In a statement issued to Stylist, a spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales has called the decision to allow the Conservative MP accused of rape to retain his position while on bail as “extremely disappointing and concerning”.
A rape and sexual abuse charity has criticised the decision to allow a Conservative MP arrested on suspicion of rape to retain his position, after his bail was extended to November.
Rape Crisis England & Wales, which works to support victims of rape and sexual abuse and raise awareness of all forms of sexual violence, called the decision “extremely disappointing and concerning” in a new statement.
The Conservative MP, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was placed under investigation on 1 August after a Parliamentary researcher accused him of rape, sexual assault and assault. He has now been re-bailed until November, when he will have to return to see the police for further questioning.
It is understood that the MP in question has voluntarily agreed not to return to Westminster next month, but will continue to represent his constituents from home.
“It’s extremely disappointing and concerning that the clear and legitimate calls of campaigners including us at Rape Crisis, our partners at the Fawcett Society, End Violence Against Women Coalition and other trade unions and survivors have all been ignored in this way,” Katie Russell, national spokesperson on behalf of Rape Crisis England & Wales, tells Stylist.
“Parliament is a workplace like any other and it is standard practice for someone accused of such serious, violent crimes to be suspended from work pending full investigation.
“We must remember too that this is happening in the context of a criminal justice system that is failing victims and survivors of rape, child sexual abuse and all forms of sexual violence at every level.”
Russell continues: “It sends a very poor message to the millions of people who’ve been impacted by these traumatic experiences living in the UK today when those who govern our country can’t model good practice and handle sexual violence and abuse with the seriousness it deserves.”
This latest update comes after campaigners, MPs and survivors alike called on the government to suspend the minister while he undergoes investigation.
When the news first broke on 3 August, Labour MP Jess Phillips - who was recently appointed the Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding – called the decision not to suspend the minister “absolutely appaling”.
Speaking to Good Morning Britain, she said: “What we are talking about here is a safeguarding matter, as far as I am concerned. Of course, everybody is innocent until proven guilty in our criminal justice system. However I am not sure I would want to send my child, for example, to a school where a teacher had been arrested and bailed for the crime of rape.”
She continued: “I would expect, under those circumstances, as is safeguarding law, that those people would be suspended pending further investigation.”
In a statement released on Sunday, a spokesperson for the Conservative whips’ office said: “These are serious allegations and it is right that they are investigated fully. A decision on the whip will be reviewed once the police investigation has been concluded.”
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police have confirmed that the MP will return from bail in early November in a statement.
“On Friday, 31 July, the Metropolitan Police Service received allegations relating to four separate incidents involving allegations of sexual offences and assault,” it reads. “These offences are alleged to have occurred at addresses in Westminster, Lambeth and Hackney between July 2019 and January 2020.
“A man in his 50s was arrested on Saturday, 1st August 2020, on suspicion of rape, sexual assaults by penetration and touching and assault. His bail to return on a date has been extended to early November 2020.”
According to Rape Crisis, 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16 in England and Wales.
If you or anyone you know needs help and support, you can call the Rape Crisis national helpline on 0808 802 9999 (open 12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm daily). You can also find your nearest centre here or visit the website for more information.