking the advice of the security staff, who as we all know are here for our security and safety, he proceeded to verbally abuse and shout at the member of staff, calling them ‘crooked’ and saying did they not know who he was, he had been here for 46 years, and refusing to take the advice and assistance of myself, the security staff and the police who then attended.

I have reported this incident to the authorities, but I seek your advice. The Member is not elected, so I am interested to know to whom he is accountable, and what can be done to make sure that no member of staff on the estate is ever treated in that way, or abused in the manner that I and others witnessed yesterday.”7

169.Later that day she was contacted by a journalist for the HuffPost who had spoken to Lord Maginnis. The HuffPost article, published later that evening, reported:

“A peer who shouted abuse at parliamentary security staff has accused the MP who highlighted his behaviour of attempting to “settle a score” because she is “queer” and he is opposed to gay marriage. …

The peer did not deny Bardell’s allegations, but instead accused her of seeking “cheap publicity” and trying to “score a few points” because he is opposed to gay marriage. …

The peer told HuffPost UK: “[It] would probably all have blown over except this Bardell woman decided to get herself a bit of publicity.

“She and I are known to be on other sides–I am opposed to abortion, I am opposed to gay people like her seeking to change marriage.

“You might say I’m old fashioned, or you could say I’m conservative in Biblical terms–I mean, I’m not a preacher or anything.

“She obviously, being what she is and wanting to make changes, decided she would score a few points for herself.

“With no disrespect, I have had a lot of experience before politics. [ … ]

“I was a major for 12 years in the Ulster Defence Regiment in Northern Ireland–I survived 10 assassination attempts–so I’m not altogether a softie, if you know what I mean by that.

“Queers like Ms Bardell don’t particularly annoy me.

“Okay, she’s got her cheap publicity out of it.””

170.As well as including quotes in the article for HuffPost, the journalist also put a recording of his conversation with Lord Maginnis online.8

171.In her complaint, Ms Bardell described the impact of the incident on her:

“You will see from my statement and account of events the nature of his behaviour and the impact it has had on me both personally and professionally. For your awareness I have received one legitimate and credible death threat, a number of abusive comments on social media and 2 separate items of abusive and threatening handwritten letters that the police are investigating in addition. This incident has had a profound impact on me and my mental health. One of the reasons that I have taken so log [sic] to get in touch directly is that I have needed time to process the events and deal with both the impact of the events and the inevitable media interest. That is something I am still in the process of doing and am additionally seeking counselling.

Further, I am genuinely fearful of encountering Lord Maginnis in my place of work, especially after the further information I have uncovered relating his persistently abusive behaviour towards other staff and members. I encountered him last week and managed to duck into a lift to avoid a confrontation but I am angry and frustrated that I should be put in that position, it has had a seriously detrimental impact on my mental health.

I do not currently feel safe in my Westminster place of work because of this man and I would like to know what can be done about this. I am fearful not just for me but for the staff who work on the estate.”

172.Before completing my preliminary assessment, I also interviewed Ms Bardell. In that interview she expanded on the details in her written complaint.

173.She said that during the incident a police officer came in:

“she came in and said, ‘Look, is there some way that we can resolve this?’ She heard him say — repeat again, because he kept repeating over and over — that he had a disability, that he couldn’t walk anywhere and I had said, ‘Well, I am sure we can get a seat while we get this sorted out’, but nobody really got a chance to offer support because he was being so aggressive and shouting. … and then what happened was the police officer, from my memory, sort of physically got him to stand to one side and she held him, not physically but just sort of stood between him and the entrance and said, ‘Look, you know, you can’t gain access at the moment; we will need to get this sorted out’.”

174.She also said that at one point Lord Maginnis tried “to force access”:

“So just before the police officer appeared, he walked through the revolving gate and started to push and was shaking physically, and the whole glass frontage was shaking.”

175.She described the effect of the incident on her:

“I was scared that something physical was going to happen and I was the only person, up until the police officer came … Every time there was an exchange between us, you know, I felt myself physically standing back and was scared. When he started to rattle the physically grab the revolving door and rattle that, I think that was what triggered the police officer coming around. So I felt much safer”

176.She said that she was “scared that, you know, potentially, he was going to push me or shout in my face, which he then did just before I entered the building.” She said “he said to me, ‘You! You are worse than useless!’, and he was right up in my face pointing at me and no more than a couple of inches away. I could smell his breath, I could, you know there was spittle on me from how close he was.”

177.As she described how she felt immediately after the incident—“I felt sick I actually felt sick and shaky and I was really upset”—Ms Bardell became visibly upset to the extent that we paused the interview.

178.Ms Bardell’s complaint also included details of further allegations about Lord Maginnis’s behaviour towards members and staff in Parliament. These details were put to Lord Maginnis with the rest of Ms Bardell’s complaint. However, as the Code of Conduct only allows complaints from those directly affected by the behaviour complained of, these allegations fell outside the scope of the Code and have not been considered in my investigation.

