Ex-Tory minister Andrew Griffiths raped his wife, family court judge finds

The former minister’s case was made public after Court of Appeal judges ruled there was a ‘considerable and legitimate’ public interest

<p>Former Conservative minister Andrew Griffiths has been found to have raped and physically abused his wife by a family court judge who considered evidence at a private trial</p>

Former Conservative minister Andrew Griffiths has been found to have raped and physically abused his wife by a family court judge who considered evidence at a private trial

A former Conservative minister has been found to have raped and physically abused his wife by a family court judge who considered evidence at a private trial.

Judge Elizabeth Williscroft also concluded that Andrew Griffiths, 51, pressurised Kate Griffiths, the Conservative MP for Burton, Staffordshire, into engaging in sexual activity, and used “coercive and controlling behaviour”.

Mr Griffiths, who used to be the MP for Burton and the minister for small business, and once worked as Theresa May's chief of staff, resigned in July 2018 after a Sunday newspaper reported that he had sent “depraved” messages to two women constituents.

He was reported to have bombarded a 28-year-old barmaid and her friend with lewd comments over social media during a three-week period.

The judge had been overseeing a dispute between Mr and Ms Griffiths, who are now divorced, centred on a child, at private family court hearings in Derby. Ms Griffiths, who is also 51, made a series of allegations against Mr Griffiths and asked Judge Williscroft to make findings of fact.

Andrew Griffiths ‘adamantly denied’ rape

Mr Griffiths denied allegations made by Ms Griffiths and “adamantly denied” rape. Judge Williscroft made findings in favour of Ms Griffiths but decided that those findings should not be made public, in order to protect the child at the centre of the case.

A more senior High Court judge then ruled that Judge Williscroft's findings should be revealed, and Mr and Ms Griffiths named, after two journalists, including one from the PA news agency, learned about the case and argued that the public had a right to know.

Mr Griffiths challenged a subsequent High Court ruling by Ms Justice Lieven which allowed findings from Judge Williscroft to be reported on. He made a further challenge to the Court of Appeal arguing that the child at the centre of the case would be harmed in addition to his relationship with the child by making findings public.

Three appeal judges on Friday dismissed his appeal and findings made by Judge Williscroft, and Ms Justice Lieven, could be made public, but she said the child at the centre of the case could not be named in media reports.

Ms Griffiths backed the journalists' fight for publication and agreed to be named in media reports – even though victims of sexual abuse have a legal right to anonymity.

“[Judge Williscroft] found that the father had been physically abusive to the mother on more than one occasion,” said Ms Justice Lieven in a written ruling on the publicity arguments. “The judge found that the father had used coercive and controlling behaviour, including to pressurise the mother to engage in sexual activity.

Kate Griffiths wanted the judge’s findings to be made public

“The judge found that the father raped the mother ... on more than one occasion.”

Ms Lieven said she had balanced the media’s right to free speech against rights to respect for family and private life. She said she had carried out an “intensive and fact-specific investigation” and concluded that Judge Williscroft’s findings should be made public.

Ms Liven added that there is a “considerate and legitimate public interest” in the publication because of Mr Griffiths prominent position of power in the UK.

Charlotte Proudman, a barrister representing Ms Griffiths, had told Ms Lieven that another woman had previously made a harassment complaint about Mr Griffiths to police.

Ms Griffiths and Mr Griffiths had separated after his resignation and become embroiled in a family court dispute overseen by Judge Williscroft.

She had not made a rape complaint to police but she told Judge Williscroft that Mr Griffiths had raped and mistreated her when they were married, and when he was an MP, and asked Judge Williscroft to make findings.

Denying the allegations, Mr Griffiths said he had “never had any form of sexual contact that was not consensual”.

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