Lord Lester has trousered nearly £10,000 in expenses since he was indicted for being a sex pest but between the accusation being made in November 2017 and May this year he has received £9,485 and served only 32 out of the 102 sitting days.
Peers can claim £300 a day solely for clocking in at the Lords, and the sum could be higher as the last five months’ worth of expenses has yet to be announced.
Lord Lester, 82, has not submitted any written questions since December 2017 and has not voted since January 2018, and it’s a sad fact that lords can proceed to claim thousands of pounds while hardly contributing to the work of the Lords, including those under investigation.
Lord Lester, however, will not be able to claim allowances from the point where he’s suspended because the peer faces a House of Lord’s embargo after telling a woman that if she slept with him he would make her a baroness within the year.
Married Lord Lester could be barred for four years following an inquiry found he breached the code of conduct by touching and harassing the much younger woman for sex.
He stood down as a Lib Dem human rights spokesperson and retired from the party whip after it was revealed in February that he was under investigation. The woman told the Lords Commissioner for Standards, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, that she met Lord Lester in the course of her work relating to parliamentary affairs.
The Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee supported the commissioners’ decision that Lord Lester had breached the code of conduct. It advised he be barred until June 2022, but Lord Lester, a leading QC, categorically denied the allegations and criticised the inquiry as flawed.
However, Blackstone Chambers has stood by Lord Lester, a member and Liberal Democrat Lord indicted of sexual harassment, while another of its barristers has intervened to save his skin in the House of Lords.
Lord Lester was set to be barred by the House of Lords until the arbitration of Lord Pannick, a fellow Blackstone barrister, who got a majority to refer the matter back to the Committee for Privileges and Conduct. He did so on the grounds that its commissioner, former Law Society President Lucy Scott-Montcrieff, neglected to act in accordance with the principles of natural justice and fairness when dispensing with Lord Lester’s case.
Lord Lester, a human rights lawyer who in recent years has acted for Scientology, was accused by Jasvinder Sanghera, a campaigner against forced marriage and the patron of the charity Karma Nirvana, of harassing her a decade ago.
Jasvinder Sanghera abandoned her right to anonymity to help, she said, any other victims of Lord Lester to come forth.
Jasvinder Sanghera made her accusation in November last year. She alleged that when she missed her train following a meeting with Lord Lester at the House of Lords, he insisted she stay the night at his London home, and on the drive there, he kept repeatedly missing the gearstick with his hand and instead quite firmly put his hand on her right thigh.
Jasvinder thought that the first time it happened she assumed it must have been an accident, but when it continued she realised it wasn’t an accident, and she removed his hand and asked him to stop, but he simply smiled.
She felt incredibly uncomfortable knowing that she was on the way to staying at his home as he continued to grope her thigh for the length of the journey, despite her objections.
After Jasvinda had a cup of tea with the barrister and his wife, he showed her to her bedroom where he informed her that her bedroom was not far from his bedroom, which he insisted pointing out to her, telling her that he would not be far from her, so Jasvinda phoned a friend to say she felt trapped, and on their recommendation she wedged a chair against the door and went to bed fully clothed.
The next morning after Lord Lester’s wife had left the house, the peer came up behind her and put his arms around her waist. She shoved him away, but again he put his arms around her, but this time further up her body and she pushed herself away from him once again.
Lord Lester then stalked her around the kitchen as she begged him to stop and that she wanted to leave. Before driving her to the station, he told her that he had strong feelings for her and insisted on showing her his shed, surely a suspending misdemeanour all by itself.
In a subsequent meeting at the House of Lords, Lord Lester told Jasvinda Sanghera he would make her a baroness if she had sex with him, and that he could destroy her if she refused.
Jasvinda Sanghera alleged that Lord Lester then started pointing out peers and commenting about the reasons they had reached the positions they were in, suggesting that this was the reason they were in such a position, either that, or they just had good relations and good connections and so on.
He further supposedly made reference to the colour of the carpet and stated that only members of the House of Lords were permitted to walk on the red carpet and that commoners were only allowed to walk on the blue carpet.
The impression that he conveyed was that he was a man of authority who could make things happen and that Jasvinda was feeble in comparison.
Lord Lester informed her that unless she was a good girl who agreed to sleep with him, he would see that she never had a chair in the House of Lords and that there would be other consequences for her before making a number of improper sexual remarks, such as that he could see her becoming a demanding concubine.
Jasvinda Sanghera promptly phoned friends including a district judge, a senior British embassy representative and a director of the CPS to tell them what had occurred, all of whom endorsed her account to the committee as witnesses.
She was subsequently frozen out of Lord Lester’s campaign but chose not to make a complaint until last year, when she learned of how an intern in the House of Lords had reported a similar encounter against another peer and became convinced that she had to act.
In his defence, Lord Lester presented the ten-year delay as proof of its misrepresentation, but Jasvinda Sanghera described the suggestion surprisingly self-serving, given his field of expertise because Lord Lester failed to appreciate the thought method of victims.
Lord Lester further contended that Jasvinda Sanghera’s absence of apparent distress at his home implied that he was innocent and that she did not demonstrate how her seemingly normal appearance and behaviour were compatible with her accusations of precariously distressing sexual misbehaviour the night before.
He portrayed himself as a blissfully espoused man and displayed his immaculate record with women as additional confirmation of his integrity, and he stated that had he been blameworthy of these things that Jasvinda had accused him of, then there would presumably be other women coming forward – Wait for it!
Lord Lester might have outlined his professional work advocating equality for women, but of course, that doesn’t demonstrate his innocence. On the other hand, we could be asking ourselves why Jasvinda Sanghera waited ten years to make such an accusation, I suppose the reasons why masses of other people waited years to come forth in the many celebrity scandals because they were too afraid of the machinations it would bring.
A basic platform of Lord Lester’s argument and his subsequent appeal was the House of Lord’s Cod of Conduct, which he claimed was not intended to investigate sexual harassment and therefore inapplicable, and Lord Lester seems to think that whether or not the accusations were true, he shouldn’t have been subjected to investigation.
And in 2009 Lord Lester made a speech in support of the suspension of other misbehaving peers, in which he actively defended the process which he now endeavours to undermine.
Lord Lester further harried Jasvinda’s own staff, where he besieged her office sometimes several times a day, with demands that she should conclude the investigation quickly and vindicate him, calling the Blackstone barrister’s conduct grossly inappropriate. He was further criticised for leaking Jasvinda Sanghera’s name to another Lord, and Lord Lester called the investigation a nightmare.