Brian Paddick writes… The curious case of Chris Rennard

For the record, I abhor anyone who uses their power to take advantage of others and that includes men over women, let alone men who are in positions of authority. Chris Rennard denies any wrongdoing and an independent review of the evidence has concluded that there is less than a 51% chance that the allegations could be proved beyond reasonable doubt. As I still hold the record as the highest-ranking openly gay police officer in the UK, hopefully people will accept a degree of neutrality in my observations.

What does a political party do, or any employer for that matter, when, what are effectively anonymous allegations, are being made against a very senior officer? I know of a case in the police where a junior police officer was reluctant to make a very serious allegation of a sexual nature against a senior officer for fear of ruining her career. Formal disciplinary action is impossible if the senior officer denies the allegations and if those making the complaints do not want their identities revealed. In cases of a sexual nature, the wishes of the victim are paramount, even if that means formal proceedings cannot be taken.

Whether a very senior member of an organisation with a clean record can be sacked over very serious allegations on the balance of probabilities is arguable. When I sat on police misconduct hearings, we were instructed that the more likely the police officer was to be sacked, the higher the burden of proof was required because the consequences for the accused officer were greater. It is difficult to think of more serious consequences than those for the chief executive of a major political party if he were to be sacked over allegations of sexual misconduct. In any event, the question did not arise in this case because the victims were apparently reluctant to be identified. Chris Rennard left his position soon afterwards and was therefore no longer employed by the party.

Some years later, some of the women went to journalists with their allegations. Rennard was subjected to a police investigation, which concluded that there was no realistic prospect of a criminal prosecution. A review of the evidence similarly concluded that the there was no realistic prospect of the party’s disciplinary procedures finding against Rennard. All the evidence provided to the reviewer of the case was provided on the basis of confidentiality and was in the form of written statements. There was no examination of the witnesses as would happen in a court or in a disciplinary hearing. As the evidence was provided on the basis of confidentiality, clearly Rennard cannot have access to the report.

If the witnesses had originally agreed to face Rennard in a misconduct hearing while he was still employed by the party, who is to say that the case would have been proved against him? While the independent reviewer of the written evidence said that the statements were credible, their evidence has never been tested in a hearing. If, and only if, the case against Rennard had been proved, presumably he would have been removed from his position as Chief Executive, a post he vacated in any event shortly after the allegations came to light.

Of course the victims do not feel that they have received justice. They have not had their ‘day in court’. Of course the culture is wrong if victims are reluctant to come forward with genuine grievances for fear of being badly treated by the party. Changes must and are being made but to say the party deliberately covered-up what happened, that the party did not act with the best of intentions, and that it is now acting in a cowardly manner, is not an objectively fair conclusion. Justice works both ways, however difficult that may be to take.

* Brian Paddick Is Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Home Affairs. He was Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London's Metropolitan Police Service until 2007, the Lib Dem candidate for the London mayoral election in 2008 and 2012, and a life peer since 2013. He is joint President of LGBT+ Lib Dems.

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  • “Of course the victims do not feel that they have received justice. They have not had their ‘day in court’.”

    Do you not think if they had wanted a day in court they would have pushed things further when the initial complaints were swept under the carpet? They didn’t want a day in court, they wanted to make sure that someone who allegedly mistreated them was punished for it, and prevented from doing the same to others.

  • What on earth is going on? We are actually allowed to post on this story? On a liberal site? The world’s gone mad …

  • This is a straight forward synopsis of the central issues as I see it from outside the ‘bubble’. Although in my mind there are disturbing side issues on both sides (something seems to be wrong somewhere) , I cannot see any logic in asserting that someone apologises for something that he denies. A proper apology would necessarily imply an admission of wrong. There is a tendency these days to give conditional apologies which I do not think need to be encouraged.

