SNP MP apologises after 'insensitive' Patrick Grady comments

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Amy CallaghanImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Amy Callaghan was elected MP for East Dunbartonshire in 2019

An SNP MP has apologised after she was heard calling on colleagues to back Patrick Grady after his suspension over inappropriate behaviour.

Amy Callaghan's comments emerged in an audio recording leaked to the Daily Mail newspaper.

She can allegedly be heard telling SNP MPs they should be "rallying together" to support Mr Grady.

The party's Westminster leader Ian Blackford also appeared to back Mr Grady.

Labour and the Conservatives have both called for Mr Blackford to resign over his handling of the situation.

Mr Grady was suspended from Parliament for two days over his actions. He was also suspended from the SNP's Westminster group for a week.

The move came after he was found to have made a sexual advance to a teenage member of the party's staff in 2016.

Mr Grady, a former chief whip, told the Commons he was "profoundly sorry" after an independent panel found he had touched and stroked the neck, hair and back of a colleague during a social event.

On the tape there is applause after Ms Callaghan apparently tells her fellow SNP MPs "we should be rallying together around him to support him at this time".

Mr Blackford replies by saying he "would encourage" his colleagues to give "as much support as possible" to Mr Grady.

Image source, UK Parliament
Image caption,
Mr Grady told MPs he was "profoundly sorry" for his actions

In a statement posted on Twitter Ms Callaghan, who represents East Dunbartonshire, said she was making a "wholehearted apology" for what she called her "insensitive, poorly worded and misguided" comments.

She added that the SNP was "falling short in supporting complainants" and said she was proposing that the party undertakes a full independent review of the way it deals with allegations of misconduct and harassment.

The handling of the complaint has drawn criticism, most notably from the victim himself, who was 17 years Mr Grady's junior.

He said he had been made to feel as though it was his fault and his life had been made a "living hell".

'Unwanted sexual advance'

In its report, the Independent Expert Panel, which recommends punishments for MPs over bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct, wrote: "An unwanted physical touching, with sexual intent, from a senior MP to a junior member of staff, even on a single occasion, is a significant breach of the policy."

It noted that Mr Grady had shown "genuine remorse" and made "efforts to address his behaviour", but recommended that he "be suspended for two sitting days, make a public apology in the House of Commons, and a private one to the complainant".

The panel was responding to a report by Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone, who found that Mr Grady had remained at a SNP work social event on 20 October 2016 after his fellow MPs had left.

Under the influence of alcohol, he made an "unwanted sexual advance to the complainant that included the touching and stroking of the complainant's neck, hair, and back", she said.

Mr Grady stepped aside as SNP chief whip last year after the claims about his behaviour emerged.

Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said that she had previously been aware of "a concern", but not of any "formal complaint" being made.

A spokesperson for the SNP Westminster parliamentary group said it accepted the recommended actions from the Independent Expert Panel.

"We welcome Mr Grady's apology and note that he previously apologised for this incident when the matter was dealt with informally in 2018," the spokesperson said.