POLITICS
07/10/2019 12:18 BST | Updated 07/10/2019 16:11 BST

Stephen Hepburn: Labour MP Suspended Over Sexual Harassment Allegation

Jarrow MP is alleged to have targeted a female party member in her 20s back in 2005.

PA Archive/PA Images
Stephen Hepburn, representative for Jarrow, during a photocall for Labour MP's at The House of Commons, Westminster.

MP Stephen Hepburn has been suspended from the Labour party while a complaint of sexual harassment is investigated. 

HuffPost UK revealed in March that the 59-year-old Jarrow MP is alleged to have targeted a female party member in her 20s back in 2005. 

A panel has met and referred the case to the party’s National Constitution Committee, which will investigate further. 

The complaint was first lodged with the party two years ago but was dropped. It was later reopened when a fellow MP said to be present at the alleged incident submitted evidence to an internal investigation.

Hepburn is said to have cornered the young woman after a night out and wanted to join her in a taxi home, it is claimed.  

The MP giving evidence writes that Hepburn was allowing the woman “little or no freedom of movement” and that he can recall the incident, alleged to have taken place at a curry restaurant 14 years ago, “quite vividly, because it was so unpleasant”. 

The complaint was reopened in light of the MP’s evidence. 

“During the course of the meal, Stephen made laddish ‘banter’ and the atmosphere was rather awkward,” the MP wrote in a statement.

The young woman grew tired after the meal and wanted to go home in a taxi, he said. 

“The indication was entirely clear that he wanted to take her back in the taxi,” the MP’s evidence continued. 

“His actions crossed the line between tactile and aggressive. He was saying ‘come on’ and standing between her and the wall allowing her little or no freedom of movement.

“[The woman] was very upset.” 

It was at that point that the MP “interposed” himself between Hepburn and the woman and she was able to leave.  

The politician wrote: “I am sure he would not have treated a man in the same way. His whole attitude was predatory. He was a little drunk – loose tongued and jovial. However, he was speaking coherently and certainly was not drunk enough to fall down.” 

It is understood that the panel acted on advice from an independent barrister. 

A party spokesman said: “The Labour party takes all complaints of sexual harassment extremely seriously, which are fully investigated and any appropriate disciplinary action taken in line with the party’s rules and procedures.

“We are determined to challenge and overturn sexual harassment and misogyny within politics and across society as a whole. We cannot comment on individual complaints.”

HuffPost UK has contacted Hepburn for comment.