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Union chief Jonathan Ledger quits after campaign of harassment against ex-girlfriend

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By Neil Sears

PUBLISHED: 23:13 GMT, 7 February 2014 | UPDATED: 23:13 GMT, 7 February 2014

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A trade union baron described as a ‘sexual predator’ has  quit after harassing his  married assistant.

Jonathan Ledger, general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, was said to have had a six-year affair with Cordell Pillay.

When the affair petered out in 2009, he carried out a lewd campaign to reignite it – grabbing her bottom, exposing himself and leering at her breasts, a tribunal heard.

Jonathan Ledger, general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, was said to have had a six-year affair with Cordell Pillay

Jonathan Ledger, general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, was said to have had a six-year affair with Cordell Pillay

When his behaviour was exposed, the union is said to have mounted a ‘Jimmy Savile-style cover-up’.

Mr Ledger eventually resigned in disgrace and Mrs Pillay has now been awarded £15,000 by an employment tribunal for sexual harassment. She also made a claim for unfair dismissal after her sacking in 2011 over budget errors, but the panel ruled it was fair.

Although Mrs Pillay denied having an affair with Mr Ledger, employment judge Mark Emerton ruled: ‘The two had a  consensual sexual relationship dating back to 2003, when they were both  assistant general secretaries.

When the affair petered out in 2009, he carried out a lewd campaign to reignite it

When the affair petered out in 2009, he carried out a lewd campaign to reignite it

‘The relationship was sustained by sexual contact in the union’s offices and, particularly, away at occasional residential conferences.’

Among a catalogue of tawdry incidents, South London Employment Tribunal heard that the £90,000-a-year union boss committed a sex act in front of Mrs Pillay in their offices after their affair ended; stripped to his underpants in a hotel room in front of Mrs Pillay and his long-time girlfriend, Catrina Flynn, 54; showed her naked pictures of his partner on his phone; and leered at his assistant at a meeting while joking about the size of her breasts.

Mr Ledger was also accused of  suggesting threesomes involving Mrs Pillay’s grown-up daughters; grabbing her bottom at a TUC conference; and asking her for a kiss in his office before exposing himself.

But the panel rejected Mrs Pillay’s claims that Mr Ledger sexually harassed other union workers.

And it also criticised her for lying about her qualifications and the ‘quite extraordinary’ way she had used the title Dr when ‘she had no right to do so’.

Mrs Pillay, 52 who was the union’s equalities officer, lodged a further claim of race discrimination, accusing Mr Ledger of displaying the ‘racism of the plantation’ but the tribunal turned it down. A further claim of religious discrimination was also rejected. The tribunal noted that Mrs Pillay’s barrister, Peter Herbert, had accused Mr Ledger of being a ‘sexual predator’ and that the union as a whole had mounted a cover-up ‘similar to the BBC covering up the Jimmy Savile scandal’.

Both the union and Mr Ledger – whose expertise as a probation officer was working with sex offenders – were found liable over  the proven sexual harassment claims, and the burden of paying the £15,000 damages rests upon them equally.

Mr Ledger eventually resigned in disgrace and Mrs Pillay has now been awarded £15,000 by an employment tribunal for sexual harassment

Mr Ledger eventually resigned in disgrace and Mrs Pillay has now been awarded £15,000 by an employment tribunal for sexual harassment

The union’s 9,000 members have been kept almost completely in the dark over the case. It tried to hush up giving Mr Ledger a rumoured £135,000 pay-off, initially saying only that he had ‘decided not to re-apply for his job’ as general secretary following ‘a difficult employment tribunal’.

But after the damning judgment was made public this week, the union said: ‘As an organisation Napo has been cleared of all allegations of institutional racism, sexism, discrimination and victimisation and it was found to have acted fairly in the way it followed its internal procedures.

‘Three allegations have been upheld against the former employee but these relate to incidents between the former employee and the complainant. However, the judgment makes it clear that neither Napo or its staff were collusive with this.’

The union added that it had formally apologised to Mrs Pillay.

The tribunal has been running for a year, but an order preventing identification of all the parties was only lifted earlier this week.

Mrs Pillay runs her own race equality group, Race4Justice, from the home in Corby, Northamptonshire, she shares with fire chief husband Warren Simpson, 48. She plans to appeal against the tribunal’s rejection of her racial and religious harassment claims, and unfair sacking.

 

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