Civil servant took an overdose after being bullied by Priti Patel

Priti Patel: Investigation launched into bullying allegations against home secretary

A former aide to Priti Patel ‘took an overdose after claiming she was being bullied by the minister’

Priti Patel has been hit with fresh bullying claims after it emerged a former aide took an overdose and received a £25,000 payout after accusing her boss of victimisation.

In October 2015, the then employment minister was said to have lashed out at the female staffer in an ‘unprovoked level of aggression’.

The woman was later told by an official she was being sacked because ‘she [Ms Patel] doesn’t like your face,’ according to the BBC.  

Legal correspondence seen by the BBC alleges the woman took an overdose of prescription medicine following the alleged incident in 2015.

The woman was shouted at, told to get lost and was dismissed from her job in the minister’s private office because Ms Patel, then employment minister, did not “like [her] face”, according to legal correspondence seen by the BBC.

After being informed Ms Patel had removed her from her role, the woman took the overdose, returned to her office and lay her head on the desk, the BBC reported.

The woman who took an overdose of prescription medicine had to be taken home by her partner where again she attempted to kill herself, the broadcaster reported. She spent the night in hospital.

Ms Patel is described as having acted “without warning” and with an “unprovoked level of aggression”, in the woman’s grievance complaint.

A government spokesperson said: “We do not comment on individual personnel matters”.

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Priti Patel: Investigation launched into bullying allegations against home secretary

A source close to Ms Patel told the BBC she was ‘unaware of any complaint being made’.

The DWP did not admit liability and the case did not come before a tribunal.

The claim emerged as Ms Patel faced an inquiry into claims about her conduct in several government departments.

Boris Johnson has asked the Cabinet Office to “establish the facts”, following allegations that the Home Secretary has breached the ministerial code.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove confirmed the action being taken following an urgent question from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday.

Now, Ms Patel is facing allegations – which she denies – that she mistreated staff in her new role as home secretary.

‘Independent inquiry’

Sir Philip Rutnam, the Home Office’s most senior official, resigned on Saturday alleging Ms Patel’s conduct towards staff included “swearing, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands”.

Earlier, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told MPs Ms Patel “absolutely rejects these allegations”.

But he said the prime minister had asked the Cabinet Office to carry out an investigation into whether she had breached the ministerial code and “to establish the facts”.

Mr Gove said: “The inquiry that is proceeding will look at all complaints that may have been made, I cannot say more than that.”

A spokesperson for the government said “All ministers are subject to the ministerial code. We do not comment on individual personnel matters.”

Jeremy Corbyn: Government ‘led by bullies’

Jeremy Corbyn said if the “serious allegations” raised by Rutnam about the home secretary’s conduct were true “then that would clearly constitute a breach of the ministerial code”.

The Labour leader added: “Why, without a proper investigation, has the prime minister defended the home secretary, calling her fantastic and saying he absolutely has confidence in her?

“It’s not enough just to refer this to the Cabinet Office. The government must now call in an external lawyer as quite rightly suggested by the union for senior civil servants, the First Division Association.

“A minister in breach of the ministerial code cannot remain in office and should be dismissed.”

Corbyn said: “Isn’t the truth that this is a government led by bullies, presided over by a part-time prime minister who not only can’t be bothered to turn up but simply won’t take the vital action required when the very integrity and credibility of the government is on the line.”

Rutnam plans to take his case to an employment tribunal, which could call Patel, Johnson and Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief aide, as witnesses.

Jeremy Corbyn, speaking before the latest allegations, called on Ms Patel to be sacked if Sir Philip’s allegations were true.

He backed calls by the the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, for an “independent” inquiry into Ms Patel’s behaviour, saying he was concerned an internal investigation would lack “objectivity”.

Related article: Priti Patel: Investigation launched into bullying allegations against home secretary

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