On Wednesday, Alistair Webster, the QC appointed by the party to examine the evidence in the disciplinary case being considered against Lord (Chris) Rennard, released this statement explaining his investigation.
A further statement has just been released today:
“In view of the extensive comment which has followed my statement, and in view of some of the statements made by those directly concerned, I wish to make the following quite clear:
“1. My report to the RPC has not been provided to any other party for one reason only: the Committee had unequivocal advice from independent solicitors that to publish it without the permission of all involved would constitute a breach of the Data Protection Act. It acted upon that advice. There is no question of the report being hidden.
“2. The alternative is to publish the report with all personal details redacted. This would, in my view, deprive it of any sensible context.
“3. In view of the advice which we had received, I prepared a summary of my conclusions. Lord Carlile QC has complained that I exceeded my brief by stating anything other than that I had concluded that no charges should be brought.
“4. I reject that view. It seemed to me that it was eminently reasonable to explain that, in my view, there was credible evidence that events had occurred which had caused distress. To have done otherwise would have been unfair to some of the complainants and would have deprived my conclusions of context.
“5. The suggestion that Lord Rennard might wish to apologise was not one I envisaged as being contentious. I viewed Lord Rennard, from the weight of the evidence submitted, as being someone who would wish to apologise to those whom he had made to feel uncomfortable, even if he had done so inadvertently. I would consider it to be common manners.
“6. Similarly, given the evidence, I would expect that Lord Rennard would wish (as I would wish, in a similar position), to reflect upon that which appears to have caused distress. I cannot see either suggestion as contentious.
“7. The statements made that there were only four statements from the complainants, set against the many others is a gross oversimplification. Other independent statements were highly relevant in my conclusion as to the likelihood of establishing that events had occurred which caused distress.
“8. Whilst there may well be scope for a legitimate debate about the standard of proof required in these cases, neither Nick Clegg or anyone else can be expected to ignore the rules and avoid due process. That is the very antithesis of all that Liberal Democrats stand for.”