A woman who was repeatedly sexually assaulted and harassed by a former Labour MP has been awarded nearly £435,000 by an employment tribunal in a ruling that could have major implications for outstanding claims against MPs.
A central London employment tribunal on Wednesday ordered the former member for Hartlepool Mike Hill to pay £434,435 to Woman A.
She was victimised after spurning Hill’s advances, an employment tribunal ruled in July. He was found to have climbed into the victim’s bed and sexually assaulted her in his parliamentary office.
The case is the first public compensation payment ordered against an MP for sexual assault, and is expected to prompt other alleged victims in parliament to take action through the civil courts.
It comes as Conservative officials come under increasing pressure to remove the whip from an MP arrested on Tuesday over claims of rape and sexual assault.
Woman A told the Guardian that she hoped that Wednesday’s order would encourage other women to come forward and seek justice through the courts as an alternative to the parliamentary process.
“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 parliamentary investigation route, which I went through, is arduous and very tough and conducted in private.
“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,” she said.
Woman A said that the decision to take on Hill has nevertheless left her homeless, traumatised by PTSD, suffering from severe depressive disorder and with limited prospects of a career.
“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. I had to crowdfund my case. The system, even through the courts, is weighted in favour of MPs,” she said.
Woman A’s barrister welcomed the ruling and said she will now seek to enforce the order against Hill’s assets but may also sue the House of Commons if Hill is unable to pay.
Suzanne McKie QC said: “We will now look to enforce against Mr Hill’s personal assets and take action against the House of Commons for the shortfall.”
McKie told a remedy hearing in March that nearly all of the £250,000 insurance policy that the Commons had put in place to cover an MP facing an employment claim had been spent on Hill’s legal fees.
She told the hearing that the Commons bore responsibility for failing to keep some money for her client’s legal costs and compensation.
“Ms A now has to consider how to effect judgment against Mr Hill when there is almost nothing left in that pot of money, and whether to sue the House of Commons for failing to put in place a sufficiently protective policy,” McKie told the hearing.
MPs are covered by a £5m insurance policy if they are sued for libel or slander, but by a £250,000 policy if an employee claims sexual harassment.
Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire who gave evidence on behalf of Woman A to the tribunal, said he will be raising the issue of MP’s insurance with Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, and Karen Bradley, the chair of the procedure committee, about the implications of the case for parliament.
“The Ipsa insurance cover should be increased to at least £1m 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,” he said.
Hill, who was then married, conducted a campaign of sexual harassment and bullying against Woman A over a 16-month period in 2017 and 2018, according to a reserved judgment. He was in breach of the Equalities Act in subjecting the claimant “to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature”.
The breaches included a telephone call on the evening of 22 September 2017 in which he told the claimant he loved her; “getting into bed with the claimant on 11 December 2017 and rubbing his erection against her”; and “sexual assaults on occasions at the Westminster office”.
He was also found to have victimised her with behaviour that included deactivating her security pass, ignoring her work-related text and emails, and terminating the claimant’s employment while stating he would put notice on the flat they shared in a text message.
Hill resigned as a Labour MP in March 2021, resulting in a May byelection in Hartlepool and a victory for the Conservatives.
Hill has been approached for a comment.