QC’s report into allegations against Mike Hancock MP made public

We’ve reported before on the allegations of sexual assault against Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock – Mike temporarily stood down from the Lib Dem whip last June and denies any wrong-doing. He has continued to serve as a Lib Dem councillor in Portsmouth and is the city’s cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic redevelopment.

Last night, Lib Dem-run Portsmouth City Council voted not to publish the report – we understand on the advice of the Council’s solicitor – commissioned by the Council to investigate whether Mike Hancock had breached its code of conduct. In November, the Council’s standards committee decided not to proceed with any investigation until civil court proceedings being brought by the complainant have concluded. However, the report by Nigel Pascoe QC has since been leaked. Here’s how the BBC reports it:

The barrister who investigated claims of sexual misconduct by Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock towards a female constituent found her evidence “credible”, according to his report. …

Mr Pascoe was appointed by Portsmouth City Council in Mr Hancock’s Portsmouth South constituency to produce a report after a complaint by a female – known as Annie, which is not her real name – that the MP had abused his position as an elected representative with sexual advances between November 2009 and July 2010.

In the report, Mr Pascoe says: “I do not find the actions of Mr Hancock were motivated solely by sexual desire for [Annie], who at all times was his constituent. It follows that the true picture of the behaviour of Mr Hancock towards [Annie] is more complex and nuanced than has previously been represented in the press.

“That said, I consider that the prima facie evidence of his unwelcome sexual approaches remains unquestionably a very serious matter in the light of the position which he holds. No-one in public life should allow themselves to act in such an irresponsible and damaging way.”

Sections of the 49-page report have been redacted. However, Mr Pascoe does state: “Making full allowances for the disclosed mental history of [Annie], I have no doubt that she has provided before me compelling prima facie evidence of serious and unwelcome sexual behaviour towards her by Mr Hancock. I am of the clear view that her account is credible and merits both compassion and respect.”

Lib Dem Voice has asked the party about the current status of any disciplinary action that might be considered against Mike Hancock. At time of writing, the party is saying that it is awaiting the conclusion of the civil court case being brought against him. Inevitably, however, people are comparing that with the decision to suspend Lord (Chris) Rennard’s membership this week.

We’ve also asked Portsmouth Lib Dems if they have a statement on the issue. Further updates as we get them.

UPDATE: 17:54

The Party has just released a statement suspending Mike Hancock’s membership of the party.

The Liberal Democrats have this afternoon, for the first time, had sight of a Portsmouth City Council report by Nigel Pascoe QC into allegations of sexual impropriety by Mike Hancock.

Mike Hancock resigned as a Liberal Democrat MP last year in order to contest allegations of sexual impropriety in a High Court civil action.

Given Nigel Pascoe QC’s conclusions in his report, we have immediately suspended Mike Hancock’s membership of the party.

UPDATE: 20:30

A spokesman for Mike Hancock has issued the following statement:

“These matters have twice been looked at by the police, first in 2010, and in conjunction with the CPS, they have found that there is no case for Mr Hancock to answer and have taken no further action.

“Portsmouth standards sub-committee has yet to meet to hear evidence including from Mike Hancock as it decided to postpone that hearing until after the associated civil court case. Unfortunately due to the ongoing civil case, Mike received legal advice that he should not give evidence to the council’s investigator. He looks forward to giving his evidence when the sub-committee meets after the conclusion of the civil case. Mike Hancock asked to meet with the council’s investigator to explain this and this was denied him despite the city council’s solicitor asking the investigator to meet Mr Hancock.

“He therefore believes the report which he has not seen is likely to be one-sided.

“The independent legal advice to Portsmouth City Council noted that the High Court was a better place to establish matters of fact – not least because it could take evidence under oath which the council cannot. The most suitable place to settle a civil case is in court and not in the newspapers. As this is an on-going legal case, it not appropriate for Mike to give a running commentary. In the meantime he will continue to work hard to serve his constituents as an MP and councillor including campaigning for jobs at the dockyard.”

And here’s a statement from the report author Nigel Pascoe QC:

I have now seen for the first time the redacted version of my report, Public and Private Conduct, concerning Mr Michael Hancock MP. Whatever the legal reasons for redaction, which was not for me to decide, the overall effect is unsatisfactory in a number of ways. First, it does not carry the full reasoning for my conclusions and specifically my comments on a number of pieces of evidence.

Second, it does not set out the position of Mr Hancock as I perceived it to be, including a number of assumptions and comments that I set out clearly in his favour. Third, it edits the chronology of events in some respects that in my view, are unfortunate. Last, some of my conclusions have been omitted, although I can understand why that might have been done at this moment in time. I should add that there are other redactions of a minor character which I also understand.