  • Brian Paddick 16th Jan '14 - 4:03pm

    Peter, (a) if what I undertsand is right, those making the complaints (or almost all of them) did not want to be identified to Rennard. At the time, they (or almost all of them) did not want to appear at a hearing as Jennie points out.
    (b) I have no insider knowledge but in the light of (a), perhaps a less formal approach was considered to be the best approach.
    (c) I cannot account for Tim Farron’s whereabouts!
    Jennie, I use the term loosley by which I meant that the women wanted to be heard and to be believed and they wanted something to happen to Rennard. In the face of flat denials by Rennard, it was difficult without a hearing for these things to be achieved.

  • Paul Pettinger 16th Jan '14 - 4:05pm

    “to say the party deliberately covered-up what happened, that the party did not act with the best of intentions, and that it is now acting in a cowardly manner, is not an objectively fair conclusion” – saying something that you want to be true doesn’t make it true.

    “It very quickly became quite Kafkaesque. They were saying, ‘No one wants to make a formal complaint’, and I was saying, ‘I’ll make a formal complaint,’ and they were saying, ‘That’s a shame because no one wants to make a formal complaint’.”

  • Ruth Bright 16th Jan '14 - 4:28pm

    Martin – what do you consider “the disturbing side issues” on both (both?) sides?

  • Brian Paddick 16th Jan '14 - 4:34pm

    Paul. Clearly there are differences in people’s recollection of events and I witnessed none of the exchanges. I am not saying something is true or not true. I am expressing a judgement, a personal opinion. (Have an evening event in case people think I have conveniently disappeared!)

  • James Edmund King 16th Jan '14 - 5:11pm


    I have a great respect for you as an individual, and I think you are an asset to our party for your insight and expertise. Nevertheless, I think you’ve got this badly wrong. What especially got alarm bells ringing for me was the phrase ‘when I sat on police misconduct hearings, we were instructed that the more likely the police officer was to be sacked, the higher the burden of proof was required because the consequences for the accused officer were greater.’ This would imply that the powerful are held to a higher standard of proof than the meek, and it is utterly offensive to the spirit of liberalism. Everybody should be held to the same standard before the law, whether they’re a Chief Executive or a humble Focus deliverer.

    What frustrates me about the overall argument is that, yes, due process has been followed in this particular case. But this ‘due process’ conveniently disappears when it comes to victims of harassment or bullying – just look to the Morrissey Report, which details how bureaucracy descended on the victims when they wanted to make a complaint. This is hardly an isolated incident – there are other examples, of much less fame than Rennard, over a long period of time, where the party’s rules have failed to deliver justice or have been repeatedly inverted to serve the purposes of abusers or complacent elites.

    Finally – I can’t help but think we deserve all this. ‘As ye sew, so shall ye reap.’

  • Following on from Martin’s comment, I would also like to question the use by Brian and many others in the current crop of sexual allegations of the term “victim”. Surely until an allegation is proved in some format as the truth, the person labelled a victim is only self-labelling. There are many cases of untrue allegations, and the acceptance generally, and by the media in particular of the term “victim”, without qualification as alleged, possible or other appropriate word is surely an example of guilty till proved innocent?

  • Paul Connolly 16th Jan '14 - 5:35pm

    For what it’s worth, this matter has been unedifying and has damaged the Party. Without commenting on the specific rights and wrongs of the case, the bizarre spectacle will have left outsiders doubting our seriousness on these issues. Efforts on equalities must therefore be redoubled – in all areas, from parliamentary candidate selection to the conduct demanded of Party officials. We need to be seen again as the Party that is in the vanguard on standards relating to gender, race and sexual preference. To be that, our liberalism needs to be visibly tough and hard-minded in this area, and not liberal in the loose sense of being relaxed, complacent, and laissez-faire.

  • paul barker 16th Jan '14 - 5:38pm

    As I understand it, we cant sack Rennard because he no longer works for The Party. If we tried to expel him on the basis of the present evidence he could challenge that in Court & would probably win.

    The Party has exhausted the formal avenues but there is nothing to stop us simply refusing to work with him, in fact that is exactly what I expect to happen.

