A Tory MP who apologised after receiving a police caution for a domestic assault has been referred by the party to chief whip Michael Gove, a Conservative source has confirmed.
Former Shadow Police Minister David Ruffley revealed in a statement yesterday that he had apologised to his former partner in relation to the incident in March, which led to him accepting a caution for common assault. He said the woman had accepted his apology and stressed that he did not condone domestic violence “under any circumstances”.
It is understood that Mr Gove wants to establish exactly what happened. He has the power to strip MPs of the party whip if wrongdoing is found.
The party had previously responded to queries about the assault by saying the issue “was dealt with at the time by the police”, and the decision to refer Mr Ruffley to the chief whip for investigation was being seen in Westminster as a significant development.
Mr Ruffley is facing pressure from within his Bury St Edmunds constituency, with a senior Church of England cleric warning that he had “lost the confidence” of voters in the Suffolk town, while the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner described behaviour of the kind for which he apologised as “inexcusable”.
The Dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, the Very Rev Frances Ward, has written a letter to Mr Ruffley, saying his position has become “untenable”.
In the July 18 letter, Dr Ward said events in Mr Ruffley’s private life had had an impact on his ability to represent the town.
She wrote: “I had received sufficient comment and concern from a wide circle of people, both within the cathedral and through the town and county, to have arrived at the opinion that your position is untenable.
“It is my belief that you have lost the confidence of a significant proportion of your former supporters and should consider your position.”
In his statement issued through his lawyers Kingsley Napley, Mr Ruffley said he apologised to the woman “some time” after receiving the caution.
He added: “In March this year, an incident occurred between me and my former partner, resulting in inappropriate action on my part, which I deeply regret.
“I am pleased to be able to say that she has accepted my apology. It is my understanding that my former partner wishes the incident to remain private.”