A Conservative MP was on Monday found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2008, leading the Labour party to call for his immediate resignation in a move that would trigger a by-election in one of the ruling party’s so-called “red wall” seats in northern England.
Imran Ahmad Khan, the MP for Wakefield in West Yorkshire, was immediately expelled by the Conservative party after being convicted by a jury at Southwark Crown Court in London. The 48-year-old will be sentenced at a later date. Khan’s legal team said in a statement that their client would appeal against the conviction.
Labour called on Khan to resign “immediately” so that a by-election could take place and “the people of Wakefield can get the representation they deserve”. Khan defeated the Labour incumbent Mary Creagh at the last general election, one of a series of Tory wins in the opposition party’s traditional working-class heartland.
Khan, who was previously suspended by his party pending the outcome of his trial, could remain as an MP until the legal process has run its course.
If he were to receive a prison sentence longer than 12 months, however, he would automatically lose his seat in the House of Commons. He could still be unseated if he received a more lenient sentence if more than 10 per cent of eligible voters in his constituency sign a recall petition
Khan was convicted under Section 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The penalty for offences covered by the act can range from a community order to seven years in custody depending on the individual facts of the case and the age of the victim.
The assault took place more than a decade before he was elected to parliament in January 2008 when Khan was aged 34. The trial heard he had tried to force the then 15-year-old boy to drink alcohol before sexually assaulting him at a house in Staffordshire, the trial heard. The boy informed his parents about the sexual assault.
The Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement following Khan’s conviction that a report had been made to Staffordshire police at the time but the victim, who cannot be named, decided he did not want to proceed. However he decided to pursue the complaint after he saw Khan had been elected as an MP in 2019 as he was concerned that the politician was unfit for public office.
The MP was found guilty after a week-long trial. “It took considerable courage for the victim to come forward in 2008 and again in 2019,” said Rosemary Ainslie, head of the CPS Special Crime Division.
The conviction was questioned by former Conservative justice minister Crispin Blunt, who wrote on his website that it was “nothing short of an international scandal, with dreadful wider implications for millions of LGBT+ Muslims around the world”.
Blunt, MP for Reigate, claimed the prosecution case “relied on lazy tropes about LGBT+ people that we might have thought we had put behind us decades ago.”
Blunt’s defence of Khan was criticised by Labour. Anneliese Dodds, shadow equalities minister, described it as “disgraceful” and called on Boris Johnson to distance the Tory party from his remarks.
Khan was the first Tory MP since 1931 to win in the Wakefield constituency. A strong supporter of Brexit, he took the seat from Creagh, a pro-Remainer, with a majority of 3,358.
Any by-election in the constituency is expected to be hard fought, with opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer eager to show his party can regain its former heartlands from the Tories.
Senior Tories think a by-election in the city in the coming months would be difficult to win, given the party is trailing behind Labour in the polls. One strategist said, “given the circumstances, it would be very difficult for us”.