  • Grace Goodlad 16th Jan '14 - 5:41pm

    Alison Smith and Bridget Harris have both publicly and repeatedly said that they wanted to complain on the record and would put their name to the allegations they were making. The party, for reasons known only to those who took these decisions, chose to turn a deaf ear to this.

  • Cathy Newman has been tweeting that Channel 4 have ‘another #Rennard exclusive’ tonight.

  • Everything may have been done correctly (though it certainly doesn’t look like it), but the whole thing is depressing. I’m running out of reasons to stay in this party, and I was already down to a very low number.

  • Lord Carlile appears to have been wrong to state that “even the civil standard of evidence” has not been met, since the 50% chance cited was that of meeting the criminal standard. The balance of probabilities was not mentioned.

  • Frankly, given that nothing can be done about it through formal channels, I would take Cathy Newman’s contribution on C4 News as being a gratuitous attempt to drag the party’s name further through the mud for no positive outcome.

    Thanks Cathy. We know where your partisan loyalties lie, and it’s clearly not with us. Under the circumstances, I am deeply unimpressed with C4 News and its decision to spend so much prime time on this matter.

  • The one thing I don’t understand in all this are the statements from some quarters that “we have to trust that the investigation was handled fairly and properly” (not an exact quote). With all due respect, we do not. If there’s one thing I find more frustrating than anything else, it’s this obsequious deference to authority, especially the authorities that conduct investigations and inquiries and inquests and write reports. We’re supposed to believe that these are always done soberly and evenhandedly and with due attention to all the facts; yet, again and again, these investigations let the guilty go free while injustices remain unredressed.
    It is, I think, fair to say “we have to accept this outcome because we have no other avenues of appeal and we’re not in a position to second-guess the outcome” — but that is very, very far from saying that the processes are reliable or trustworthy, and that we should all just shut and accept the results.

  • Zoe O'connell 16th Jan '14 - 9:24pm

    What concerns me is that the statement made by Alistair Webster QC tells us that evidence of “behaviour which violated the personal space and autonomy of the complainants” was “broadly credible”.

    The part that was lacking, and the reason this did not proceed, was the lack of any ability to prove he INTENDED to act in “an indecent or sexually inappropriate way”. This would appear to mean that it’s possible for anyone to commit harassment of another party member, or indeed to engage in discriminatory behavior such as racism, homophobia, etc, and simply state that they didn’t intend to cause offense as a magic wand to prevent being thrown out of the party.

  • @Peter Black

    This LDV post and email sent widely (to all members?) wasn’t good enough then was it?:

    “Anyone who may have relevant evidence, against or in support of Lord Rennard or who wishes to make a statement should contact Alistair Webster at [email protected]. All statements should be made in writing and sent to Alistair Webster by 22nd November (if by post, please send to Alistair Webster Q. C., c/o the English Party Secretariat, Liberal Democrats, 8-10 Great George St, London SW1P 3AE). All material received will be treated as potential evidence and, whatever its content, will in no way prejudice the position of any member within the Party.”

  • ” A review of the evidence similarly concluded that the there was no realistic prospect of the party’s disciplinary procedures finding against Rennard.”

    Not “no realistic prospect”, just a probability of less than 50%. That’s very different.

  • “I have no insider knowledge but in the light of (a), perhaps a less formal approach was considered to be the best approach.”

    Difficult to see how, as Mr Webster was acting under Rule 7.6, which states that “The investigator shall be responsible for gathering written statements from all of those who are able to substantiate or undermine the complaint,” [my emphasis]

  • I think Brian Paddick is arguing that the Party cannot validly take any form of formal disciplinary action, because it does not have a sufficiently strong legal case to do so. If the Party were to take such action, it could be challenged, and the Party would probably lose, at a high cost, and would have to face Rennard declaring triumphantly that he had won.

    I don’t know if Paddick is right about that, but it is sobering that he may well be.

