Julian Knight in row with Tories over whip withdrawal after sexual assault claim
MP Julian Knight has accused the Tories of jeopardising his right to justice by naming him when they removed the whip after the police received allegations of serious sexual assault.
He accused colleagues of having “stripped me of the rights to anonymity or a fair hearing” when the Conservative whips removed him from the parliamentary party.
The MP for Solihull said he had been at the “centre of a campaign of rumour and innuendo” and blackmail as he insisted he is “entirely innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever”.
A statement from Conservative Chief Whip Simon Hart said Mr Knight had lost the whip after the Metropolitan Police received a “complaint” on Wednesday evening.
Scotland Yard later released a statement saying they had that night received a further referral having previously received allegations of serious sexual assault.
Mr Knight published an angry letter to Mr Hart demanding “immediate and unequivocal answers” as to why he was suspended and named by the whips office.
“You must have done so in the full knowledge that the inevitable and immediate publicity around that statement would entirely prejudice any prospect of my getting a fair hearing in any inquiry, court or disciplinary hearing,” he wrote.
“Such actions are entirely contrary to the principles of natural justice to which I and all other party members and, indeed, all citizens must properly be entitled.”
Mr Knight added: “For the avoidance of any doubt, I can state categorically that I am entirely innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever.
“It seems lamentable and completely wrong that I have to make this statement after the public linking of my good name as a Conservative MP with an apparently serious but entirely unspecified offence.
“By unilaterally and publicly suspending the whip you have stripped me of the rights to anonymity or a fair hearing in any judicial forum or, indeed, in the court of public opinion.”
Following a complaint made to the Metropolitan Police this evening, we have removed the Whip from Julian Knight MP with immediate effect
A Tory source insisted that Mr Hart had informed the MP about the action on Wednesday night, disputing his claim that he had not heard from the Whips Office.
Another Conservative MP has been under investigation on suspicion of rape and sexual assault offences spanning seven years since being arrested in May.
He has not been named by the party, or identified publicly, and retains the Tory whip.
The man in his 50s has been bailed pending further enquiries until mid-February 2023.
On Wednesday night, Mr Hart’s office released a statement saying: “Following a complaint made to the Metropolitan Police this evening, we have removed the Whip from Julian Knight MP with immediate effect.”
His spokeswoman declined to discuss the nature of the complaint.
On Thursday, a statement from the Met said: “On October 28, police received allegations of serious sexual assault against un-named victims reported to have taken place on unknown dates at undisclosed locations.
“On December 7 a further referral relating to the incident(s) was made and an investigation was launched.”
Mr Knight, who said he will be recusing himself from Parliament until the case is resolved, suggested the October 28 complaint was made by “two fellow MPs”.
He is the chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee and has represented the West Midlands constituency since 2015.
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