Lord Maginnis’s evidence

179.Mr Scott and I carried out a preliminary assessment and concluded that it would be appropriate to investigate whether Lord Maginnis’s conduct constituted a breach of the Code of Conduct. I wrote to Ms Bardell with information about my next steps. I also wrote to Lord Maginnis on 28 February 2020, enclosing the complaint from Ms Bardell and explaining that, as a result of my preliminary assessment I had concluded that there was sufficient evidence to establish there was a prima facie case to be investigated.

180.I asked Lord Maginnis to send me a full and accurate account of the matter in question.

181.Initially Lord Maginnis replied to my office by email saying:

“I find it difficult to accept that this Bardell woman who imposed herself on me, covertly and dishonestly, is now being added to this ongoing persecution by what I’ll call ‘The System’. The amount of connected correspondence has become utterly ridiculous.

I’m disgusted that ‘The System’ seems to be loaded against my rights to have an opinion of my own - not that I even knew who that interfering woman was, nor would I recognise her if she walked into my office now!! (But I have since had the experience of another, like [sic]

She has been so unbelievably self-imposing that I do hope her behaviour is being questioned by the Commissioner - if not, then I must assume that ‘The System’ is somehow prejudiced but I’m not the sort who has ever allowed himself to be bullied of [sic] intimidated.”

182.He attached to this email a letter to the Lord Speaker in which he said:

“I’m sick and tired of having been bombarded by various departments and individuals simply in order to try to humiliate me in favour of malicious homosexuals like Hannah Bardell MP who ‘hyped’ this minor incident improperly in the Commons and later (dishonestly) with the Met. I am actively pursing the latter issue on the grounds that she was ‘deliberately wasting police time’

One cannot be in any doubt that this entire episode dates back to my open criticism of ex-PM Cameron’s usurpation of the churches Christian practice concerning the sacred rights of marriage … need I say between women and men. I can see that this persecution seeks to take advantage of my 82 years and, as you will have observed, my physically indifferent health due to arthritis, a serious spinal injury and numbness in my feet and lower legs arising from diabetes.

I suggest that those who are anxious to persecute me further speak to [two other parliamentarians], both of whom sought to help me. Let me initially assert that I have nothing for which to apologise nor do I intend to do so.

Let me spell out my life: I’ve been working since I was eight years old; I taught for 23 years - 17 as a school principal; I served for 7 years in the USC9 followed by 12 in the UDR10 where I held the rank of Major; then 18 years as an MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone during which time I helped negotiate the Belfast Agreement. I put more IRA terrorists in prison than any other soldier while ensuring that I never lost a single soldier directly under my command. Police records will confirm that I personally survived 10 assassination attempts between 1972 and 1994.

While the Leader in the Commons formally spoke to me about this incident, he assured me that he never wore or was asked for his pass - that recognition understandably served him adequately - as indeed in [sic] does me.

The reason I, having initially forgotten to take my pass out of my case, didn’t do so was simply because I had nothing on which to place my case and don’t have the ability to bend over without over-balancing when my case is on the ground. The young man said he knew who I was and, as previously indicated, had had that confirmed by [other parliamentarians referred to above].

I’ve had three operations to my spine, plus a new hip and a major shoulder repair and now await a series of steroid injections so you may just understand I’m not the most patient when I find myself exploited by a petty ‘jobs-worthy’ who’s being ‘egged-on’ by the likes of Bardell but who is deaf to the likes of [other parliamentarians referred to above].”

183.Following further correspondence, we met with Lord Maginnis on 3 March.

184.We began by discussing Ms Bardell’s complaint, to which Lord Maginnis’s initial response was, “If I was being blunt, allowing me to give you the background to it, I want to have nothing to do with Ms. Bardell or assisting her in her publicity-seeking efforts on behalf of nationalists or, whatever you call it, same sex marriage and so on.”

185.He described his views on same sex marriage and comments he had made at the time of the relevant legislation being passed through Parliament.

186.We discussed his comments to HuffPost. He explained that he had used the term “queer” in response to a leading question from the journalist. He said:

“the Huffington Post said that I described her as a ‘queer’. It’s not a term that I would use. … I think if there is a leading question the only reason I can ‘have you got’ I’m making it up now. ‘Have you got an antagonism to Ms. Bardell because she is queer?’ I didn’t know Ms. Bardell. If she is a queer, that perhaps explains her attitude.”

187.He also referred to Ms Bardell’s Twitter bio including the phrase “a queer who does not annoy”.

