Update: Hostesses were 'play things' for men at Presidents Club dinner

Update 9.21pm: Hostesses at the controversial men-only dinner held by the Presidents Club were considered "play things" for men to "gawp at" and touch, a waitress has said.

The woman, aged in her 20s, claimed some of the women who then went to an after-party were treated by a number of men there as if they were sex workers.

Speaking anonymously to ITV News, she described how she had been made to feel very uncomfortable during the evening and was shocked by the behaviour of some of those in attendance.

She told the broadcaster: "I realised quite soon it was an odd job. It wasn't a usual job. And the way the men behaved made me feel incredibly uncomfortable."

Asked what the overall message appeared to be after the women first entered the room at the event, she said: "We were play things. We were objects for them to gawp at, touch. To be laughed at."

She said she believed some women working there "knew what it was about and it was a fun time for them to get drunk" but added that many appeared uncomfortable and looked "deflated" by the end of the night.

She added that some men she spoke to also seemed uneasy about what was going on.

Update: Hostesses were 'play things' for men at Presidents Club dinner

 

She said: "One guy said: 'Is this happening? I've never been to this event before, it's really odd.' One guy said: 'I wouldn't want my daughter to go through this.'"

At an after-party she said some other girls entered the room and "acted more provocatively".

Asked if she believed they may have been sex workers she said: "Yes. I was really wary of it and I was disgusted that was happening. I was worried about some of the girls who were talking to men.

"The men were treating them like sex workers. They were putting hands up skirts. Touching inappropriately. Some guys kissing other girls. It was uncomfortable."

She said she is pleased the club has announced it is to close, adding: "I've done events before where you just serve drinks and wait around. I didn't think it would be this seedy. We were paid to party and get as drunk as we could."

Update 6pm:British charitable trust will not host any further fundraising events following sexual harassment allegations

A British charitable trust which held a controversial men-only dinner where hostesses were reportedly groped has said it will not host any further fundraising events.

The Presidents Club said it will distribute remaining funds to children's charities before closing.

In a statement the organisation said: "The trustees have decided that the Presidents Club will not host any further fundraising events.

"Remaining funds will be distributed in an efficient manner to children's charities and it will then be closed."

Earlier businessman David Meller, Presidents Club trustee and co-chairman of the annual dinner at London's Dorchester Hotel, quit his role at the Mayor's Fund for London and the Department for Education.

It comes as a number of charities said they were returning donations from the trust in the wake of the allegations.

David Meller
David Meller

Earlier: Children's hospitals to return donations following alleged sexual harassment at fundraiser

A second UK children's hospital has said it will refund donations from a charitable trust after allegations of sexual harassment at a fundraiser.

Two undercover UK Financial Times journalists reported that hostesses were groped and propositioned by guests at the Presidents Club annual fundraiser at London's Dorchester Hotel.

The event has raised €22.8 million for children's charities over more than 30 years, including Great Ormond Street Hospital (Gosh) and Evelina London Children's Hospital.

Both children's hospitals have said they will return all previous donations from the Presidents Club.

A spokeswoman for Gosh Children's Charity described the reports as shocking and said: "We would never knowingly accept donations raised in this way.

"Due to the wholly unacceptable nature of the event we are returning previous donations and will no longer accept gifts from the Presidents Club Charitable Trust."

Businessman Richard Caring, owner of London restaurants The Ivy and Scott's, successfully bid £400,000 to place his name on a new high dependency unit at the Evelina, the Financial Times reported.

The hospital released the following statement:

Leading figures in business, politics and finance attended the event hosted by comedian and children's author David Walliams, who is not the subject of any allegations.

Businessman David Meller, who attended the fundraiser, is stepping down from the British Department for Education board, minister Anne Milton told MPs.

The UK Charity Commission said it is looking into the allegations "as a matter of urgency".

Tracy Howarth, head of regulatory compliance, said: "Charities have a duty to fundraise responsibly and in line with their values.

"Trustees must also consider the well-being and protection of staff and all those who come into contact with their charity - not just those they are there to help."

David Walliams who hosted the event has responded to the reports on Twitter:

Earlier: Waitresses allegedly groped at men-only charity dinner in London

The organisers of a prestigious men-only charity dinner have said they are "appalled" by allegations of sexual harassment at the event.

Two undercover UK Financial Times journalists reported that waitresses were groped and propositioned by guests at the Presidents Club annual fundraiser at London’s Dorchester Hotel.

Hostesses were allegedly told to wear black underwear and "sexy" black shoes for their shift.

Organisers have vowed to investigate claims of "bad behaviour", which included guests groping women, inviting them up to bedrooms and one diner indecently exposing himself.

A spokesman said: "The Presidents Club recently hosted its annual dinner, raising several million pounds for disadvantaged children.

"The organisers are appalled by the allegations of bad behaviour at the event asserted by the Financial Times reporters.

"Such behaviour is totally unacceptable. The allegations will be investigated fully and promptly and appropriate action taken."

The event has raised €22.8 million for children’s charities over 32 years, including Great Ormond Street Hospital and Evelina Children’s Hospital.

Items at Thursday’s auction reportedly included lunch with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a trip to the Windmill strip club in Soho and plastic surgery "to spice up your wife".

Leading figures in business, politics and finance attended the event hosted by comedian and children’s author David Walliams, who is not the subject of any allegations.

UK Department for Education board member David Meller is among the trustees.

Jess Phillips, British Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, has called for Mr Meller to resign.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "This charity event was attended in a personal capacity.

"It was not official departmental business and as such we are unable to comment further."

UK Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi told ITV News that he also attended and said: "I did attend and left early. David Walliams was hosting. I didn’t stay long enough to really comment on the occasion."

The allegations have sparked outrage among politicians on twitter, with British Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson describing them as "stomach-churning".

The Dorchester Hotel said an investigation has been launched.

A spokeswoman said: "We are deeply concerned regarding the allegations levelled at the organisers of a private event held at the hotel.

"We were not aware of any claims during or immediately following the charitable event.

"We have zero tolerance of any form of harassment to our guests, employees and suppliers.

"We are in discussions with the organisers and an investigation is under way."

Artista agency, which recruited the hostesses, told the Financial Times: "This is a really important charity fundraising event that has been running for 33 years and raises huge amounts of money for disadvantaged and underprivileged children’s charities.

"There is a code of conduct that we follow, I am not aware of any reports of sexual harassment and with the calibre of guest, I would be astonished."

A spokeswoman for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity said: "We are shocked to hear of the behaviour reported at the Presidents Club Charitable Trust fundraising dinner.

"We would never knowingly accept donations raised in this way.

"We have had no involvement in the organisation of this event, nor attended and we were never due to receive any money from it.

"All monies raised in our name go to support vital work.

"However, due to the wholly unacceptable nature of the event we are returning previous donations and will no longer accept gifts from the Presidents Club Charitable Trust."

PA and Digital desk

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