A Conservative MP has been widely condemned after defending a fellow Tory member of parliament after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage boy.
Imran Ahmad Khan was thrown out of the party after Southwark Crown Court on Monday found him guilty of sexually assaulting the 15-year-old.
But following the verdict, former minister Crispin Blunt said he was certain Khan was innocent and that the trial “was nothing short of an international scandal”.
The Labor chair, Anneliese Dodds, called Blunt’s comment “disgraceful” and said the Conservative Party “must take action against this Tory MP and distance their party from his comments”.
The court heard how Khan, a gay Muslim who is now aged 48, forced the then-teenager to drink gin and tonic, dragged him upstairs, pushed him on to a bed and asked him to watch pornography before the attack at a house in Staffordshire in January 2008.
Blunt, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for global LGBT+ rights, criticized the conviction as a “dreadful miscarriage of justice” incited by “lazy tropes about LGBT+ people” based in “Victorian era prejudice”.
Shortly after Blunt’s statement, five MPs who are on the APPG said they would resign.
This is completely inappropriate. I have written to complain and to resign from the LGBT APPG which Crispin chairs. https://t.co/XJeJEEUI49
— Chris Bryant (@RhonddaBryant) April 11, 2022
I have resigned as a vice-chair of the @APPGLGBT following Crispin Blunt’s statement. This was the first APPG I joined as an MP and it meant a lot to me. Parliament needs a respected and robust LGBT group and Crispin can no longer provide that leadership. He should stand down.
— Stewart McDonald MP (@StewartMcDonald) April 11, 2022
I’ve stayed a member of the APPG on Global LGBT Rights against my better judgment mainly because I was determined not to be bullied out as a gender critical lesbian but chair Crispin Blunt’s statement tonight is the last straw. I’ll be resigning tomorrow.
— Joanna Cherry QC (@joannaccherry) April 11, 2022
Tonight I resigned from my position on the APPG on Global LGBT+ Rights. I cannot sit on a committee or associate myself with a committee chair who holds such views. https://t.co/VojLLDb0Jo
— Kate Osborne MP 💙🌈 (@KateOsborneMP) April 11, 2022
Labor MP Chris Bryant tweeted: “This is completely inappropriate. I have written to complain and to resign from the LGBT APPG which Crispin chairs.”
He was followed by the SNP’s Stewart McDonald, who wrote: ”I have resigned as a vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for global LGBT+ rights following Crispin Blunt’s statement.
“This was the first APPG I joined as an MP and it meant a lot to me. Parliament needs a respected and robust LGBT group and Crispin can no longer provide that leadership. He should stand down.”
Another SNP MP, Joanna Cherry, said: “I’ve stayed a member of the APPG on global LGBT+ rights against my better judgment mainly because I was determined not to be bullied out as a gender critical lesbian but chair Crispin Blunt’s statement tonight is the last straw. I’ll be resigned tomorrow.”
Later, Labor’s Kate Osborne said: “Tonight I resigned from my position on the APPG on global LGBT+ rights. I cannot sit on a committee or associate myself with a committee chair who holds such views.”
The SNP’s Martin Docherty-Hughes said: “Given this utterly inappropriate intervention by Crispin Blunt, I have informed the secretariat of the APPG on global LGBT+ rights of my resignation as a vice chair and member of the APPG. It’s time for the chair to go.”
The victim made a complaint to police days after Khan helped Prime Minister Boris Johnson win a large Commons majority by taking Wakefield in the so-called “red wall” that had formed Labor’s heartlands in the Midlands and northern England.
Khan had been suspended by the Tories pending the result of the trial, with the decision to expel him taken after confirmation of the jury’s ruling.
His legal team has vowed to appeal against the conviction, a move that could delay a potential by-election.
Khan, who was 34 at the time of the offence, will be thrown out of the House of Commons if he is handed a prison sentence of more than a year, or otherwise could be subject to a petition to oust him in the recall process.
The judge, Mr Justice Baker, said he will sentence Khan at a date to be fixed.
Dominic Lipinski via PA Wire/PA Images
The victim, now 29, told a jury he was left feeling “scared, vulnerable, numb, shocked and surprised” after Khan touched his feet and legs, coming within “a hair’s breadth” of his privates, as he went to sleep in a top bunkbed.
He ran to his parents and a police report was made at the time, but no further action was taken because the youngster did not want to make a formal complaint.
But he told jurors “it all came flooding back” when he learned Khan was standing in the December 2019 general election.
The Tory hopeful was literally parachuted into the constituency in a skydiving stunt after he was selected to replace Antony Calvert weeks before the election.
Days ahead of the poll, the victim said he contacted the Conservative Party press office to tell them what Khan had done to him, but added: “I wasn’t taken very seriously.”
Khan, who was sent a questionnaire by Staffordshire Police rather than being interviewed under caution at a station because of “Covid protocols in place at the time”, denied sexual assault.
The MP claims he only touched the Catholic teenager’s elbow when he “became extremely upset” after a conversation about his confused sexuality.
Khan said he was trying to be “kind” and “helpful”, but the teenager became upset and “bolted” when the topic of pornography was raised.
However, the jury believed his victim, returning a guilty verdict after around five hours of deliberations.
The judge released Khan on bail, telling him: “I make it clear that all sentencing options, including immediate custody, are being considered by the court.”
Khan made no comment as he left court, but his lawyers said he maintains his innocence and will appeal.
Labor has called for his immediate resignation from Parliament as the opposition party pushed for a by-election in the hope of winning back their former territory.
The victim said he “vividly” remembered the gin bottle Khan took to the party, the smell of the spirit in the glass tumbler, and the fizz of the bubbles as he was forced by Khan to drink the cocktail.
He said Khan also watched him do pull-ups, asked him to watch pornography and told him he was “good looking” in a “love whisper” in his ear, which was “disgusting and really slimy”.
The victim said he pretended to be asleep in the top bunk bed before Khan reached through the wooden bars to touch his feet.
“He was drunk because I could hear his heavy breathing,” he said.
The complainant said the “slow caressing” continued as Khan “worked his way around the bed” and “up my leg”, despite him telling the MP to stop.
He said he “froze”, adding: “I freaked out and jumped out of the bed and ran as fast as I could.”
The boy’s brother, who was 18 at the time, told jurors he was also the victim of an “assault” when Khan asked if he was wearing his kilt like a “true Scotsman” – referring to the tradition of wearing the garment without underwear – before lifting it up with both hands.
Blunt wrote in a statement on his website: “I am utterly appalled and distressed at the dreadful miscarriage of justice that has befallen my friend and colleague Imran Ahmad Khan, MP for Wakefield since December 2019. His conviction today is nothing short of an international scandal , with dreadful wider implications for millions of LGBT+ muslims around the world.
“I sat through some of the trial. The conduct of this case relied on lazy tropes about LGBT+ people that we might have thought we had put behind us decades ago.
“As a former justice minister I was prepared to testify about the truly extraordinary sequence of events that has resulted in Imran being put through this nightmare start to his Parliamentary career.
“I hope for the return of Imran Ahmad Khan to the public service that has exemplified his life to date. Any other outcome will be a stain on our reputation for justice, and an appalling own goal by Britain as we try to take a lead in reversing the Victorian era prejudice that still disfigures too much of the global statute book.”