Police probe Basil McCrea sex claims
The PSNI has contacted NI21 to ask if any female members would like to make an official complaint of inappropriate sexual activity against party leader Basil McCrea.
It is understood that, as of last night, no women had come forward to make a statement to officers.
Several women have made allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr McCrea. The beleaguered NI21 leader has strenuously denied any wrongdoing and has said he is taking unspecified legal action.
The Belfast Telegraph understands that PSNI officers contacted Mr McCrea’s deputy leader, John McCallister, at the weekend to ask him if any women wanted to make a complaint against his former friend.
Mr McCallister initiated an investigation by independent counselling group Carecall after hearing rumours about Mr McCrea earlier this month.
It is believed that so far no women have approached the PSNI to make any statements.
The Belfast Telegraph attempted to contact Mr McCrea for a response to the latest developments in this case but he was unavailable.
The PSNI was unable to comment.
DUP Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said: “It is only right the police have approached NI21 to see if any women wish to give evidence.
“When allegations like this are made public, it is the duty of the PSNI to see if any investigation should be launched.
“I think the PSNI’s approach shows that nobody is above the law.”
Mr McCrea and Mr McCallister both left the UUP to set up NI21.
The pair had a very public falling out just before the local council elections after Mr McCallister denounced a decision by the party executive to redesignate from ‘unionist’ to ‘other’ as crazy.
It was shortly after this fallout that allegations of inappropriate sexual activity were made against Mr McCrea.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that up to 11 people who have worked for or were formerly associated with NI21 have made allegations against the 54-year-old concerning incidents of inappropriate sexual behaviour, inappropriate comments, touching, blackmail and bullying — all of which he strongly denies.
A former party worker, 23-year-old Ashleigh Murray, alleged that an incident of sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace happened in April last year.
Mr McCallister called for Mr McCrea to step aside as leader while an investigation was carried out into the allegations.
Last night, Mr McCallister would not comment about any discussion between him and the PSNI at the weekend.
However, he said that he had “a duty of care” to his staff and that he wanted to “do what is right” for them.
He also stressed that he had no interest in taking over as party leader.
“Sorting out this mess is my priority. This has always been about doing what is right for my staff and my duty of care to them,” he said.
Last week was a disaster for NI21 following the allegations and the fallout between its leader and deputy leader.
The party performed disappointingly in the local and European elections and its European candidate Tina McKenzie resigned from the party executive and said that she was quitting active politics. Mr McCrea has now appointed Jayne Howson, who stood in Comber in North Down, as the party’s chairwoman.
Story so far
NI21 was set up last June by Basil McCrea and John McCallister, two former UUP MLAs. It promised non-sectarian pro-Union politics. The party descended into chaos last week after its executive proposed dropping its unionist designation at Stormont. It then emerged that Mr McCallister had initiated an inquiry against Mr McCrea into claims of inappropriate sexual activity involving female party workers.