Lord Lester gives up whip amid sex harassment claims

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Feb 22, 2018
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Lord Lester has been accused of repeatedly trying to grope a campaigner

A senior Liberal Democrat peer and leading human rights lawyer has resigned from his frontbench party role over an allegation of sexual harassment (Lucy Fisher writes).

Lord Lester of Herne Hill, 81, has also surrendered the party whip while an investigation is conducted. His spokesman said that he would “vigorously contest” the allegations.

The Times revealed last week that Lord Lester was being investigated by the parliamentary authorities over a historical accusation. The Lords’ commissioner for standards lists the peer as the subject of one of its inquiries over an alleged breach of the code “in relation to personal honour”.

It is understood that a complaint has been made by a woman who visited his office several years ago and says there was inappropriate sexual behaviour. It is believed that she was encouraged to come forward by the #MeToo campaign of sexual harassment disclosures.

The woman, a campaigner, has accused the peer of repeatedly trying to grope her after she approached him for help to pass legislation, according to The Sun newspaper.

Nazir Afzal, the former chief crown prosecutor and a lay member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation, has described the inquiry as “unprecedented and groundbreaking”. He is a witness to the investigation.

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: “Anthony Lester has withdrawn himself as a spokesperson in the Lords and membership of the Liberal Democrat group in the Lords whilst the investigation by the House of Lords Standards Commissioner is ongoing.”

Lord Lester was ennobled in 1993 and is known for his work drafting race relations legislation in Britain.

A spokesman for the peer told The Sun: “Lord Lester has a long and distinguished record as a champion of human rights and sex equality and has a right to be treated fairly and under due process.

“He will vigorously contest the allegation. In the meantime he has withdrawn himself from his position as a spokesperson in the Lords and from his membership of the Liberal Democrat group in the Lords until this issue is resolved.”

The Times has contacted Lord Lester for comment.

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