It is for Portsmouth City Council and not for me to decide on its ultimate full publication and I have no intention of releasing myself redacted portions. But I am pleased that the partial release of the report has brought further information to the complainant, for whom I have expressed publicly my concern.

The constituent was entitled to know the views I had formed of her evidence, even though the full view has not yet been made public. That is the reason why in my view, it would be better for my full report to be published sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I hope that some responsible journalists will draw attention to one of my conclusions which has been made public in the redacted version, namely my admiration for the way that she addressed her mental health issues in front of me.

Nigel Pascoe QC

UPDATE: 21:25

Portsmouth Lib Dems have just issued this statement:

We have today been made aware that Liberal Democrat HQ has received a complaint about Mike Hancock and has, pending investigation of that report, suspended Mike Hancock’s membership of the party.

There is an ongoing civil court case on the issues raised in the complaints to Portsmouth City Council and to the Lib Dems nationally. Furthermore, the Police have investigated this complaint twice and found there to be no case to proceed with on both occasions. We believe in proper and due process and that as there is an ongoing court case, it is the court that should rule first, having considered all the evidence, not the media or internal panels.

Mike Hancock has loyally represented the people of Portsmouth for over 40 years and he will continue to serve as an excellent constituency MP and as a councillor.

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24 Comments

  • Are there any other senior lib dem figures undergoing investigation following allegations of inappropriate behaviour? Now would seem a good time to release details, the drip drip is going to kill you.

  • Might want to turn the comments off here, like the Rennard stories?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 22nd Jan '14 - 6:19pm

    They’re on pre-moderation, Keith.

  • Peter Chegwyn 22nd Jan '14 - 6:35pm

    It’s good that you’re pre-moderating posts here Caron because Mike Hancock has had to suffer appalling abuse from political opponents in the local Portsmouth News who post on that newspaper’s online forum under numerous aliases.

    I would guess they’d post here too given the chance. Glad you’ve already taken action to stop that!

  • Nonconformistradical 22nd Jan '14 - 6:40pm

    His party membership has been suspended – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-25852536

  • @peter chegwin
    It is quite possible that aome of his critics aren’t political opponentsbutjust disappointed constituents. I don’t condone abuse but this is a democracy and it merely insults the public to think they aren’t capable of holding an opinion that isn’t spoonfedto them by ‘political opponents’.

  • paul barker 22nd Jan '14 - 7:49pm

    Its not as if this news comes as a great surprise. Whether the timing is helpful or not (I dont know) this at least gives us a chance to clear up before the Elections are on us.

  • Peter Chegwyn 22nd Jan '14 - 10:44pm

    @Simon – No, they’re not disappointed constituents. Whatever else he may be accused of, nobody has ever suggested that Mike Hancock is anything other than a first-class constituency MP.

    You may not be aware but there are actually TW0 court cases involving Mike Hancock at present, the one that has resulted in his suspension from the party and another where one of his political opponents, a Mr. Les Cummings, has been accused of a number of stalking and harassment offences against Mike Hancock:

    http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/local/man-alleged-to-have-stalked-portsmouth-mp-appears-in-court-1-5762109

    That case is continuing.

  • @ Peter Chegwyn

    Presumably the woman accusing him of sexual impropriety feels him to be something other than a first-class constituency MP.

  • Mike Hancock served the people of Portsmouth for 42 years. He retains what was once a Tory seat because of his hard work -often 2 surgeries a week over that period. He cares passionately about Portsmouth people and has enemies in the city who have published leaflets describing him as a paedophile. Last year he was compelled to have a quadruple heart bypass which was not entirely successful but he has continued with his council, Parliamentary and constituency work despite debilitating illness..
    We await the Court case for a final verdict but I am proud to have worked with him.

  • Both of these cases are being used to the full by our political opponents because they feared the beginnings of a Lib Dem polling revival. In fact, it is hardly a coincidence that in the days before both of these scandals blew up again, there was a crop of positive polls.

    If they can hit us hard now, then we can be humiliated enough in the Euros and council elections to put us out for the count in 2015.

    That, in my opinion, is the strategy that is being deployed. We should do everything possible to make sure as a party we don’t do anything that adds fuel to a fire started by our enemies, particularly those in the press.

  • RC, etc

    This isn’t a political conspiracy against the Liberal Democrats, it’s an investigation into credible allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour.

