Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 26 May 2016

Basil McCrea cleared of allegations, but concerns raised over staff treatment

Published 03/03/2016

The NI21 leader claimed he had been the victim of a conspiracy to force his resignation and welcomed the outcome of the investigation
The NI21 leader claimed he had been the victim of a conspiracy to force his resignation and welcomed the outcome of the investigation

Basil McCrea has vowed to fight for his political career after an Assembly watchdog cleared him of a range of serious allegations, including sexual misconduct and voyeurism.

The NI21 leader claimed he had been the victim of a conspiracy to force his resignation as he welcomed the outcome of the investigation carried out by Assembly Standards Commissioner Douglas Bain.

Mr Bain examined a range of complaints levelled at the Lagan Valley MLA, including bullying, harassing and groping staff members; taking voyeuristic photos; and obtaining cash by deception.

The commission cleared Mr McCrea, a former Ulster Unionist, on all 12 complaints lodged.

When dismissing the allegations regarding voyeuristic photos, Mr Bain expressed concern that three images that formed the basis of the complaint had been "heavily doctored by a person unknown in a vain attempt to make them appear in some way improper".

Mr McCrea was in defiant mood as he welcomed the report. "I contend that the allegations were part of a conspiracy to force me to resign my position as a Member of the Legislative Assembly.

"However I am a fighter. I will not run away. I won't let the people who did this get away with it. If I don't stand up for what is right, no one new will ever enter politics in Northern Ireland."

While the report's findings have been endorsed by the Assembly's Committee on Standards and Privileges, the committee has raised concern over how Mr McCrea treated his staff on occasion.

The committee said his behaviour occasionally fell below the standards it would encourage.

The committee also questioned how Mr Bain had handled some the interviews he conducted in the investigation and has called for an independent review of the probe.

The allegations against Mr McCrea emerged two years ago during the high profile implosion of the fledgling NI21 party.

His erstwhile friend and co-founder of the party John McCallister was one of those who made complaints to the commissioner.

Mr McCallister, who quit the party at the height of the controversy, is currently subject to a police investigation about other elements of NI21 business. He has denied wrongdoing.

Commenting on the report's publication, Mr McCallister said: "I am thankful that this long and difficult process has now drawn to a conclusion. My desire throughout was that the allegations should be independently examined. It is my hope that the publication of this report will bring some sense of closure to all involved."

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