188.We spoke about the incident at the entrance to Parliament. He described Ms Bardell’s description of the incident as “inaccurate”. He said he did not particularly recall her during the incident, though he did speak to her:

“I recall her speaking, but beyond that I wasn’t I didn’t know her. I wasn’t interested in her … I do remember an interjection, but in terms of where it came from or anything like that, I would be totally vague. … If she had been interjecting, as I vaguely remember, I may have said, ‘Don’t interfere’, or I have no idea. I have no idea. She wasn’t I wasn’t preoccupied by her presence.”

189.We asked if he recalled attempting to force access to the estate. He replied “Totally dishonest. I didn’t try to force my way through that.”

190.We asked if he recalled saying to her “you’re useless as well”. He said, “I might well have thought that! I don’t recall saying anything or addressing her. She was a bystander, as far as I was concerned.”

191.We asked whether he understood why Ms Bardell might have found the incident intimidating. He said, “No. No, certainly not.” He argued that Ms Bardell was not intimidated by the incident:

“somebody who stands up in the Commons and invites me back into — invites me to take notice of her yet again. That’s not somebody who has been intimidated. That’s somebody who has a score to settle.”

192.In his view, Ms Bardell had a “score to settle” because of his views on people’s sexual orientation. This was his “deduction, but it’s also been suggested by a lot of other people” as “I haven’t a reputation of abusing anybody … I would be the exact opposite.”

193.With regard to the third-party allegations included in Ms Bardell’s complaint, Lord Maginnis described them as “lies, damn lies, and an exaggeration beyond reality”.

194.Following our interview, Lord Maginnis also provided an annotated version of Ms Bardell’s complaints with comments made to various aspects of it. He added as a summary of his response to it:

“Besides being poorly written and the overuse of certain terms and of alleged ‘facts’, the one outstanding element that emerges above is the concentration, by Ms Bardell, on her ‘Mental Health’.

That prompts the obvious question, ‘What led to her whole lying tirade, and who would assume the role of ‘Grand Inquisitor’ arising from a comparatively minor incident?’ Does this not suggest serious mental illness and psychopathic disorder? 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!!!!”

195.In his response to the factual report,11 Lord Maginnis reiterated some of the points he had made during the investigation. He said:

“I have had nothing but abuse since the Scots Nat ‘lady’ stirred this whole business up, not just by interfering, but by tutoring the security chap with whom I had a minor disagreement, by initially going to the Press and the Met. police and by stirring up ‘hate-mail’”.

Ms Bardell’s evidence

196.We spoke again to Ms Bardell after having provided her with a summary of Lord Maginnis’s response to her complaint.

197.She began by saying how surprised she was by the nature of Lord Maginnis’s response to the complaint and the motivations he ascribed to her:

“I have to say, I am really, really quite shocked and taken aback by his account of himself and his attitude. I think it is really incredible that he is, you know, that he’s suggesting that in terms of my behaviour in the tunnel particularly, that there was any kind of ulterior motive or motivation other than to try and resolve the situation and diffuse it. And you know, he, from what I can see and from what he is saying, feels under attack somewhat, when actually, you know, it remains my view that he behaved very, very badly, and he’s obviously confirmed his behaviour. But I find it quite shocking that he is trying to suggest that, you know, there’s a maliciousness on my part in any way given the behaviour that he has himself admitted. As I say, I find myself really quite incredulous at the response that he has given.”

198.As she had mentioned in her complaint that Lord Maginnis had stared at her parliamentary pass on a rainbow lanyard when she sought to intervene during the incident with Mr Bombolo, we asked if she considered any of Lord Maginnis’s behaviour at that point to be influenced by her sexual orientation. Although she found his behaviour “very aggressive and intimidating”, she did not think her sexual orientation was relevant to that incident as she did not know who he was at the time and she doubted he knew who she was.

199.We discussed her use of the phrase “a queer who does not annoy” in her Twitter biography. She clarified that she had added this after Lord Maginnis had said to BuzzFeed, “Queers like Ms Bardell don’t particularly annoy me.” She explained that adding this phrase to her profile was a way of “taking ownership of the homophobic slur that he made”, such an approach being “a long held tradition in activism—particularly in LGBT activism—of taking ownership of things that have been used as abusive terms”.

200.Ms Bardell explained the effect Lord Maginnis’s behaviour had had on her around Parliament. She said:

“I do have a fear that I am going to bump into him and that I am going to see him and how is that going to be, and that’s in my place of work. I didn’t feel safe that day in my place of work. I felt under threat when the initial incident happened. That was then compounded by the way he behaved and the things he said, and has been further compounded by what I have read in the report.”

201.She had come across him on the parliamentary estate once since making the complaint. He had come out of a lift she had been waiting for. There had been no interaction—she assumed Lord Maginnis had not recognised her—but it had left her feeling “sick”.

