Sex harassment councillor accused of forcing kiss in second claim

SCANDAL hit ex-planning chief Lewis Ritchie has been investigated over claims he '˜forced his tongue into a woman's mouth' during a drunken taxi ride, the Evening News can reveal.

Saturday, 10th March 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 10th March 2018, 9:43 am
Cllr Lewis Ritchie

The married member of Leith Walk is accused of telling a female party activist to give him a “real kiss”, before allegedly making his move.

The woman - the second female to level sexually harassment accusations against him - claimed: “I was not able to do anything.”

When confronted over the accusations, Ritchie, 34, at first admitted to kissing her on the lips, then later said he had kissed her on the cheek.

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But in a new statement last night, he said: “I have absolutely no idea what these allegations refer to and deny in the strongest possible terms that any such incident ever took place.”

We told yesterday how an investigation was ordered when a female colleague complained that he had entered her bedroom while drunk and dressed only in his boxer shorts following an SNP conference in Glasgow. She alleged he tried to persuade her to let him into her bed.

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Ritchie admitted to being there, but denied any allegations of sexual impropriety.

But when the SNP decided at a national level to suspend him pending further investigations, he walked out on the party, vowing to carry on as an independent.

The latest twist to the saga, however, brings a renewed focus on his position with the second woman involved spelling out the details of her complaint in a direct challenge to Cllr Ritchie’s public denial.

According to his second accuser, the pair were sharing a taxi after a night out in the Capital when Cllr Ritchie is alleged to have lurched at the colleague.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the complainant claims Ritchie’s behaviour got increasingly inappropriate as they shared a lift back from an event.

“Before Lewis got out, he asked for a kiss goodbye,” she said. “I kissed him on the cheek, which I did not particularly want to do and would not have initiated myself but it felt the least disruptive way of managing the situation.”

The woman added: “After I had done so, Lewis said “No, I want a real kiss” and, against my will, kissed me forcibly, sticking his tongue into my mouth.”

No complaint has been made to police.

However she said she was powerless to stop Ritchie trying to kiss her and tried to get him out of the cab as fast as possible afterwards.

“As Lewis is much stronger physically than me, I was not able to do anything about this,” she claimed.

“To try to manage the situation, I said some placating remarks to Lewis to get him to leave the taxi.”

She said she was so visibly “shaken” by the ordeal that the taxi driver asked her if she was ok.

“When he had left, the taxi driver, who had seen what had occurred, asked me if I was alright,” she added.

“He could see that I had been shaken by what had happened, as this was not something that I had anyway consented to.”

Ritchie has previously refused to discuss details of the alleged harassment that led to his split with the party in detail - but has always denied any sexual element and attributes his behaviour to a drinking problem.

But his accuser, an activist who helped the campaign for Lewis’s election, said she was compelled to speak out over his behaviour since being elected.

She added: “I have been very disappointed and personally disturbed by his behaviour as a councillor.”

The activist said she left an SNP fundraiser with Cllr Ritchie at the same time and decided to share a taxi as they both live in the north of the city.

Disciplinary papers served to Cllr Ritchie by the SNP are understood to allege the incident took place in April 2016.

“I do not drink alcohol so I remember what happened very clearly. At the point our routes diverged, Lewis decided to get out of the taxi,” she said.

During his period of absence from the council, Cllr Ritchie turned up unexpectedly at an SNP event where his accuser was present, she said.

This was despite being advised that it would be more helpful for all involved if he took a complete break, she added.

“Lewis was very drunk and showed no insight into how uncomfortable he was making it for myself and some of the other women present, who were aware why he had been asked to take some time out,” she alleges.

And since his suspension from the party, she claims Cllr Ritchie turned up unexpectedly at her office when she was there alone.

“He wanted to emphasise to me how affected he had been by events and seemed surprised when I asked him to consider that his actions had also had an emotional impact on the women involved,” she said.

“His focus was entirely self-focused and he seemed to give no consideration that I might be very alarmed and disconcerted that he had chosen to turn up to my place of employment in the middle of my working day.”

She claimed Cllr Ritchie had acted in his own interests without any thought for how it might make her feel.

“Lewis clearly decided that this was something he wanted to do, and had no thought or care about the level of intimidation and force which he had used,” she added.

Considered one of the SNP’s young stars in the Capital, Cllr Ritchie enjoyed a meteoric rise to his burgeoning political career.

The law graduate was elected to represent the Leith Walk ward following a by-election in 2015 and voted in as planning convener in June last year.

Last year, he was nominated in the local politician category at the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards - losing out in a glitzy hotel ceremony in Edinburgh.

An army reservist, keen runner and boxer, he threw himself into charity fundraisers, along side his civic duties, including a 109-mile bike ride.

But last year, concerns about his behaviour, specifically towards women, spectacularly burst into the open.

He was forced to apologise to party colleague Kate Campbell after making a “completely inappropriate” comment to her at a committee meeting.

During a discussion on a planning matter, Cllr Ritchie told the Portobello member she could touch a stone with her hands and “whatever other parts of your body you want to touch it with”.