Lord Lester accuser says she has no faith in the Parliamentary system after peers over-rule suspension

Kate Proctor
Women's rights campaigner Jasvinder Sanghera: PA

The woman allegedly sexually harassed by a member of the House of Lords said today she has no faith in the Parliamentary system after peers over-ruled his suspension.

In a tearful interview, Jasvinder Sanghera told the Standard how the Lords’ decision not to suspend Lord Anthony Lester for four years had been upsetting and made her feel like a victim all over again.

Peers voted 101 to 78 against imposing a ban on the 82-year-old former Liberal Democrat peer until 2022.

This is despite it being the recommended sanction by the Committee on Privileges and Conduct.

Investigated: Lord Lester of Herne Hill quit the Lib Dems in February (Reuters)

Ms Sanghera said: “I have to say that if the Lords really believe that the outcome of today isn’t going to deter victims, then I don’t know what world they are living in.

“I would not say right now to victims of sexual harassment come and make your complaint to the House of Lords.”

“The Commissioner, sub-committee and Committee of Privileges upheld [my complaint] and believed me and from what I’ve watched unfold today I can only describe it as reliving the whole thing again.

“Why would I want any victim to put themselves through that when they do this to me.”

Lord Lester was found by a House of Lords investigation to have breached the Lords code of conduct for sexually harassing the charity founder Ms Sanghera and offering her a peerage for sex.

He is also said to have warned her of unspecified consequences if she did not accept his offer.

Lord Lester vehemently denied her version of events, dating back 11 years.

It was originally recommended that he be expelled, which was changed to a four year suspension subject to a vote in the House of Lords.

She said: “I have to say I noticed that I was notably absent from that whole debate today.

“His peers and his friends were standing up there and defending his reputation and not defending the victim in this process. That’s not fair.

“I held onto the report, but what I watched to today for me was tantamount to bullying.

“There was only a couple of peers who spoke in favour of me.”

Lord Lester has said he did not think the investigation into him was fair.

In a statement, he said: "I would like to thank David Pannick and those members of the Lords who supported him today recognising the importance of process and now look forward to restoring my reputation."

Lord McFall, senior deputy speaker in the House of Lords, also said in a statement: "I am deeply disappointed by today's decision by the House to send the report into the conduct of Lord Lester back to the Privileges and Conduct Committee for further consideration.

"The committee will meet next week to consider options in response to today's vote. Members raised concerns with the process of the investigation that the committee will consider.

"I fully support the Commissioner for Standards and the work she has undertaken for many months. Every step of the way she followed the processes as agreed by the House and that have not been questioned before today.

"I would also like to express my sympathy to the complainant at what must be a very difficult time for her."