Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

MPs Call on Police to Investigate 'Groping and Harassment' Claims at Men-Only Gala; Exclusive

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

MPs Call on Police to Investigate 'Groping and Harassment' Claims at Men-Only Gala; Exclusive

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicholas Cecil, Justin Davenport and Benedict Moore-Bridger

SCOTLAND Yard was under growing pressure today to investigate claims of "groping and harassment" at the allmale Presidents Club charity gala. At least three MPs were contacting the Metropolitan police to look into allegations about the way women were treated at the function for 360 people, which was billed as "the most un-PC event of the year".

Dozens of young women were employed as "hostesses" who had to wear skimpy black dresses and high heels at the dinner at The Dorchester Hotel.

Theresa May said she was "frankly appalled" by the behaviour of men at the dinner. "I thought that that sort of attitude of the objectification of women was something that was in the past. Sadly, what that event showed is that there is still a lot more work for us to do," she added.

In a joint letter to Met Commissioner Cressida Dick, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable and his deputy Jo Swinson highlighted public outrage over the reports of "wealthy and powerful men groping, intimidating and abusing women working at a charity dinner".

They added: "We would be grateful if you can now confirm that the Metropolitan police will investigate the criminal nature of allegations made against individuals involved. In particular, offences of harassment appear to have taken place. Women must be able to have confidence that perpetrators of sexual harassment, abuse and assault will be brought to book.

"There can be no place in today's Britain for the behaviour reported, nor for 'secret societies' behind which individual perpetrators can hide."

The MPs' letter was sent after one hostess told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "There was a lot of groping, girls sitting on laps, men beckoning girls over to their tables to talk to them." Asked by host Ben Shephard if she felt harassed, she replied: "Yes I did.

"The organisers were quite pushy and scary. If you were seen not talking to a man you'd be pushed towards a man and say, 'Look at that man over there, he looks lonely, go and talk to him, you're being paid to do a job.'" She said that at the after-party "people were a lot more drunk. A lot of hands were up skirt, I saw a lot of grabbing. There were separate women who came in wearing red dresses. They were kissing men, quite provocative body language and behaviour towards the men."

MPs urged the Met to investigate potential pimping, harassment or sexual assault. Jess Phillips, chair of the Women's Parliamentary Labour Party, was contacting the Met following reports that some women at the after-party were thought to be prostitutes. "While these are anonymous accounts it does appear there was potentially pimping," she said.

She encouraged hostesses who felt they were abused to contact her anonymously. …

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