Disgraced Ex-MP Must Pay £434K in Damages to Staffer He Molested
“Woman A” was awarded major damages against Mike Hill the day after another MP was arrested on suspicion of rape and other offences, and it emerged that parliamentary authorities rejected an appeal from staff unions for those accused of sexual assault to be banned from its halls.
A former Labour Party MP is facing bankruptcy after an employment tribunal ordered him to pay £434,000 to a female staff member he sexually harassed.
The tribunal made the huge damages award against former Hartlepool MP Mike Hill
on Wednesday afternoon, ordering him to pay £434,453 to the victim, identified only as "Woman A".
The woman's barrister Suzanne McKie QC said Hill had exhausted the £250,000 insurance MPs can draw on from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) if accused of sexual harassment.
She suggested that he may not be able to pay out of his private funds and property and that Parliament may have to settle the difference.
"We will now look to enforce against Mr Hill’s personal assets and take action against the House of Commons for the shortfall", McKie said.
Governing Conservative Party MP Andrew Bridgen, who supported Woman A through her quest for justice after she approached him for help in 2018, said MPs' insurance cover was too small to compensate victims — an issue he would raise with parliamentary speaker Sir Lindsey Hoyle and Procedure Committee Chairwoman Karen Bradley.
"The IPSA insurance cover should be increased to at least £1 million and there should be a limit set on the amount that can be spent on defence lawyers’ fees to ensure that there is sufficient funds for compensation and the applicant’s legal costs", Bridgen said.
Woman A told The Guardian that the parliamentary system for misconduct complaints was "arduous" compared to the more "transparent" legal route she took, and encouraged more of the "many women" abused by MPs to follow her example.
"It is important that the many women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted by MPs know that there is another way of seeking justice and compensation for their losses", the victim said.
"The parliamentary investigation route, which I went through, is arduous and very tough and conducted in private", she added. "Pursuing Mike Hill through the courts has meant that I might receive compensation for my financial losses and the process seems much more open and transparent".
On Tuesday, it emerged that London's Metropolitan Police had arrested a man, later confirmed by Conservative whips as one of their MPs, on suspicion of "indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of position of trust and misconduct in a public office".
The man was not named in line with police guidelines, as he had not yet been charged with any offence. But the Tory whip has told him to "stay away" from Parliament.
The i newspaper
reported on Wednesday that the cross-party Procedure Committee had rejected calls from trade unions representing parliamentary staff for an inquiry to decide if those accused of sexual misconduct should be banned from the estate.
Woman A said her victory had come at a heavy personal cost, causing her severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and leaving her with limited career prospects.
"I have gone through two-and-a-half years of hell. I left my job with nothing while he took his pension, and several months pay and was covered by £250,000 towards his legal fees", she said. "I had to crowdfund my case. The system, even through the courts, is weighted in favour of MPs".
The tribunal proceedings began more than a year before Wednesday's ruling, with "Ms A" relating how Hill wrote to tell her how much he desired her body, and sent her messages saying: “I love you” and that he “wanted a sexual relationship”.
The plaintiff said Hill got into bed with her uninvited on two occasions when she accompanied him on official trips, telling how he rubbed his erect penis against her buttocks and fondled her breasts despite earlier promising not to continue his attempts to seduce her.
The tribunal also heard how former Labour frontbench MP Kate Hollern tried to intimidate Bridgen into dropping his support for Woman A by threatening to smear them both in the media.
Hollern claimed: "Everyone is saying in the Labour party that you are having an affair with her and if I were you I would keep away from her, because you have a wife and baby and you would not want to lose them if it got in the papers", Bridgen told the tribunal in May 2021. Hollern resigned within hours.
Hill was suspended by Labour in October 2019 after the allegations against him became public, but was reinstated in time for the general election two months later. He finally stepped down as an MP in March 2021 after Woman A won the right to take him to an employment tribunal. The ensuing by-election saw the Tories win his Hartlepool seat for the first time in half a century.
List of Shame
The rape allegation against the unnamed Conservative MP was just the latest in a string of sexual misconduct cases against parliamentarians in recent years.
In April, fellow Tory Imran Ahmed Khan was convicted of sexual assault against a 15-year-old boy in 2008. Further allegations
have since been made against him.
Also in April, Somerton and Frome MP David Warburton was suspended from the Tory whip after he was accused of making unwanted advances toward three women — including two parliamentary staff — and taking cocaine.
Delyn MP Rob Roberts
, also elected as a Conservative, was censured
by Parliament's Independent Expert Panel (IEP) in May 2021 for making "repeated, unwelcome sexual advances" towards a male member of his staff.
Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) MP Patrick Grady resigned as the party's chief whip in Westminster, but not from his seat, the same month after allegations
from two young male staffers of sexual harassment. SNMP leaders were accused of trying to bury the claims.
And Derek MacKay, former finance minister for the devolved Scottish regional administration, was forced to resign
in February 2020 after it emerged that he had stalked a 16-year-old boy by sending him hundreds of online private messages, many of a sexual nature. MacKay continued to sit as a member of the Scottish Assembly until the March 2021 election.