Lib Dems hit by sex scandal 'more serious' than Rennard

Jan 23, 2014

MP Mike Hancock accused of exposing himself to disabled constituent but party 'did not act on claim'

THE Liberal Democrats are struggling to contain yet another sex assault scandal amid the uproar engulfing Lord Rennard. 

The party yesterday suspended Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South and a Lib Dem councillor, three years after a disabled constituent first complained about his alleged behaviour.

In a report put together by barrister Nigel Pascoe for Portsmouth City Council, the complainant, known only as Annie or AH, claimed Hancock "exposed himself" and "rubbed himself" in front of her, "forcibly" kissing her until she had red marks on her arms, and begged her to perform sex acts upon him.

On one occasion, after she had undergone a hysterectomy, he allegedly asked to be the "first to road test it".

Hancock was arrested in 2010 in connection with the allegations, but Hampshire Police decided there was not enough evidence to mount a criminal case. He resigned the Lib Dem whip last June after the woman threatened to sue, and the civil case is pending in the High Court.

A spokesman for Hancock said the on-going legal case meant it was "not appropriate" for him to give a "running commentary" but pointed out that he was yet to give his evidence and believed the leaked report - which he had not seen - was likely to be "one-sided".

The Liberal Democrats have been accused of trying to suppress the report, which emerged publicly for the first time yesterday when Guido Fawkes published it on his site.

A Lib Dem spokesman has insisted that the leadership had not seen the report until it was leaked online and that Hancock had since been suspended.

Nevertheless, Sky News claims to have seen a letter, dated February 2012, from the Liberal Democrats to the complainant's barrister saying the allegations had been considered but that they did not merit an investigation by the party. AH also says she wrote directly to Nick Clegg in 2011 about her frustrations over the case, which again suggests that the party were aware of the allegations.

"This has obviously not been a good week for the Liberal Democrats," says Isabel Hardman in The Spectator, while the Daily Mail says the allegations against Hancock are "even more serious than those against Lord Rennard" and will "ingrain the idea that Mr Clegg has little or no grip on his party".

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