Conscious of being too ill-informed, I have just read through the formal case reports of the Westminster Parliament’s independent expert panels investigating complaints against, separately the SNP MPs Patrick Grady and Patricia Gibson.
My immediate reaction? How is it possible that so little of what is evidenced and so little of the panels’ carefully considered judgements have appeared in media reporting? On second thoughts, of course I do know! I provide links to the two reports: I would encourage a quick read. If you have been relying only on corporate media, BBC and opposition politicians’ comments to inform your views so far, you may well find these accounts revelatory!
Amongst the wealth of information – on Ms Gibson’s upheld appeal and on the upholding of one and the dismissal of eight other accusations from one complainant against Mr Grady – one aspect common to both cases seriously concerned the investigators. This was breaches of confidentiality. I have cut and pasted sections of the official reports with little personal comment.
Firstly, from the documentation on Ms Gibson’s case:
2.63 ‘The sub-panel noted that FROM THE OUTSET THIS CASE HAS BEEN TAINTED BY PERSISTENT BREACHES OF CONFIDENTIALITY BY THE COMPLAINANT. (my emphasis)
‘The publicity in this case was considerable and persistent. The sub-panel NOTED THE COMMISSIONER’S ASSESSMENT THAT THE COMPLAINANT’S ACTIONS IN BREACHING CONFIDENTIALITY WERE A “DELIBERATE ATTEMPT TO PUBLICLY DISCREDIT” THE RESPONDENT.
‘The sub-panel also NOTED THAT SIGNIFICANT HARM AND IMPACT CAUSED BY THE BREACHES OF CONFIDENTIALITY INCLUDING THE RESPONDENT BEING SUBJECTED TO SIGNIFICANT ONLINE ABUSE AND HARASSMENT, INCLUDING SEXUAL THREATS, AS WELL AS DEROGATORY GRAFFITI AT HER PLACE OF WORK WHICH NECESSITATED AN INCREASE IN PERSONAL SECURITY.’
2.62 ‘The Commissioner noted that she was “GRATEFUL TO [THE RESPONDENT] FOR MAINTAINING CONFIDENTIALITY OF THE PROCESS DESPITE THESE BREACHES BY THE COMPLAINANT”.
And then the documentation on Mr Brady’s case where the same matter arises:
Para 1.6: ‘The Commissioner referred the allegation to the Panel to determine sanction in a memorandum dated 28 March 2022. In her memorandum she highlighted the MULTIPLE BREACHES OF CONFIDENTIALITY IN RELATION TO THE CASE THAT HAD LED TO SIGNIFICANT MEDIA REPORTING THROUGHOUT THE INVESTIGATION.
‘THE COMPLAINANT HAD ADMITTED TO BEING THE SOURCE OF MEDIA REPORTS ABOUT HIS COMPLAINTS prior to them being made formally to the ICGS in May 2021; and HE ALSO ADMITTED FURTHER BREACHES OF CONFIDENTIALITY THAT OCCURRED IN FEBRUARY AND MARCH 2022.
‘The Commissioner concluded that the COMPLAINANT’S ACTIONS WERE A “DELIBERATE ATTEMPT TO PUBLICLY DISCREDIT MR GRADY” and “A BREACH OF PARLIAMENT’S BEHAVIOUR CODE AND A BREACH OF THE RULES THAT ARE INTENDED TO UNDERPIN THE FAIRNESS, CONFIDENTIALITY, AND INTEGRITY OF PARLIAMENT’S ICGS PROCESSES.”
1.13: ‘Finally, the sub-panel acknowledged that the “BREACHES OF CONFIDENTIALITY COMING FROM THE COMPLAINANT HAVE HAD A LASTING EFFECT on [Mr Grady]. He has faced intrusive press activities, and abuse on social media. He has had to change some of his modes of activity as an MP.”
3.17 ‘In this case THE COMPLAINANT BREACHED CONFIDENTIALITY REPEATEDLY IN THE PERIOD BEFORE THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER. THERE HAVE BEEN FURTHER BREACHES SINCE. We do not intend to recite those breaches, for the obvious reason that to do so might merely exacerbate the problem in this case.
‘The Commissioner herself analysed them fully, and her conclusion was expressed as follows: “I DEPRECATE THE SERIOUS BREACHES OF CONFIDENTIALITY COMMITTED BY THE COMPLAINANT in February and March 2022 […] and I regret the significant impact that this has had on Mr Grady. I CONSIDER THE COMPLAINANT’S CONDUCT TO BE A BREACH OF PARLIAMENT’S BEHAVIOUR CODE AND A BREACH OF THE RULES THAT ARE INTENDED TO UNDERPIN THE FAIRNESS, CONFIDENTIALITY, AND INTEGRITY OF PARLIAMENT’S ICGS PROCESSES. I ALSO CONSIDER HIS CONDUCT TO BE A DELIBERATE ATTEMPT TO PUBLICLY DISCREDIT MR GRADY.”’
3.18 ‘The Commissioner also noted that the respondent had observed confidentiality, in the face of breaches by the complainant, for which she thanked him.’
What the expert panels in both cases are stating could hardly be clearer!
Whilst indeed upholding one complaint against Mr Grady, the panel report states this:
3.26 ‘We also record our conclusion that the respondent was not merely disturbed and embarrassed by this whole turn of events, and regretful of the consequences for his political career, but GENUINELY REMORSEFUL. Sitting as we do, dealing with respondents facing what may be serious sanctions, we are alive to the risk of “crocodile tears” from those addressing us. We are used to listening attentively to learn whether respondents are thinking only of themselves, or whether they are genuinely alive to the impact on others. HERE WE ARE CLEAR THAT THERE HAS BEEN A GENUINE COMING TO TERMS WITH WHAT WENT WRONG AND ITS IMPACT ON THE COMPLAINANT, AND A GENUINE CONCLUSION THAT CONDUCT WILL BE DIFFERENT IN THE FUTURE.
3.27 ‘Once he was faced with the complaint about this event, the respondent resigned as Chief Whip. We have looked closely at the timing of that resignation. CONTRARY TO THE SUBMISSION OF THE COMPLAINANT, we accept this was not triggered by the fact of press publicity, but the complainant confirming that he wanted to make a formal complaint. …’
I leave you to come to a (better informed?) view. I have.