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Parliament watchdog drops probe into Chris Pincher groping claims

The former deputy chief whip at the centre of the controversy that led to Boris Johnson’s demise will not be investigated by Parliament’s watchdog over allegations of drunken groping at a private members’ club, it is understood.

September 26, 2022
By Sophie Wingate, PA Political Correspondent
26 September 2022

The former deputy chief whip at the centre of the controversy that led to Boris Johnson’s demise will not be investigated by Parliament’s watchdog over allegations of drunken groping at a private members’ club, it is understood.

Chris Pincher dramatically quit his government role on June 30 after allegedly assaulting two fellow guests at the exclusive Carlton Club in London the evening before.

Chris Pincher (right) was accused of groping at a private club. (Photo by Rob Pinney/Getty Images)

Pincher was the Tory MP for Tamworth in Staffordshire but now sits as an independent in the Commons after Johnson bowed to pressure to remove the Conservative whip after a formal complaint was made to the parliamentary watchdog that examines allegations of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct.

But the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) has dropped the complaint because the alleged incident did not occur on the Parliamentary estate, The Sunday Times and The Observer reported.

The watchdog’s policies appear to confirm that the claims about Pincher would not fall within its scope.

 

The ICGS “applies to acts of bullying or harassment or sexual misconduct by and against any member of the parliamentary community on the parliamentary estate or elsewhere in connection with their parliamentary activities”, according to its website.

A House of Commons spokesperson said they “cannot confirm or deny any current investigations” as the ICGS “operates on the basis of confidentiality for the benefit of all parties”.

“Therefore, we cannot provide any information on complaints or investigation, including whether or not a complaint has been received or whether an investigation is ongoing.”

The Guardian reported that at least one of the victims is understood to have appealed against the decision not to investigate Pincher.

Boris Johnson’s handling of the Chris Pincher allegations was the final straw for party support. (PA)

The incident took on greater significance when Downing Street initially said Johnson had no knowledge of previous allegations against Pincher.

But Lord McDonald, former permanent secretary in the Foreign Office, went public to say that Johnson was briefed “in person” about a 2019 complaint against Pincher in the Foreign Office.

The then-prime minister later acknowledged he had been informed of inappropriate behaviour dating back three years.

Johnson’s handling of the scandal unleashed a wave of pent-up frustration with his leadership, already damaged by lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street and by-election defeats. It led to Johnson haemorrhaging support across the Tory ranks and ultimately announcing he would step down.

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