Friday, April 19

Ex-Tory MP guilty of molesting boy was on panel advising on grooming gangs | politics

An MP found guilty this month of molesting a 15-year-old boy advised the government on child sexual exploitation while under police caution, the Guardian can disclose.

Imran Ahmad Khan, the then Conservative MP for Wakefield, joined an expert panel offering advice on grooming gangs and went on to contribute to a policy paper entitled “Group-based child sexual exploitation characteristics of offending”.

He attended online meetings with the panel of sexual exploitation experts in July, September and November of 2020. Staffordshire police say he gave a written statement under caution in May 2020 addressing claims he had assaulted a minor.

The disclosures raise serious questions for the government and the Home Office about why he was appointed to a panel addressing child protection while under police investigation.

His involvement on the panel was disclosed publicly by the home secretary, Priti Patel, in December 2020 – a year after his victim said he had told the Conservative party about being abused in his own home.

The latest disclosures about Khan, who was expelled from the Conservatives after his conviction earlier this month, also raise questions for the party, which failed to record and then inform the Home Office about the harassment claims they received in 2019.

A Conservative party spokesperson said: “We have found no record of this complaint.”

A Home Office spokesperson said that neither Patel nor the Home Office were aware of the claims against Khan before they were made public in 2021.

“In his role as an MP, Mr Khan was asked along with several others to peer review a Home Office research paper. The Home Office was not aware of the allegations against him at the time and he no longer has any involvement with the department.”

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Responding to the disclosures, the Labor shadow cabinet minister, Louise Haigh, said the government should explain why it appointed Khan to the panel and if he was a malign influence on the official government report into child abuse.

“Khan’s victim told the Conservatives about sickening sexual abuse, and they did nothing, and then shamefully appointed him to sit alongside survivors of child sexual exploitation.”

“How could they possibly have put victims and survivors in this position?”

“The Tories have serious questions to answer about how they gave this man free rein to exploit his position and victims of abuse. Boris Johnson and Priti Patel need to come clean about what the Conservative party knew and how they could possibly have put victims in this horrifying position in the first place,” she said.

Khan was elected in November 2019. A few days earlier, his victim, then 24, says he called the Conservative party and told them about the abuse he had suffered at the hands of Khan, the trial heard.

The assault took place in January 2008 when Khan was 34 and prior to him becoming an MP. Khan tried to force the 15-year-old to drink alcohol before sexually assaulting him in a house in Staffordshire. The boy immediately told his parents about the sexual assault.

The victim reported the assault to Staffordshire police soon after the incident but then decided he did not want to pursue the case further.

The victim said he contacted the Conservative party press office in 2019 to inform them of his claims of child abuse against Khan.

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“I wasn’t taken very seriously,” he told the court in evidence.

He said the woman spoke to sounded “shocked” and passed him on to someone else who sounded more “stern” and asked if he had any “proof”.

“I said, ‘Yes, there’s a police report’ and she said, ‘Well …’, and that was it.

“I said, ‘I’m going to the police’, and she said, ‘Well, you do that’.”

After Khan had been elected as the MP for Wakefield, the victim decided to pursue the complaint as he was concerned that Khan was not fit to be in public office, he told the court.

Staffordshire police then launched an inquiry into Khan, sending him a questionnaire about the incident in line with Covid restrictions. Khan replied with a statement under caution in May 2020, a police spokesperson said.

Patel told parliament in December 2020 that Khan was one of 12 people who were members of the external reference group (ERG), consisting of independent experts on child sexual exploitation.

“An external reference group, consisting of independent experts on child sexual exploitation, reviewed and informed this work. Members included the Labor MP for Rotherham Sarah Champion [and] Conservative MP for Wakefield Imran Ahmad Khan,” she said.

The group agreed to three online meetings to discuss the paper, the report said, and provided “ongoing written and verbal guidance to the Home Office on its content and findings.”

“The ERG’s comments have proven invaluable in shaping it into a document that sets out the full extent of our current, collective knowledge on this topic, as well as setting direction for areas of future work,” the report said.

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Khan was charged in 2021 and subsequently found guilty and has been warned he faces a jail sentence. He has said he will resign from his seat but so far he has not.

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