    What the Party therefore needs to address is – If the formal disciplinary route is not available, then what alternative shall we put in place? Something must be done. Tonge and Ward were very quickly and seriously punished for political “transgressions”. What about Rennard?

  • Brian, thank you very much for this, you are as usual a welcome voice of reason.

    “They didn’t want a day in court, they wanted to make sure that someone who allegedly mistreated them was punished for it, and prevented from doing the same to others.”

    Jennie – I can understand that, and can understand them wanting it handled quietly behind the scenes, but to punish someone on the basis of allegations that have been neither proven nor tested is fundamentally unjust.

    That is the big problem here and is I think what Brian is getting at. Chris Rennard denies all these allegations. He has had no opportunity to hear the case against him, nor to read the report (fair enough if the details were provided confidentially), nor therefore to mount any form of defence beyond saying “it’s not true”. The report found that the allegations would be unlikely to pass even the “balance of probabilities” test of proof which AFAIK is what is used for employment tribunals?

    But in spite of all this he is being badgered to apologise for something he absolutely denies and which has in no way been proven to be true, and senior people such as Tim Farron are speaking as if they unquestioningly believe it to be true and regret that they can’t sack him / expel him for it.

    Now, I have no idea whether the allegations are true or not – they might well be – and I have no idea whether Chris Rennard is a sexually harassing letch, a lovely innocent man, or anywhere in between. But he is, in effect, being asked to prove his innocence without being given any real chance to do so because many of the details remain confidential and he can’t challenge the evidence presented against him or present any contrary evidence of his own. Am I the only one who feels deeply disturbed by this? Being “convicted” without proper hearing of something he couldn’t really defend himself against? That’s “Kakfaesque” in my book…

    It doesn’t help that the allegations against CR are being mixed up with other entirely separate issues. I agree that requiring a criminal standard of proof in order to expel someone from the party seems excessive and should be looked at – but that’s not relevant here if the allegations would be unlikely to pass the lower civil standard anyway. And if someone really did try to make a formal complaint but was prevented then that was completely unacceptable and should be investigated (did the report determine the truth or otherwise of that allegation by the way? I haven’t heard it reported but I might have missed it).

    But neither of these issues has a direct bearing on CR’s guilt or innocence. And he IS innocent until proven otherwise – or have we turned our back on one of the most fundamental of all liberal principles?

  • Brian Paddick 16th Jan '14 - 11:57pm

    Jonathan, there are different versions of events here. I am reflecting the version I have been been told about by some of those involved. I accept some of the women’s recollection is different. Morrissey concludes that at least one senior member of the party honestly believed the woman who spoke to him did not want the matter pursued formally whereas the woman subsequently said that she did want it pursued formally. The situation at the time, at the very least, appears to be confused. I honestly believe there were those in the party who tried to achieve the best possible outcome for everyone concerned within the constraints they believed they were faced with. Whatever happened, the women were left dissatisfied and that is wrong. I do not claim to be definitely right but I would not accept that I am ‘quite incorrect’ or James, that I have ‘got this badly wrong’. Some of those involved did not believe the women were saying to them that they wanted a formal disciplinary process to be followed and believing this to be true, that severely limited their options for resolution. I cannot comment on other cases where the party has failed but it is reviewing its procedures now.
    James, my point was not that the more senior the person, the higher the burden of proof should be. I agree it should be the same no matter what job the person does. What I meant to say was the more severe the sanction, the higher the burden of proof. The appropriate sanction for someone guilty of sexually inappropriate behaviour should be to be sacked and therefore the burden of proof should be close to beyond reasonable doubt. A junior administration officer employed by the party facing the sack, loss of income, a poor reference and all the other consequences of being found guilty of serious misconduct should also be considered on the higher burden of proof because of the consequences for them. The consequences for a sacked chief executive would be equally serious but potentially different. A higher burden of proof does not necessarily mean a more complex procedure or the involvement of lawyers.
    Paul I agree. There are no winners here. The whole issue is very damaging. The fact that the other major political parties would probably not stand scrutiny either is not the point. We should be in the vanguard of good practice as you rightly say.
    Peter, I was unaware that the formal review by the QC did not include statements from all of the women involved. That is worrying if true.
    Ed, the whole thing is very depressing but staying and trying to improve things is better than leaving things as they are.

