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Basil McCrea misconduct report: Dozen complaints against NI21 leader, but no evidence of any wrongdoing

By Yvette Shapiro

Published 02/03/2016

Basil McCrea with fellow NI21 founders Tina McKenzie and John McCallister
Basil McCrea with fellow NI21 founders Tina McKenzie and John McCallister

NI21 leader Basil McCrea yesterday said he had been "completely exonerated" by a long-delayed Stormont report into multiple claims of misconduct, including allegations of sexual impropriety towards two young women.

Members of the Assembly's Standards and Privileges Committee signed off on the report by chief Douglas Bain.

It is expected to be published - with some sections redacted - later this week.

The Belfast Telegraph understands that the Standards Commissioner found no evidence of wrongdoing by Mr McCrea in 12 complaints made by a number of people.

Mr Bain also concluded that in several of the alleged incidents Mr McCrea was not acting in his capacity as an elected MLA.

Those who made the formal written complaints included the party's former deputy leader John McCallister and former party worker Ashleigh Murray, who was at the centre of a media storm in 2014 over her allegations about Mr McCrea's sexual conduct.

Ms Murray was interviewed once by Mr Bain, but declined to attend further interviews on medical grounds.

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Last year former DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt claimed that Ms Murray was "so traumatised by the commissioner that she had to walk out of the interview". Mr Bain denied this.

He was forced to suspend his investigation for more than three months last year because of a police investigation into alleged criminal conduct by Mr McCallister.

The PSNI confirmed that it had sent a file on that case to the Public Prosecution Service.

Mr Bain has been unable to interview Mr McCallister because of this, but he said in the report that he intended to do so at a later date.

In the summary of his report, Mr Bain concluded: "Following a full and thorough investigation of all the other allegations against Mr McCrea, I am not satisfied that any breach of the code of conduct occurred."

Two of the complaints dealt with allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr McCrea involving two young female party workers.

The first concerned Ms Murray, who gave several accounts of an alleged incident in Mr McCrea's room at the La Mon Hotel in April 2013 following a political meeting.

She also claimed that on another occasion he rubbed her leg in his car, and because of his erratic driving he was pulled over and breathalysed by the police.

Mr McCrea admitted that he was breathalysed and said the test was clear, but he denied touching Ms Murray.

She also made further claims of inappropriate touching and sexual remarks, all of which were denied by Mr McCrea.

The commissioner concluded that none of her complaints on these matters were admissible because she had taken more than a year to report them.

He also pointed to "inconsistencies" in her accounts.

And Mr Bain dealt with a complaint from Mr McCallister that Mr McCrea had taken "voyeuristic" photographs of another young party worker during a trip to Toronto in 2012.

The woman did not make a complaint about this.

The commissioner found that the three pictures supplied to him by Mr McCallister had been "heavily doctored by a person unknown" and "none of these photographs was voyeuristic".

He added that he found it "most disturbing" that Mr McCallister should have made the complaint to him "without any attempt to check the facts and without reporting the matter to the police".

Mr McCallister made a further complaint that Mr McCrea had allegedly "groped" the woman at a later date.

Again, the woman in question did not make a complaint, and in his evidence to Mr Bain, Mr McCrea denied any wrongdoing "of any sort" and had "no recollection of any such incident".

The same woman was involved in another complaint, also made by Mr McCallister, that Mr McCrea had thrown a baseball that struck her when she disturbed him in his office while he was taking part in a live radio interview.

Mr McCrea denied this and said he had thrown a ball of paper at the woman, who did not make a complaint.

Mr Bain concluded that the NI21 leader "did not at any time throw the baseball".

The report revealed that during his investigation, the commissioner conducted his own "brief unscientific experiment" to gauge the distance that a ball of paper would have travelled when thrown.

Other complaints - none of which were upheld - covered allegations of bullying and harassment, misconduct, obtaining cash by deception from office expenses and misuse of Assembly stationery.

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