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A Peer Is Facing An 18 Month Lords Suspension Over Homophobic Bullying And Harassment

An investigation has recommended Lord Maginnis be suspended by the House of Lords for at least 18 months after he bullied and used homophobic language to MPs (PA)

6 min read

A peer has been found to have made homophobic slurs and harassed several MPs and should be suspended from the House of Lords for 18 months, according to the findings of a standards committee investigation.

Lord Maginnis was accused of being "verbally abusive" to a security officer, Christian Bombolo, at the entrance to Parliament back in January when asked to show his pass to enter the estate.

The SNP MP Hannah Bardell witnessed the incident, and complained that when she attempted to intervene she was treated "rudely and aggressively" by the peer.

Questioned over what happened Lord Maginnis then used "homophobic and derogatory language about her" in comments to HuffPost, she claimed.

Mr Bombolo told investigators the incident had left him feeling “humiliated” and “worthless”, and said he had “lost my esteem, my dignity” after Lord Maginnis called him  “crooked”, a “little git” and a “jobsworth” in the HuffPost report. 

The veteran politician, who was an MP for 18 years before being handed a peerage in 2001, was also found by the committee to have harassed two other MPs in separate incidents this year at meetings in Parliament.

As a result the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards Lucy Scott-Moncrief opened an investigation into four separate complaints under the provisions of the code of conduct “dealing with bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct”.

Ms Bardell told the commissioner she “felt really intimidated” by the same incident, however the Northern Irish peer claimed her complaint was based purely on his opposition to same-sex marriage and was part of an organised campaign to persecute him. 

Lord Maginnis had denied bullying and harassment and called the committee's report "ridiculous".

The Committee heard he made the same claim in regards to the complaint by Labour MP Luke Pollard, which came after an event in February he was leading for the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces.

The 82-year-old lord was upset about not being called to ask a question, and after complaining sent an email that night to the APPG’s chair James Gray. It had the subject heading “Discrimination by Homos” and included other remarks about Mr Pollard “which centred on his sexual orientation and were homophobic”, according to the committee’s findings.

Lord Maginnis claimed the MP had “threatened me with his ‘boyfriend’”, then referenced the fact he has previously been nominated by Stonewall as ‘bigot of the year’, before adding: “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.”

Shadow environment secretary Mr Pollard said the emails made him feel like a “victim of abuse”, but in his interview with the standards commissioner the peer said he still considered the MP’s reference to his boyfriend as “aggressive” and he was being victimising him [Lord Maginnis] because of his views on what he described as his “behavioural inclinations”.

That row led to the fourth complaint, after he tried to attend another meeting of the group in March, but was told he was not welcome by Mr Gray.

Labour MP Toby Perkins, who is also a member of the APPG, said he heard Lord Maginnis say: “I am not going to be bullied by queers.”

He later approached the peer to understand what was happening, but said the way he then described the circumstances to him was “unapologetically homophobic, aggressive and disrespectful”.

Mr Perkins added that Lord Maginnis told him “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”.

In her conclusion Ms Scott-Moncrief said: “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.”

The House of Lords conduct committee recommended his suspension “should be extended beyond 18 months if he fails to engage constructively with behaviour change training”, and should not be lifted until Lord Maginnis is able to demonstrate a “clear understanding of how his behaviour impacts on other people in the Parliamentary community”.

Initially Ms Scott-Moncrief proposed he should be excluded from the upper chamber for nine months, but after he appealed the decision she found he showed "no remorse for the upset he had caused”.

He instead “portrayed himself as a victim of a conspiracy…and continued to refer to the complainants in a disobliging and sometimes offensive manner”, leading the committee to double the recommended suspension time.

His fellow peers will now have to approve the report on Monday before the suspension comes into force. 

In response Ms Bardell tweeted: "I appreciate that an 18-month ban is a serious sanction and that Lord Maginnis's return to the House of Lords will be dependent upon him undertaking 'a designated course of bespoke behaviour change training and coaching’.

“However I consider it likely that if this had happened in any normal workplace in the UK and someone behaved in such a systematically abusive, bullying and homophobic way, which the report clearly states he has, they would be shown the door."

She said while the experience has had a "profound impact" on her mental health, she is glad she "stood up and spoke out", adding: "As we seek to make politics, and indeed the nations of the UK, fairer and more just, we must root out abusive and homophobic behaviour such as that which I and others experienced at the hands of Lord Ken Maginnis.”

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