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Labour harassment procedures ‘flawed’ says Hopkins complainant

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Ms Etemadzadeh said the party’s procedures were flawed

A woman who claims she was sexually harassed by a Labour MP is calling on the party to improve its “flawed” complaints process.

Ava Etemadzadeh has written to Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson to say the process is mired in “factional politics”.

She is awaiting the outcome of an investigation into Kelvin Hopkins.

The Luton North MP – who denies any wrongdoing – was suspended by the party in November 2017.

She has accused the MP of inappropriate physical contact, claims he “absolutely and categorically” denies.

Labour said all allegations were “fully investigated” in line with party rules.

Earlier this week, Mr Watson said he would personally record and monitor all allegations of anti-Semitism made against Labour members in an effort to improve the party’s much-criticised handling of cases.

Ms Etemadzadeh has written to the party’s deputy leader urging him to take equally “firm action” on harassment and to have a role in overseeing all such allegations of within the party.

She said her own experience had taught her that Labour’s handling of harassment cases “shared many of the same flaws” as its approach to dealing with anti-Semitism.

The 29-year old alleges Mr Hopkins hugged her inappropriately after a event at Essex University, where she was studying, in 2014.

She further alleges that he subsequently made inappropriately personal comments when she visited the House of Commons and later sent her a suggestive text.

Mr Hopkins has been suspended by the party pending the outcome of the investigation.

In a letter to Mr Watson, Ms Etemadzadeh said her case would be heard by the party’s National Constitutional Committee, which is responsible for disciplinary matters, next month.

But she warned that “under the current structure, I am not confident I will get a fair and impartial outcome”.

She said the NCC was a “political body” and she was concerned she would not have direct legal representation at the hearing and had been told her barrister would not be allowed to speak.

She criticised the length of time it had taken for her and other cases to be heard, saying the extensive delays had led some other victims “simply to give up”.

She also warned safeguarding procedures for hearings were inadequate and claimed confidential details relating to the case had been leaked to the media.

‘Not independent’

She questioned why a report by senior lawyer Karen Monaghan urging reforms to Labour’s grievance procedures – completed in June – had not been published in full.

“When it comes to allegations of anti-Semitism or of sexual misconduct, there is no semblance of an independent procedure free from factional politics,” she wrote.

“Allegations against members close to the party leadership appear to be treated differently from allegations against the leadership’s critics.

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Kelvin Hopkins has denied all the allegations

“It is complainants, rather than perpetrators, who are accused of exercising a malign power and bringing the party into disrepute.”

It is understood that all cases which come before the National Constitutional Committee are anonymised to protect the confidentiality of those involved and that as the organisation bringing the case against the MP, Labour instructs the lawyers on the complainant’s behalf.

In a statement, Labour said it took all complaints of sexual harassment extremely seriously.

All allegations, a spokesman said, were “fully investigated and any appropriate disciplinary action taken in line with party rules and procedures”.

Labour MP John Mann praised Ms Etemadzadeh for going public with her criticisms.

The NCC is a quasi-judicial body, made up of party officials and activists, separate from the ruling National Executive Committee and leadership of the party.

Since the Monaghan investigation, Labour has made a number of changes to its procedures, including a helpline for members to report complaints and an independent specialist organisation to offer confidential advice and support to any individual affected by sexual harassment.

Mr Hopkins has insisted he only “put an arm around” Ms Etemadzadeh at the 2014 event.

He has said he did not recall asking her about her personal life, but said he did send a text message saying she was “charming and sweet-natured”.

It is understood Mr Hopkins was verbally reprimanded about his alleged behaviour. He went on to be promoted, albeit briefly, to Labour’s front bench in June 2016.

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