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02nd Jun 2023

PoliticsJOE journalist speaks out about being groped in parliament bar

Jack Peat

‘Westminster is a hotbed of sexual misconduct’

A PoliticsJOE journalist has spoken out after being groped by a Conservative advisor in a House of Commons bar.

Ava Evans opened up about the shocking incident on the Pubcast podcast, saying the unnamed advisor put his hand up her skirt in Stranger’s Bar in an intentional manner – claims that have been corroborated by Matthew Torbitt, who was with her at the time.

“I was so shocked I didn’t even know what to say”, she said.

“That was a really crap thing to happen”.

The allegations came to light after Labour MP Geraint Davies was accused of multiple incidents of inappropriate behaviour toward junior female colleagues – usually on the parliamentary estate and sometimes in bars or after late-night votes.

Davies, a former House of Commons select committee chair who was first elected in 1997, subjected them to unwanted sexual attention, both physical and verbal, after coming into contact with them through his work as an MP.

One of the women he allegedly targeted was just 19 years old at the time.

Elsewhere, Chris Pincher resigned as the deputy chief whip in June 2022 and had the Conservative whip removed after he was alleged to have groped two men while he was drunk.

The incident triggered a scandal over his appointment to the role, leading to a government crisis that ultimately resulted in Boris Johnson’s resignation.

Evans, who is a lobby correspondent for PoliticsJOE, said she believes Westminster has become a “hotbed of sexual misconduct”.

Despite assurances that the matter had been reported to the Speaker, the Speaker’s Office has today confirmed to JOE that no such reports were made.

They pointed to “established escalation processes” that are in place when incidents occur in Commons venues. This includes seeking assistance from doorkeepers stationed nearby, or contacting security colleagues if required, actions Evans says she did take.

A House of Commons spokesperson added: “Bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct have absolutely no place in Parliament – and we strive to ensure that we have a workplace where everyone is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

“Parliament’s Behaviour Code, which is supported by the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, makes clear the standards of behaviour expected of everyone in Parliament – whether MPs, staff, Members’ staff, members of the House of Lords, press, contractors or visitors.”

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