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25 February 2019, 12:42
A Conservative MP has received six-figure damages and a public apology at the High Court over "utterly unfounded" allegations of sexual misconduct made in a newspaper by a Leicestershire MP.
Dr Daniel Poulter, who represents the Central Suffolk and North Ipswich constituency, was the subject of articles in the Sunday Times in November 2017 - including one by fellow Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen.
Mr Bridgen, whose constituency is North West Leicestershire, claimed in the article he had heard complaints from three female MPs that they were reluctant to get in a lift with Dr Poulter after he put his hand up their skirts.
Mr Bridgen also alleged that a complaint he made to the whip's office in 2010 had met with no interest and he had repeated it to the Conservative Party's regulatory body, which was set up in 2017 in the wake of the Westminster sex scandal.
Another article appeared alongside under the headline "Tory former minister accused of putting hand up MPs skirts".
Mr Bridgen's complaint was dismissed in March last year, with the investigating officer noting that no female MP had made any complaint against Dr Poulter and there was no reliable evidence to support it.
The Sunday Times reported the dismissal of the case but refused to apologise or remove the articles from its website, prompting Dr Poulter to take legal action.
During a brief hearing in London on Monday, Mr Justice Nicol was told the newspaper's publisher Times Newspapers Ltd had agreed to pay "substantial" damages to Dr Poulter, as well as his legal costs, and to remove the online articles.
Hannah Basha, representing Dr Poulter, told the court: "The publication of serious allegations against Dr Poulter of sexual assaults on a series of female MPs caused immense damage to his reputation, both personally and in his professional life, as a Member of Parliament and as a hospital doctor.
"Dr Poulter has also suffered very considerable hurt, distress and embarrassment."
Solicitor Oliver Murphy, for Times Newspapers, said: "The Sunday Times offer their sincere and genuine apologies to Dr Poulter for having published the articles complained of, for the damage these publications caused to his reputation and for the personal distress and embarrassment that their actions have caused him over the past 14 months."
In a statement after the hearing, Dr Poulter said: "This has been a horrendous episode.
"These utterly unfounded allegations were published against me at a time of enormous frenzy about the supposed misconduct and wrongdoing of various MPs.
"Like many of the lurid claims made against numerous MPs at that time, they have been proved to be entirely without foundation - as I always knew them to be.
"I am grateful to those who supported me in this action including friends and family, the brilliant legal team at Payne Hicks Beach, 5RB, and at Monk PR.
"I am delighted now to continue to focus on my work as a hard-working and dedicated MP for the people of Central Suffolk and North Ipswich and as a mental health doctor."