Councillor accused of sex harassment '˜tried to climb into woman's bed' claim
SEMI-NAKED former city planning chief Lewis Ritchie tried to clamber into a woman's bed after a boozy night out, it was claimed today.
A then SNP party colleague alleges Cllr Ritchie, dressed only in his boxers, ignored her repeated pleas to leave her alone as he tried to talk his way into her bed. His alleged victim claims she told married Cllr Ritchie to stop.
And breaking her silence for the first time over her claims, she told the Evening News: “It took all my strength to prevent him.”
The bedroom claim relates to a night during the SNP autumn conference in Glasgow last October.
Cllr Ritchie, 34, – who has since quit the SNP – vehemently denies her version of events and instead accused the party of launching a political smear against him.
His accuser says she and three other party members were staying in a city centre flat on their first night at the conference.
Held at the city’s SEC Centre, the event drew party members from all over the country with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon making the closing speech.
His accuser then said he called after the event to ask if he could stay on the sofa as he was “too drunk” to get back to Edinburgh.
“I didn’t feel entirely comfortable about this, having previously experienced his attitudes and remarks towards women, but reluctantly agreed,” said the woman, who cannot be named.
“In the middle of the night, I was awoken by bright light from the hall flooding into my room.
“Lewis, wearing only boxers, came in. I jerked bolt upright in fright, unsure of what was going on.”
She continued: “He repeatedly attempted to climb into the bed and get under the duvet. It took all my strength to prevent him and I told him to stop several times which he ignored, at one point even suggesting, ‘We’ll just have a cuddle’.
“Eventually, after I persistently demanded he leave, he did.”
When confronted about the allegations by the Evening News, Cllr Ritchie admitted drunkenly stumbling into the woman’s room.
But he strenuously denies trying to get into bed and any sexual harassment.
His accuser alleges he has made repeated attempts to contact her since despite her warnings not to – something he also denies.
He was put on “sick leave” only to be officially suspended three months later by the SNP relating to sexual harassment claims and an alleged assault.
Cllr Ritchie immediately quit the party last month and announced his intention to represent the Leith Walk ward as an independent.
That, his accuser claims, motivated her to speak out – as she said his actions effectively negated an official investigation.
“Lewis has removed the complainant’s right to the due process of a disciplinary committee by resigning from the party to avoid one,” she said.
The nature of political institutions means elected members can avoid an investigation into their conduct or subsequent discipline by resigning from a party, she argued.
“More should be done to support and protect the women who come forward with such complaints,” she added.
She said Cllr Ritchie demonstrated a failure on his part to meet the standards expected of someone in a professional or public role.
She argues such internal standards are rightly much tighter than the standard of criminal behaviour.
Consequently, while none of the allegation was reported to police, they were raised with SNP Council Group Leader, Adam McVey.
Cllr Ritchie denied being a sex pest in an interview with the Evening News last month, but admitted to having a drink problem.
In an emotional interview, he said at the time: “I do recognise I have a drink problem and at times this has caused harm and upset to those who care about me and to those I wouldn’t want to harm.
“I consider representing my community the greatest honour that anyone could have. I have a problem but I also believe in redemption.”
But his accuser said: “I’ve been compelled to contribute to the recently emerged accounts of Lewis Ritchie’s behaviour, in an attempt to provide the voice of somebody he has negatively impacted and a clear picture of the effect his actions have had on the people involved.”
She added: “These events are deeply regrettable and ones that I had, of course, hoped not to have to endure especially from someone I used to consider a friend.
“I do however believe that their severity and his explicit public denial of any wrongdoing, are of great concern.”