A woman who was repeatedly sexually assaulted and harassed by a former Labor MP is planning to sue the House of Commons for not setting aside money that could cover her compensation.
Woman A fell victim after rejecting the advances of Mike Hill, the former MP for Hartlepool, an employment tribunal ruled in July. An ally of Jeremy Corbyn, he was found to have climbed into the victim’s bed and sexually assaulted her in his parliamentary office.
His lawyer, Suzanne McKie QC, told an appeal hearing on Thursday that almost all of the £250,000 insurance policy the Commons had put in place to cover an MP facing a claim for employment had been spent on Hill’s legal fees.
McKie told the hearing that the House of Commons was responsible for not keeping some of the money for legal costs and compensation for his client.
“Mrs A must now consider how to pass judgment on Mr Hill when there is almost nothing left in that pot of money, and whether to sue the House of Commons for failing to put in place a sufficiently protective policy,” McKie told the hearing. .
Woman A, who addressed the court under oath, said: ‘The insurance policy which covers the misconduct of MPs as employers is capped at £250,000 which includes defense costs as well as compensation for the victim. Mr. Hill has deliberately pursued a hopeless case, reducing what is available to me to very little.
“They had ample opportunity to settle this matter, which was a desperate matter and which they knew they were not going to win. It destroyed me, and they took four and a half years of my life, and I have nothing and no hope left.
In July, a central London court found that Hill marginalized Woman A in parliament, changed her terms of employment and fired her after rejecting her advances.
Hill’s case was funded by the taxpayer due to an insurance policy offered to all MPs, while Ms A’s case was funded in part through a crowdfunding campaign.
McKie, who acts pro bono, told Thursday’s hearing that MPs were covered by a £5million insurance policy if sued for defamation or slander, but a £250,000 policy if an employee alleged sexual harassment.
She said: ‘The £5m insurance policy for MPs does not apply to willful acts, which must include sexual harassment and misconduct. The alternative insurance policy that applies, the Employment Practices Policy, is capped at £250,000 and includes defense costs plus any compensation amounts.
That the policy does not set aside money and could be exhausted by legal fees was raised by McKie, who suggested it could be a factor in other high-profile cases. “This is an important point, given the stories in the press in recent days about misconduct in the House of Commons,” she said.
Last week, an independent inquiry found former Commons speaker John Bercow to be a ‘serial bully’ and a liar, which could leave the Commons open to compensation claims.
Woman A’s legal team asked Thursday’s hearing to recommend that the House of Commons provide insurance policies in the future that guarantee compensation for victims of harassment, misconduct and assault sexual. This is how most policy funds are available for compensation and cannot be used for the MP’s legal fees, the lawyer said.
Hill, who was then married, waged a campaign of sexual harassment and intimidation against Woman A over a 16-month period in 2017 and 2018, according to a reserved judgment. He breached the Equality Act by subjecting the plaintiff to “undesirable behavior of a sexual nature”.
The breaches included a phone call on the evening of September 22, 2017 in which he told the applicant that he loved her; “getting into bed with the plaintiff on December 11, 2017 and rubbing his erection against her”; and “casual sexual assaults in the Westminster office”.
He was also found to have victimized her with behavior that included disabling her security pass, ignoring her work-related text messages and emails, and terminating the claimant’s employment. while stating that he would put a review on the apartment they shared in a text message.
Hill resigned as Labor MP in March 2021, leading to a May by-election in Hartlepool and a Conservative victory.
The judgment of the appeals was deliberated on Friday.
A House of Commons spokesperson said: ‘The House of Commons covers the cost of liability insurance to cover MPs in the event of claims made against them by employees. Providing a single policy covering all MPs is more cost effective for the taxpayer. How a claim is resolved would be the responsibility of the insurer and we cannot comment on individual cases.