  • Tony Dawson 17th Jan '14 - 1:12am

    It would seem to me that disciplinary proceedings (revocation of membership) are totally unsuitable unless there is a clear prima facie charge. The problem seems to be the lack of any proper Inquiry process the Party within that is sub-revocation and could just declare formally a verdict on the issues.

  • Philip Williams 17th Jan '14 - 1:57am

    Am I wrong in thinking that the balance of evidence is used in civil cases to work out if redress is due to people? I hadn’t realized that it was often used to punish people, I thought that “beyond reasonable doubt” was usually required for retribution.
    The Party should be an organization in which people are held account for their actions. But it is overwhelmingly a voluntary and democratically accountable organisation, nearly all positions are derived from the choice of its members. If reasonable doubt remains it is up to individuals to make their judgement on the person in question and act accordingly, within a just and democratic framework.

  • If he is still a party member why cant their be a hearing? Noone ever believes these internal investigations of senior figures, and the police and CPS are frequently unable to bring a successful prosecution. Unfortunately the perception is whitewash and that nothing has changed nor lessons learnt.

  • Richard Shaw 17th Jan '14 - 7:48am

    @James Edmund King

    I believe you’ve misread or misinterpreted the line “the more likely the police officer was to be sacked, the higher the burden of proof was required because the consequences for the accused officer were greater.”

    It does not imply that the more powerful the accused, the greater the burden of proof. The implication is that the more serious the allegation (and hence the likelihood of dismissal if found guilty), the greater the burden of proof that is required.

  • Thanks for the original piece and responses Brian

  • Obviously the odd thing about the report is that it finds less than a 50% chance of proving culpability beyond reasonable doubt, but still says – without any caveat about levels of proof – that Rennard caused distress and should apologise for it. Presumably that means he caused distress knowingly rather than inadvertently. If so, it’s difficult to understand why that in itself is not sufficient for disciplinary action of some kind to be taken by the party, even if it falls short of expelling him or barring him from office.

  • Tony Dawson 17th Jan '14 - 8:48am

    @Philip Williams:

    “Am I wrong in thinking that the balance of evidence is used in civil cases to work out if redress is due to people? I hadn’t realized that it was often used to punish people, I thought that “beyond reasonable doubt” was usually required for retribution”.

    You are indeed wrong. Evidence in workplace disputes which feeds disciplinary processes and industrial tribunals (and thence on to civil courts sometimes) is nearly all assessed for ‘action’ on a ‘balance of probabilities’ basis. On a day to day basis, it clearly has to be so. You cannot run a small organisation where two key employees have fallen out big-style without backing one or other, which you can only do on the balance of evidence in front of you and what you can glean. Your job is to approach that task fairly and rationally. “You may both be right (or neither of you are)” is just not always an option for a company, organisation or manager.

  • Contrast and consider —-

    From Guardian report 29 February 2012

    “The comments I made were in protest at the treatment of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and the treatment of Israeli Arabs.

    “I am disappointed the leadership of my party did not consult me before issuing a press release and seems always to abet the request of the pro-Israel lobby. Israel is acting against international law, the Geneva conventions and human rights. They do this with impunity and if our political parties will not take action then individuals must.

    “I have been asked to apologise but refuse to do so and resign the whip of my party.”

    Clegg said: “These remarks were wrong and offensive and do not reflect the values of the Liberal Democrats.

    “I asked Baroness Tonge to withdraw her remarks and apologise for the offence she has caused. She has refused to do so and will now be leaving the party.

