Sex assault claims that ended Aberdeen MP Ross Thomson’s Westminster career were unfounded, an inquiry has ruled.
Ross Thomson was the Conservative MP for Aberdeen South when he was accused of drunkenly attempting to grope Labour MP Paul Sweeney at a parliament bar in 2018.
After the allegations were made public last year, Mr Thomson – who had been the prime minister’s campaign chairman – decided not to stand for re-election.
In interviews with two newspapers, Mr Sweeney, then an MP for Glasgow North East, accused Mr Thomson of trying to fondle him and force his hand down his trousers in a 15-minute ordeal.
However, The Times has today reported that the parliamentary standards commissioner has concluded that Mr Thomson’s behaviour was not sexual and cleared him of misconduct.
Mr Sweeney declined to comment on the decision, which he can appeal.
Mr Thomson said in a statement on social media that he welcomed the decision and that the last two years had been a “living hell”.
In her findings, commissioner Kathryn Stone found that witness accounts did not support the allegations and that while it was “entirely possible that discreet contact might not have been observed by others, Mr Sweeney’s account was of behaviour that was highly unlikely to have gone unnoticed by others in the immediate vicinity.”
Ms Stone said she was “concerned that the detail of Mr Sweeney’s account has changed, with new elements introduced over time, some of which have not be substantiated.
However, she said: “I cannot safely conclude that this complaint presents as a malicious one.”
Investigators found that a drunken Mr Thomson, 33, had leaned on Mr Sweeney, 31, and repeatedly put his arms around him, invading his personal space in Strangers’ Bar in October 2018.
However, it was ruled that neither action crossed the boundary into being sexually inappropriate.
There was no sufficient evidence to suggest that Mr Thomson had groped Mr Sweeney, touched him inappropriately, tried to force his hands down his trousers, or stroked him while sitting on the arm of a chair.
The report found that several aspects of Mr Sweeney’s evidence, including the guests he had been sitting with, were contradicted by witness accounts.
Mr Thomson, a former city councillor and MSP, said in an online statement: “The parliamentary commissioner for standards will not uphold complaints made against me last year and I welcome this decision.
“Evidence submitted to the commissioner by an independent investigator supported my view that the allegations levelled against me were both false and malicious.
“From the start of this ordeal, I maintained that I was the victim of a smear and the 19-month investigation clearly showed this to be the case.
“I complied fully with the investigation at every stage, even when it meant that I could not defend myself publicly against damaging, distressing and false accusations.
“While it is regrettable that I had to wait this long to clear my name, I am satisfied that the independent inquiry was both extensive and robust.
“The last two years have been a living hell, with these false allegations triggering a barrage of unfair headlines and unrelenting abuse on the street and online.”
— Ross Thomson (@RossThomson_Abz) October 29, 2020
Mr Thomson told The Times he wanted to move on with his life, but was exploring “all legal avenues.”