202.She continued to feel anxious about further interactions with him because “given what’s happened, given what he’s said, that he wouldn’t just start saying or doing things, you know, without any because it doesn’t seem to me that there is any remorse. It doesn’t seem to me that there is any regret or even any remote inclination that he might reflect, because it’s just escalating, and, as I say, doubling down.”

203.Ms Bardell explained some of the longer-term effects of her interactions with Lord Maginnis, at the entrance to Parliament and afterwards. She said she had received abusive correspondence, including death threats, some of which had explicitly referred to the exchanges with Lord Maginnis.12 She said these had had “very profound impact on me”. She said:

“it has changed the way I view my job and my safety in some regards and has made me reflect on what it means to stand up and speak out on issues. Because that has been the reality for me to then receive a number of emails but also a handwritten note that was sent to my office, and the death threat. That has had really quite a huge impact on my mental health and for my family as well.”

204.She recognised that the incident at the entrance to the estate had become public knowledge because of her Point of Order in the Commons. However, she said that when she had spoken in the Chamber it was because she “had witnessed an incident of what I felt was bullying and grossly inappropriate behaviour”. It had not been related in any way to their opposing views on people’s sexual orientation. That had only become an issue because Lord Maginnis had put her “in a position where I felt I had been attacked and a homophobic slur had been used against me, and I had to address that” and that Lord Maginnis had used “who I am as a reason to attack me and belittle the challenge that I have made about his bad behaviour”.

205.Not only that but she commented that he had continued with this approach throughout the investigation. She said:

“at every step of the way, it has escalated. So he’s gone from being challenged on his behaviour to then making comments to a journalist, to then making comments that are worse to, on camera, and then, the stuff that he is now saying about me that has been said to you … is taking it to a very new level, in my view, and is even more abusive and offensive.”

206.In her response to the factual report relating to her complaint, Ms Bardell challenged a number of aspects of Lord Maginnis’s evidence.

207.She said that Lord Maginnis’s account that in intervening during the incident at the entrance to the parliamentary estate she had “imposed” herself “covertly and dishonestly” was “a completely accurate statement”. She said that she had intervened in the incident involving Mr Bombolo because she happened to be there as it was happening. She said her intervention was “designed to both help him with his situation and diffuse the situation and stop the abuse of a member of Parliamentary security staff.”

208.In relation to Lord Maginnis’s broader argument that her interventions were based on his opposition to same-sex marriage and were part of a wider campaign she said:

“Lord Maginnis’s assertion that my complaint was based on his opposition to same sex marriage is also completely untrue. For a start I had no idea who the man was when I challenged him at the time of the incident–I had to google him subsequently to find out who he was and once I’d clarified that I raised my Point of Order. That Point of Order was quite simply, to do with the fact that he had been abusive to a member of security staff. It strikes me that Lord Maginnis has intentionally referred to my sexuality and his opposition to same sex marriage as a way of antagonising me and trying to evade facing up to his own bad behaviour and inappropriate conduct. I find it deeply troubling that instead of confronting his own poor behaviour he is diverting from the issue by suggesting that my sexuality and his views has something to do with my raising genuine concerns about his behaviour, it amounts to, in my view, an attempt to silence me.”

209.She described Lord Maginnis’s suggestion that her complaint and the manner in which she gave evidence to me demonstrated a “serious mental illness and psychopathic disorder” as being “shocking and offensive”. She reiterated the impact the events had had on her, including the receipt of death threats, but said:

“I have neither a serious mental illness nor a psychopathic disorder and to suggest I do and that is the reason I have stood up to his bad behaviour, is demeaning, offensive and grossly inappropriate. To my mind it constitutes a further breach of the members code and I’m really taken aback by his assertion.”

210.In response to Lord Maginnis’s referring to needing to “match her acting ability” she said his comments were “similarly insulting and derogatory”:

“Lord Maginnis’s whole response is lacking in humanity or any kind of understanding about what appropriate or professional conduct is or should be. It’s very clear from the testimony of others, particularly the security guard who was verbally abused, that Lord Maginnis’s behaviour and conduct has had a profound impact on many others not just me.”

Findings of fact

211.Some aspects of Ms Bardell’s account—such as Lord Maginnis shaking the glass doors—did not appear in others’ accounts. However, the essential aspects of her account and of Lord Maginnis’s behaviour towards her are corroborated.

212.On the balance of probabilities, I find that Ms Bardell’s account of the incident in the entrance to the estate is more likely than not to be true.

213.Lord Maginnis’s comments to the HuffPost are matters of public record.

7 HC Deb, 8 January 2020, col 387

8 Arj Singh, ‘Lord Maginnis speaking to HuffPost UK’, Soundcloud (9 January 2020) [accessed 19 October 2020]

9 The Ulster Special Constabulary.

10 The Ulster Defence Regiment.

11 See Appendix 2

12 Ms Bardell later provided copies of some of the threats she had received and reported to the Police.

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