  • I’m dismayed at the silence on this issue by senior and prominent women in the Party. Where is Caron? Or people who post regularly such as Helen Tedcastle. I’m also dismayed that of (I think) the ten women who made allegations originally, only four (?) made statements to the Enquiry. In 2014 I would have hoped that women would have made their voices heard loud and clear and in public. LibDem women please stand up and be counted and shout from the rooftops that such behaviour is NOT acceptable in the Party (or anywhere else). If we don’t speak up, how is the prevailing culture in Westminster ever to change? Yes we must change from within but sofar I have only heard the usual hollow words and not one Lib Dem woman has spoken up.

  • John Tilley
    The alleged wrongdoing is denied in this case.
    Baroness Tonge didn’t deny making remarks about suicide bombers.
    The case is not on all fours as the lawyers would say.

  • Philip Williams 17th Jan '14 - 12:03pm

    @Tony Dawson
    I’m sure you’re not willfully missing my point. But the disputes to which you refer all deal with disputes between two parties. As I understand the current issue is one in which the offender may be sanctioned by the Party, the victims are not to be compensated or protected. If this had been dealt with at the time the complaints were made a balance of evidence would indeed have been sufficient, because the problem needed to be resolved. But now, unless there is a continuing risk, it is a question of simple punishment when higher standards are surely required.
    It should still be possible to distinguish between the restrictions of proper due process and the expectation of proper behavior, for example apologies to the victims.

  • JohnTilley – that’s different though. I don’t agree with the way Jenny Tonge was treated, but the argument there was over the appropriate response to what she said, not whether or not she actually said it. Thee was never any argument that she said what she was criticised for saying. In contrast, there is an argument over whether Chris Rennard did what he is being criticised for doing. If he did, I don’t think anyone would disagree that the appropriate response would be to expel him from the party (and ask him in the strongest terms to apologise). But did he do it? We don’t know. We cannot know because there has been no fair hearing and he has had no chance to defend himself properly.

    There was a massive outcry among the membership over the secret courts issue. Yet here we are condemning a man based on just such a process.

  • Philip Williams 17th Jan '14 - 1:30pm

    The reference to Jenny Tonge is interesting. As well as her departure, the issues she raised also set both the populist and the practical against normal standards of justice.

  • Peter Black: Thank you very much for that clarification. That is most unfortunate.

  • Surely the standard of proof and the likely consequences should *not* be linked? The first is about determining the facts, the second about determining the response to the facts. In my opinion, the facts ought to be determinable on their own ground, and the consequences should be decided once the facts are known; a determination of fact ought not be altered by what one thinks is likely to happen as a result of that determination.

  • Tony Greaves 17th Jan '14 - 3:19pm

    Jenny Tonge is still a member of the Liberal Democrats.

    She did not have the Lords whip removed – she resigned the whip in the Lords because she was fed up with the hassle.

    Jenny sits with us as an Independent Liberal Democrat and for many of us is still a valued colleague.


  • peter tyzack 17th Jan '14 - 4:10pm

    Paul Walter’s post of 16.1.14 at 9.43 says all you need to know… in fact the entire Party was asked to submit any statement to aid the course of the enquiry. There can be no subsequent complaint that no statement was sought, it patently was.!
    I gave a statement as requested, I just did as requested with observations and facts relating to events I had been part of. Anyone else who had anything to say should have done likewise. To try to undermine the outcome by saying that ‘all complainants didn’t make a statement’ is ridiculous.

  • Manfarang 17th Jan ’14 – 11:41am

    I agree with you in they are not identical .
    Jenny Tonge resigned the whip in The Lords after (as Tony puts it “hassle” from Clegg, which was prompted by some well-known lobby groups).
    She resigned on a matter of principle on an issues that she has campaigned on for years. Her views on this issue are shared by very many within the party and amongst the wider public.
    Clegg said at the time: “I asked Baroness Tonge to withdraw her remarks and apologise for the offence she has caused. She has refused to do so and will now be leaving the party.”
    She did not leave the party and remains loyal to the party, she resigned the whip because the only alternative was to apologise for telling the truth. Which by the way was not on the subject of suicide bombers.

