Brendan Cox resigns as trustee of the Jo Cox Foundation

Allegations of sexual misconduct during his time at Save the Children were re-reported in The Mail on Sunday at the weekend

Brendan Cox (photograph: Shutterstock)
Brendan Cox (photograph: Shutterstock)

Brendan Cox has resigned as a trustee of the charity he set up in memory of his murdered wife, the former MP Jo Cox, because of allegations of sexual misconduct in his previous role at Save the Children.

Cox issued a statement on Saturday saying he would be stepping down as a trustee of the Jo Cox Foundation and as a director of the not-for-profit company More in Common, which he helped to launch after his wife was murdered by a right-wing extremist in her Batley and Spen constituency in 2016.

Brendan Cox resigned as policy director at Save the Children in 2015 amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women.

Over the weekend, The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported further allegations and on a police report made on Cox in 2015 over a separate incident at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reigniting media interest in the Save the Children allegations.

Save the Children has pledged to conduct a review of its system for dealing with complaints about workplace behaviour, reporting directly to Kevin Watkins, its chief executive.

In a statement, Cox said he did not accept the Harvard allegations, but acknowledged he had "made mistakes" during his time at Save the Children.

"I want to apologise deeply and unreservedly for my past behaviour and for the hurt and offence that I have caused," he said in the statement.

"In the aftermath of Jo’s murder, I promised that I would dedicate my life to two things: first, loving and protecting our children; second, fighting the hatred that killed Jo."

He said the fact that the 2015 allegations had resurfaced made concentrating on both of those tasks difficult, so he had decided to step down from his public roles for the time being.

"I do acknowledge and understand that during my time at Save the Children I made mistakes and behaved in a way that caused some women hurt and offence," he said.

"This was never malicious, but it was certainly inappropriate. In the past I have focused on disputing what I felt was untrue in the allegations, but I realise now that it’s more important to take full responsibility for what I have done."

He said he was committed to holding himself to "much higher standards of personal conduct" in the future.

In a statement, the remaining trustees of the Jo Cox Foundation said they accepted his resignation and had admired his integrity, commitment and dedication to founding the charity to continue Jo Cox’s work.

Kim Leadbeater, Jo Cox’s sister, also issued a statement saying Brendan Cox had done the right thing by "admitting mistakes he may have made in the past" and describing him as a wonderful father.

In a statement, Save the Children said the allegations in 2015 had been investigated according to its procedures, with Cox suspended and a disciplinary process involving a London law firm commenced – Cox resigned before it could be completed.

But the charity said it was "never complacent".

The statement said: "Like others in the charity sector, we are now looking again at our processes for handling complaints. It is vital that our hard-working staff, our beneficiaries and those who work with us are safe and can speak out without fear if they have any concerns."

It said Watkins, who took over as chief executive in late 2016, had told UK staff he would show "zero tolerance" of any disrespectful behaviour and had ordered a review, involving external independent professionals reporting to him directly, to establish whether the system for dealing with complaints about behaviour in the workplace could be further improved.

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