London - A liberal Democrat peer who was accused of offering a woman a peerage to sleep with him claims he is the victim of a ‘complete charade’.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill was found guilty by a parliamentary committee of groping author and campaigners Jasvinder Sanghera and offering her ‘corrupt inducements’ to sleep with him.
But the 82-year-old peer said on Sunday the inquiry into his alleged behaviour was deeply flawed and he denied ever behaving inappropriately towards Miss Sanghera.
Lord Lester said evidence against him was not properly tested by the House of Lords privileges and conduct committee. And when he tried to present fresh evidence in an appeal against Miss Sanghera’s claims, the committee refused to address it, he added.
"The so-called appeal was a complete charade," he said. "I was treated despicably.
"The abuse of power was not by me, but by them. What they have done is tyrannous. They wouldn’t even say why they wouldn’t consider the new evidence. Worse still, they told Parliament last week there was none." The peer had faced a four-year ban from the Lords after being found guilty. But the House of Lords voted by 101 to 78 to reject the sanction and ordered the committee to look at the case again.
Lord Lester told The Mail on Sunday: "I never thought this would happen. I never thought Parliament would vindicate itself in this way. But this is in no sense a victory for me. At the age of 82, I expected to be enjoying time with my grandchildren and pursuing my hobby, painting, making the most of what is left of my life.
"Instead, I’ve spent nine months trying to refute the most damaging and vile allegations which are completely untrue."
His wife Katya added: "The effect on him has been devastating. It’s completely taken over him, been with us all the time. His health has deteriorated. He’s become an old man."
Miss Sanghera, 53, stands by her account and said the vote allowing the leading human rights barrister to remain in the Lords made her feel "abused all over again".
"Having watched it unfold, that was my fear right from the beginning when I decided to complain – that there would be a sheer imbalance of power," she said. "I just feel abused again, bullied.
"I feel absolutely disheartened for victims of sexually harassment and bullying because this message has been sent out to them that if you are thinking of complaining, this is what happens."Daily Mail