A Jewish peer is facing a four-year suspension from the House of Lords after a misconduct committee found sexual harassment allegations against him credible.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord (Anthony) Lester, 82, who co-founded the Runnymede Trust think-tank, is said to have offered the founder of a charity “corrupt inducements to become his mistress”. He says the allegations are “completely untrue”.
Jasvinder Sanghera, a bestselling author who was disowned by her Sikh parents for refusing an arranged marriage, waived her right to anonymity this week to tell how Lester offered to make her a peer in return for sex.
Lester, a barrister who has previously advised Roy Jenkins and Gordon Brown, is a leading defender of human rights, and has spoken about growing up in a Jewish family with refugee grandparents.
Sanghera presented six witnesses before the Lords’ committee, outlining how she met Lester 11 years ago when working on a private member’s bill to outlaw forced marriages, and how Lester threatened recriminations if she refused his advances.
The investigation report says the sexual harassment began after Sanghera missed the last train following a House of Lords meeting and Lester said she could sleep at his house because his wife was there.
On the drive home, she said: “He kept repeatedly missing the gear stick with his hand and instead very firmly placed his hand on my right thigh.” The next morning, when his wife had left, Sanghera said Lester put his arms around her waist and chased her around the kitchen.
“I speak about forced marriage in front of thousands of people,” she told The Times this week. “I talk about breaking the silence, but I hadn’t spoken about what he did to me. I’m supposed to be this empowered woman, but I began to feel like a phoney.”
Lord Pannick, another Jewish barrister and a close friend of Lester, said the Lords Commissioner had refused to allow Lester to cross-examine Sanghera, a process he said would have resulted in any other regulatory, disciplinary or employment proceedings being invalidated by the courts.
Tweeting on Monday, Lester said the investigation was “flawed and unfair,” adding: “Parliament is supposed to be a bastion of the rule of law… I hope to be judged by my work over decades for gender equality, race relations and free speech”.
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