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Crispin Blunt Issues Apology Over Defence Of Tory Convicted Of Sexual Assault

Crispin Blunt Issues Apology Over Defence Of Tory Convicted Of Sexual Assault

(Alamy) Crispin Blunt

4 min read

Tory MP Crispin Blunt has apologised for the "significant upset" caused by his defence of MP Imran Ahmad Khan, who was convicted of the sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy on Monday.

Khan was expelled from the Conservative Party with “immediate effect” after the 48-year-old was found guilty of sexual assault at Southwark Crown Court on Monday. 

Following significant backlash to Blunt's defence of Khan, in which the Reigate MP, who is a former justice secretary, said that Khan's conviction for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2008 was an “international scandal” and “dreadful miscarriage of justice”, he has issued an apology. 

In a statement on Twitter on Tuesday morning, Blunt said: "On reflection I have decided to retract my statement defending Imran Ahmad Khan. I am sorry that my defence of him has been a cause of significant upset and concern not least to victims of sexual offences. It was not my intention to do this."

He added that he does not "condone any form of abuse" and also "strongly believes in the independence and integrity of the justice system".

In the since-deleted defence published to his website on Monday, he went on to accuse the prosecution in the case of relying on “lazy tropes about LGBT+ people” and said the verdict would have “dreadful wider implications for millions of LGBT+ Muslims around the world”.

Blunt also now announced that he had resigned as the chair of the APPG for Global LGBT+ Rights, claiming that his retracted statement "risk distracting" from the "important purpose" of the group.

A CCHQ spokesperson said last night that the party “completely reject any allegations of impropriety against our independent judiciary”.

Asked on Sky News whether the party distance itself from Blunt’s comments, defence minister James Heappey responded simply: “Yes.”

“He has been convicted, that happened in a court of law, so it's a judgement that of course we respect. 

“He has had the whip removed and has been expelled from the Conservative Party.” 

Heappey also suggested that the government would seek to remove Khan from his seat if the MP were not removed as a result of his forthcoming sentencing, or resigned voluntarily.

He continued: “The way that Parliament works is that you are elected as an individual so his seat in the House of Commons is his until he personally chooses to vacate it.”

“There are mechanisms now through recall petitions that have been in place since 2015. If he chooses not to, there are now mechanisms through which he can be removed from his seat and subjected to a by-election. 

“I understand he has plans to appeal but, quite frankly, everybody in government respects that a court of law has found him guilty. And that must be the judgement until he appeals successfully.”

Blunt, who has now stood down as chair of the APPG on Global LGBT+ Rights, has attracted condemnation from across the Commons for his defence of Khan.

Four members of the APPG — Labour's Chris Bryant and Kate Osborne, and the SNP's Stewart McDonald and Joanna Cherry — have stood down from the group over Blunt's comments prior to his resignation as chair. 

“Blunt’s statement denouncing the conviction of fellow Conservative MP Imran Khan is appalling," Bryant wrote on Twitter. 

“Blunt did not hear the prosecution, he did not listen to the victim. A jury who did has convicted Khan and this kind of attack on the judiciary by a lawmaker is wrong.”

McDonald announced yesterday that he had resigned as vice-chair of the APPG, and had called for Blunt to resign as the APPG’s chair following his comments. 

“This was the first APPG I joined as an MP and it meant a lot to me. Parliament needs a respected and robust LGBT group and Crispin can no longer provide that leadership. He should stand down,” he wrote on Twitter. 

Northern Ireland select committee chair and fellow Tory MP Simon Hoare has also criticised Blunt’s position.

“The statement by Blunt was appalling and not the view of the Tory Party. Our legal process must be free of politicians interfering with due process,” he said.

A Conservative Party spokesperson said on Monday evening: “A jury of Mr Khan's peers has found him guilty of a criminal offence. 

“We completely reject any allegations of impropriety against our independent judiciary, the jury or Mr Khan's victim.”
 

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