    So the main common factor is the failure of Clegg to be an effective leader. His involvement in the Chris Rennard case has been a succession of car crashes from the time when the issue was first raised with him some years ago and he failed to do anything. Similarly when Ch4 News took up the story a year ago, he failed to deal win it effectively. His handling in the last few days has not exactly been adroit. Clegg has managed to upset just about everybody and please nobody.

  • Two investigations – police and party – have come to the conclusion that this matter should go no further. The past cannot be rewritten – the party should learn the lesson that would prevent (as far as is humanely possible) anything like this happening again. Our opponents – all of whom have had far more serious scandals in their past- must be delighted at the various comments and allegations. We must turn our attention to other things, on which our future as a party depends. Does Chris need to do more than say, possibly – “if I have thoughtlessly offended anyone I deeply regret and apologise for any such offence”. This will not satisfy those whose one desire is to keep the party in confusion but is it not sufficient ?

  • Further to Nameless’s comment, one thing that is quite clear is that Lord Rennard has brought himself into disrepute, partly as a result of his behaviour towards the persons concerned and partly because of his failure to heed the advice given to him by Mr Webster and by Nick Clegg that he should apologise. Maybe we should content ourselves with that outcome of this unfortunate saga, and move on.

  • ” in fact the entire Party was asked to submit any statement to aid the course of the enquiry.”

    But of course it may be that some of those concerned are no longer members of the party.

  • Catherine :-

    I have to agree with you. I have absolutely no idea if Chris Rennard is guilty of the allegations or not. But without a conviction then the allegations remain just that.

    Whatever happened to innocent until proved guilty?

    I don’t subscribe to trial by twitter.

  • Hugh p 17th Jan ’14 – 6:28pm
    Further to Nameless’s comment, one thing that is quite clear is that Lord Rennard has brought himself into disrepute,

    This can only be correct if you accept one version of events. I do not know what Lord Rennard did or did not say or do other tha n what has been reported on Ch4 News and elsewhere. Those who subscribe to the Lord Carlile viewpoint that Lord Rennard is innocent because he has not been proved to be otherwise would I guess suggest that others are guilty of bringing the party into disrepute. BridgetHarris will not have helped the case of women in the party by her rather extravagant outburst on the front page of The Observer.

    Mind you there is a heavy irony in Nick Clegg using the words “bring the party into disrepute”; That is the same Nick Clegg who gave us tuition fees, botched the reform of the Lords etc. Of course, if Clegg had not been such a dismal failure on Lords Reform we would not have this problem now !

  • I see your point about testing the evidence – something that is happening in the far more serious criminal proceedings around the various people accused of sexual abuse.

    I do think the whole thing has been blown out of all proportion by the mishandling of it, regardless of the truth or not of the accusations. That’s not to say that the allegations aren’t serious, I must add.

    Personally, I think the charge of disrepute would be more clear for whomever was in charge of disciplinary/complaints processes.

  • Peter Rothery 21st Jan '14 - 11:04pm

    The rules are flawed. The standard of proof, set at beyond reasonable doubt, is far to high for internal disciplinary proceedings. The civil balance of probabilities – is it more likely than not that the complainants were indecently assaulted or sexually harassed – is the only standard of proof appropriate. That is why we have this messy but perfectly proper outcome that the Webster investigation found the allegations cannot be proved to the criminal standard required by the rules, and so there should be no further action, but at the same time he considered the complainants were broadly credible and he rejected the suggestion that the complaints were malicious as part of some anti-Rennard campaign.
    All that said it seems bonkers to suspend someone for not apologising for doing something which he denies and which the party has decided it cannot prove to the standard required by the rules. The leader and president have made a real hash of it and the whole thing reflects very badly on the party.

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