Andrew Griffiths- The Sunscreen Incident

Content: rape, coercive control, male entitlement. Andrew Griffiths was a Conservative MP from 2010 to 2019, and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, a junior minister, from January to July 2018, when he resigned because it was revealed he had sent 2000 sexts to two female constituents. In June 2019 Andrew Griffiths MP applied to court for contact with his child. His wife opposed the application, claiming he had been abusive.

They got together in 2008. She found out about the sexting in 2011, and also about an affair when the other woman turned up at the Conservative Party conference. She stayed with him until the sexting, which had continued, was reported, when their child was only a few months old. The judgment on the facts of the abuse was only issued on 26 November 2020 because of difficulties arranging the hearing.

Her barrister, Dr Charlotte Proudman, reports that the sexts included “I want to be able to lift your skirts over dinner and show my friends”. Griffiths paid for this service, and could not accept the impact on the women of such texts, or that they were in any way victims. He said he was addicted to pornography.

So it is not true to say that a powerful man has been held to account, as the Court of Appeal summary does. He was powerful when he raised the action, and told his wife she would not be believed because he was an MP, but disgraced by the time of the hearing, when Kate Griffiths had replaced him as MP for Burton. He claimed in court that he had had a hundred hours of psychotherapy, considering the impact on him of childhood sexual abuse and the death of his mother, but that he was now mentally well- being well might be necessary to get contact, and being ill might explain some of his behaviour. He was in considerable debt, and living with relatives. The judgment on the facts shows the kind of abuse he subjected his wife to, over their ten year relationship.

On several occasions he penetrated her while she was sleeping, and “The sunscreen incident” shows he thought he owned her. After his disgrace, he gave evidence in court that he had paid for everything on an expensive holiday, and so was very cross when his wife had not packed enough sunscreen for him: she should look after him. His exposure in the Press has not taken his sense of entitlement.

He admitted that he went to the safe in the hotel room, got out his wife’s passport and Euros and threw them at her, telling her to “fuck off out of my sight and get the next plane home”. He claimed this was “such an inconsequential row” because “I was just a bit pissed off”. He accepted that he pushed her onto the bed, and even that “putting hand on someone is assault”, but still said that she had reacted “theatrically” because his push was “not violent or forceful”.

In court, he said that he thought he had apologised afterwards. He said he loved his beautiful wife, and the judge took him to mean that he could not have behaved as he said, because of that Love. However, there were other assaults, including when his wife was eight months pregnant, and of a 74 year old man.

With the press about to reveal the sexting, he sent her a message begging her to stay with him in an apparent relationship to save his career. He said it could be without “sexual or touching rights”, but a relationship based on consent has no such rights.

On 30 April 2018 Griffiths came home from work to hear the child crying. He shouted at the child, whose name and sex cannot be given in the judgment, though I found it instantly through Wikipedia. He shouted, “Shut the fuck up, [name]”. I have great sympathy for parents worn out by their child’s crying. One or two have told me how they came so close to harming the child, and how glad they are they did not. He claimed in court that such anger was normal and ordinary, and it was said in a quiet voice. The judge did not believe him. The child was not yet three weeks old.

The judge considered Griffiths’ attempt to blame his second suicide attempt on the mother’s refusal of Christmas contact an example of continuing coercive behaviour. The Court of Appeal said that his attempts to prevent publication of the details was a further attempt at control. Even in the last few weeks, he was still at it: his application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was late, and would represent a misuse of the court process.

He continued his mad flailing to the bitter end. This is her official portrait from 2019 as a new MP (Wikimedia).