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It disgraced Tory MP Neil Parish ‘broke the law’ by watching porn on Commons | Conservatives

It disgraced Tory MP Neil Parish, who withdrew on Saturday after admitting he had twice seen pornography in the House of Commons, appeared to have committed a criminal act that led to a maximum prison sentence of two years, said Labor.

Parish, who had represented the secure western seat of Tiverton and Honiton since 2010, said that on the first occasion he watched porn on his mobile phone next to other MPs, including women, he had done so by accident.

But in an emotional interview announcing his resignation, where he was close to breaking down in tears, he said his “biggest crime” was having done it again – this time deliberately and in what he called “a momentary madness “- while waiting to vote.

To explain what had happened, Parish, who also runs a farm, told the BBC Politics Southwest: “The situation was that – funny enough it was tractors I was looking at. I came across another website that had a very similar name and I saw it a bit, which I should not have done.

“But my crime – biggest crime – is that on another occasion I went in for the second time.”

Asked if it was deliberate, he admitted: “It was deliberate … who was sitting and waiting to vote on the side of the Chamber.” Parish added: “I’ll have to live with this for the rest of my life. I made a huge terrible mistake and I’m here to tell the world.”

Jess Phillips
Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for abuse and protection in the home, said it appeared that Parish had ‘allegedly committed a criminal act’. Photo: ParliamentTV

The dramatic resignation, following a week of gruesome allegations of MPs’ behavior, comes days before Thursday’s UK general election, which is seen as a key test of Boris Johnson’s ability to survive as prime minister after Partygate and other scandals.

The Parish exit now sets the stage for another midterm campaign this summer for the Tories, while Johnson fights for his political life.

Last night, Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic abuse and protection, said it appeared that Parish had “allegedly” committed a criminal act under the 1981 Indecent Displays (Control) Act.

The law states that: “If an indecent act is publicly displayed, the person making the display and any person causing or permitting the display shall be guilty of an offense.”

It adds that: “Any matter which appears on or in such a way that it is visible from a public place shall, for the purposes of this section, be deemed to have been made public.”

The sentence ranges from a fine to up to two years in prison.

Phillips, who said the law was not widely known and therefore not often enforced, said Observer: “If this law were to be applied, it appears that he has committed an offense by his own admission.”

Phillips said Labor would now call for a full review of the law’s application and how many charges had been filed under it. She said a public information campaign should also be launched as an urgent issue to allow people to know that it was already illegal to watch porn where others could watch it, including in public transport.

Phillips said: “There are lots of laws in the law books that are meant to protect women and girls in society, but they are not passed. They are very rarely passed correctly.

“People do not know they can complain about it. What we want to do now is investigate where charging has happened and has not happened. [under this law]such as on transportation networks where people see it on the bus next to you. “

She added that greater awareness of the act would not be enough, but that charges should be filed under it to show people that watching pornography in public was completely unacceptable and would lead to prosecution.

On Friday, Parish had referred to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone, for inquiry, but had said he would only resign if convicted. He said yesterday that he changed his mind after realizing the pressure he put his family under and the damage he did to his party.

Parish was identified and stripped of his whip Friday afternoon after two female colleagues last week claimed they had seen him watching adult content on his phone while sitting near them in the chamber.

Although Parish retained the seats in Tiverton and Honiton with a majority of more than 24,000 in 2019, the Liberal Democrats are now confident of pouring resources into the midterm competition there as they struggle to re-establish themselves as a force in the West.

Tories are already preparing for an even tougher midterm test in the “red wall” seat in Wakefield after Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan resigned following a conviction for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2008.

Labor had held Wakefield since the 1930s until Khan took the seat in the 2019 parliamentary elections with a majority of 3,358.

Writing in ObserverCommons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle is calling for a radical overhaul of working methods in Westminster, following a series of scandals over sexual harassment and bullying.

The common staff has been pushing for an overhaul for some time. They have raised concerns that the independent complaints and redress system set up in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment and bullying remains a complicated, slow and often intimidating process. About 43 complaints about MPs have been investigated by the service in the last three years. It is understood that the figure for this year corresponds to last year’s figure of 15 MPs.

Hoyle is working to form a “speakers’ conference” – essentially a cross-party committee – to examine rapid reforms and back a revision. Such a conference was last convened in 2008 to examine the representation of women, ethnic minorities and the disabled in the Commons. The committee will consult expert evidence before the reforms are completed. It must be formally approved by the government and the Joint Council.

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