THE publisher of the Guardian and Observer has finally apologised to a former journalist five years after she first complained of allegedly being sexually harassed by a columnist.

According to the Telegraph, Guardian News & Media sent an email to Lucy Siegle saying: “We want to apologise for your experience of sexual harassment by an Observer member of staff, and for the way your complaint was handled.”

Siegle made an official complaint in 2018 that Nick Cohen had groped her in the newsroom in an incident she said took place in 2001.

She told the New York Times she had complained to the Guardian’s managing editor Jan Thompson in 2018, saying the incident happened as she stood at a photocopier not long after she had started working as an editorial assistant.

She claimed that Thompson responded by talking about the abuse Cohen received for his political views.

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A week later Thompson reportedly emailed Siegle to say she was “here if you want to discuss further”, which she declined to do.

The Guardian has said Siegle decided not to pursue her complaint, but Siegle claims an investigation was never offered.

The email went on: “We know you feel very badly let down by GNM and that have not felt confident in speaking to the company in the past about what happened to you.”

It was sent jointly by the Guardian’s editor-in-chief Kath Viner and GNM’s chief executive Anna Bateson and also stated: “Everyone should feel safe at work and in the presence of their colleagues and the incident you describe is absolutely unacceptable.”

Cohen is alleged to have groped Siegle’s bottom. An investigation last month by the New York Times suggested as many as seven women had complained of being harassed by Cohen inside and outside of the workplace.

GNM has been accused of a cover-up amid claims it only began properly probing the allegations after Siegle first went public in 2021.

Cohen quit his job last November on “health grounds” and the paper praised his “brilliant” journalism.

Siegle posted details of the written apology on her Twitter account on Monday.

The email added: “We would like to understand what happened and to understand any failings on the company’s part.”

Siegle said on social media: “I’ve always thought that sunlight is the best disinfectant and I think the apology should be acknowledged publicly, as I have aired the many failings which has caused me huge anxiety.”

Siegle said she welcomed the apology, adding: “And finally I can breathe properly.”

GNM said a new system for handling sexual harassment complaints was being set up.

In a message to staff GNM said: “All allegations related to sexual harassment will be investigated by independent, external third parties rather than by GNM senior managers.

“Disciplinary hearings that result from allegations will also be run by outside investigators.

“Consultancy firm Howlett Brown has been appointed to handle any historic sexual harassment claims that might now come to light as a result of the outcry following Mr Cohen’s departure.”

In a statement issued to The Telegraph last month, Cohen said: “On doctors’ advice I took sick leave from The Observer in the summer of 2022. I resigned on health grounds later in the year.”

He added: “I am afraid to say that in the early 2000s, I was an alcoholic. After three years of trying, I went clean in 2016. Today, I look back on my addicted life with deep shame and enormous regret.”

Cohen’s weekly column was “paused” last August after two decades of appearing in the newspaper. He then resigned on health grounds in January.

The New York Times reported that he had groped or made unwanted sexual advances to seven women over that time.

The New York Times said Cohen had grabbed Siegle’s bottom and that five other women had experienced similar encounters in pubs between 2008 and 2015. A seventh woman said Cohen had repeatedly offered to send her explicit photographs in 2018.

The newspaper reported that the former columnist would not respond to specific allegations, but said he had stopped drinking in 2016 and only one complaint was more recent.

“I look back on my addicted life with deep shame,” he said.