An SNP MP has been cleared of sexual misconduct after an investigation into claims she asked a member of party staff to go home with her.
Patricia Gibson, the MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, had appealed against a finding by the parliamentary standards commissioner that she had sexually harassed the member of staff in one of Parliament’s bars in January 2020.
An independent panel found the investigation into Ms Gibson’s conduct had been “materially flawed” and failed to take all the evidence into account.
The panel also criticised the complainant for breaching the confidentiality of the process in a “deliberate attempt to publicly discredit” Ms Gibson, leading to her facing “significant online abuse and harassment, including sexual threats”.
Ms Gibson said she was “reassured” by the decision after “a very difficult 16 months during which my reputation has been wrongly and repeatedly traduced in the press and on social media”.
The decision comes less than two weeks after a separate investigation found another SNP MP, Patrick Grady, had sexually harassed a member of staff at a party in 2016.
Mr Grady apologised to the Commons for his conduct and served a two-day suspension from the House.
In Ms Gibson’s case, a member of SNP staff claimed she had “stroked his arm and back” while drunk in Strangers’ Bar, one of a number of bars on the parliamentary estate, as well as asking him to “come home and shag me”.
Ms Gibson denied the allegations, but an investigator appointed by Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Service upheld the claim.
However, in a report published on Thursday, an independent appeals panel found the investigator had given too much weight to the complainants’ view that Ms Gibson’s conduct had been sexual, despite witnesses saying they had not perceived her actions as “overtly sexual”.
The panel said: “The investigator placed too much weight on the complainant’s perception that the touching was sexual.
“Had the investigator applied the test correctly, then she would have taken account of perceptions of all of the witnesses and may have come to a different conclusion.”
The panel also found the investigator had failed to explain a number of key changes to their draft report on the complaints, and not explained why they had decided “sensitive medical evidence” that suggested it was “unlikely” Ms Gibson had behaved in the alleged manner was not relevant.
They added this was “inconsistent and procedurally unfair”.
In a statement, Ms Gibson said: “I am grateful to the Independent Expert Panel for its work and comprehensive assessment of this case. I am reassured that the Independent Expert Panel has exonerated me, and has found that I am not guilty and that the investigation into this case was materially flawed.
“I have always maintained my innocence. It has been a very difficult 16 months during which my reputation has been wrongly and repeatedly traduced in the press and on social media, which has also jeopardised my personal safety with threats, abuse and harassment.
“I have found this period extremely traumatic but I am pleased that my reputation has been restored and now wish to draw a line under this matter and look to the future.”