Documents show MP instructed independent investigator to focus on whistleblower Elaina Cohen rather than alleged abuser – which he appeared in the tribunal to accept despite initial denials – and repeatedly referred her to parliamentary authorities for mental health ‘help’
Right-wing Labour MP Khalid Mahmood testified on Monday to the employment tribunal at which his former employee Elaina Cohen has accused him of sacking her for blowing the whistle on alleged serious criminal abuse by another of Mahmood’s staff and safeguarding issues faced by domestic violence victims as a result.
Mahmood faced questions, among others, about a series of additional ‘disclosures’ revealed to Ms Cohen’s legal team only last Friday – and despite initial denials, he then appeared to agree that when he employed an independent investigator recommended to him by parliamentary authorities, she was briefed primarily to go after Cohen, rather than to investigate the staffer about whom Ms Cohen had raised her concerns after being approached by a number of the other woman’s alleged victims.
Of ten points raised with Mahmood for clarification by the investigator about the scope of the investigation, almost all of them related to Cohen, according to her lawyer’s questioning. The barrister, Ms Murphy, has asked the court to order Mahmood to disclose the remainder of any correspondence between him or his team and the investigator, a Ms Rollason.
Mahmood’s claims to the court also featured a noticeable theme in which any hardships or difficulties faced by others were immediately countered by assertions of how much he was suffering: when Cohen’s lawyer mentioned her grief over the death of a friend, Mahmood immediately responded that it was also a friend of his – and repeatedly referred to his health difficulties and the stress he was under because Cohen was ‘bullying’ and ‘abusing’ him by the volume of emails she was sending and by refusing to accept no for an answer over the issues she had raised.
And when Ms Cohen’s lawyer raised the issue of data protection training, which Cohen says she was denied as part of Mahmood’s ostracism of her, Mahmood responded that it was her responsibility to arrange training for herself.
A source close to Ms Cohen described Mahmood’s performance as ‘non-stop poor me’.
Mahmood’s recently-disclosed emails also revealed, as pointed out by Cohen’s barrister that he had made his own mind up very early that the allegations against the other staffer – with whom he is said to have had a relationship – were untrue. He told the court that he had asked Cohen for a formal report and not received one, but Murphy quoted from the disclosures showing Mahmood referring to such a report provided by Ms Cohen, apparently in correspondence with the investigator.
Mahmood was also forced to correct assertions in his sworn statement that no ‘HR’ process against Cohen had started before November 2020, after emails were quoted showing reference to such a process months earlier. Other emails showed Mahmood referring to a police investigation into Cohen’s allegations being abandoned while the process was ongoing for at least another month.
Despite Mahmood’s assertions on Monday that Cohen’s ‘protected disclosures’ about the abuse and criminality were unfounded, on Friday he and his legal team accepted onto the legal record unchallenged – waiving their right to test the statement by cross-examining the witness, presumably in order to avoid the court hearing or seeing her relate her experiences – a horrifying account of exploitation, blackmail and theft inflicted on domestic violence survivors submitted as a sworn statement by one of the alleged victim’s of Mahmood’s staff member.
Mahmood also accepted in court that he had repeatedly asked parliamentary authorities to assess Ms Cohen’s mental health – a manoeuvre that she says was designed to undermine her and invalidate her claims.
In spite of these developments in court, the local and national media have tended to structure their reports of the day to emphasise Mahmood’s claims, rather than the details of the disclosures pointed out by Cohen’s barrister Murphy – and despite agreeing with Ms Murphy that as the employer he enjoyed the better end of an obvious power imbalance, he claimed that Ms Cohen was the bully and he was the victim.
Mahmood’s testimony is scheduled to continue on Tuesday. Skwawkbox continues to attend the hearing on behalf of its readers. Mr Mahmood has repeatedly been approached for comment about Ms Cohen’s allegations. He denied ‘all impropriety’.
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