    It demeans all concerned to turn it into a conspiracy theory, and it doesn’t help anyone, least of all your party who are really struggling right now to convince that they think in line with modern mores on behaviour, to frame it as such.

  • RC writes
    “We should do everything possible to make sure as a party we don’t do anything that adds fuel to a fire started by our enemies”
    By cleaning up your act perhaps ? Stop blaming everyone else. Your blame should be directed squarely at your poor leadership for ignoring issues that ought to have been dealt with sooner.

  • There was a discussion yesterday on one of the Rennard threads about why more women don’t comment on these threads – well, I think this is a very good example of why they might be put off frankly. Blind loyalty to someone – a man – who may just be fallible and have done something to cause offence to a clearly vulnerable woman is not helpful. Mike Hancock may be a brilliant constituency MP and hard-working councillor (and I’m sure he is from everything I know of him), but blind adulation is why things got where they did with Rennard. And where is the real victim here? It’s not Mike Hancock, it’s the woman who made the complaint in the first place and whose complaint has been found to be largely credible. If you are in a position of power you have to use that very wisely at all times or face the consequences. If you put yourself up there, you either beheave impeccably or accept that you are in for a very rough ride and that you have given your opponents ammunition.

    Like John Dunn and G say above, stop blaming everything and everyone else, and start addressing the culture that has led to the current problems (and I know from personal experience that there are others who have also been able to get away with such behaviour despite repeated complaints). And, yes, I am a woman!

  • @ g
    “This isn’t a political conspiracy against the Liberal Democrats, it’s an investigation into credible allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour.”

    They might be “credible” but unless those concerned are actually able to provide clear evidence that will hold up in a court of law, then in the final analysis there is nothing much that can be done about them.

    Pardon me for confusing it with an overblown mediafest that is determined to use allegations about one individual in order to smear the whole party. My mistake.

    @ John Dunn

    “Your blame should be directed squarely at your poor leadership for ignoring issues that ought to have been dealt with sooner.”

    What does “dealing with” mean? Presumably you’re talking about circumventing due process and coming up with some kind of lynch mob solution?

    Yours and g’s comments are exactly the kind of thing I am talking about. To make it out as if it’s not two individuals, but trying to involve the party leadership in some kind of invented “crisis”.

  • And quite what “cleaning up our act” is supposed to mean, coming from someone who I presume supports one of the other parties, I really don’t know.

    Try putting the other two parties under the same forensic microscope and who knows what horrors anyone would find.

  • g
    Allegations where real evidence that would stand up in a court of law seem lacking.

  • RC, Manfarang, essentially this is an issue of accusations of abuse of power and abuse of trust, not necessarily criminal acts. It is why workplaces have harassment policies that do not start by summoning the police to charge those concerned, and then demand a jury to try them, but rather with mediation and disciplinary proceedings. Just because something is not illegal, does not mean it is not wrong, does not mean it is not abuse, and it certainly does not mean that no action can be taken to ensure it does not happen again and and that the offender remains unpunished.

  • RC “Try putting the other two parties under the same forensic microscope and who knows what horrors anyone would find.”

    You’re no doubt right, but that’s not the point is it? I would hope similar issues arising in any party would be subject to the same scrutiny both within that party and externally and that the culture of any organisation that ‘allowed’ such behaviour to be swept under the carpet would be challenged rigorously. As it has recently with UKIP.

    “What does “dealing with” mean? Presumably you’re talking about circumventing due process and coming up with some kind of lynch mob solution?”

    It means taking the complaints seriously and treating the alleged victims with due respect and addressing their complaints promptly for starters – it’s not circumventing due process, it’s ensuring that matters are addressed swiftly in order to be fair to all parties.

  • g
    Balance of probabilties concerning proof in civil law cases.Again that seems to be lacking.

  • “Balance of probabilties concerning proof in civil law cases.Again that seems to be lacking.”

    Why do you think that? Webster has said nothing in his public statements about the evidence not meeting the civil standard. Nor has Rennard, in his extremely long and detailed statement earlier this week.

  • Chris
    “Why do I think that?”
    Trial by newspaper and a trial by court are completely different matters.

  • Manfarang

    If you are talking about Rennard, then my comment was based on Webster’s public statements about his conclusions – nothing to do with “trial by newspaper”. But I’m not really clear which of the two cases you are talking about.

  • Chris Manners 26th Jan '14 - 4:56pm

    “What does “dealing with” mean? Presumably you’re talking about circumventing due process and coming up with some kind of lynch mob solution?”

    Report kept secret.
    Councillors say “nothing to see here”
    Report leaked, with apparently uncontested evidence of dreadful behaviour by Hancock- text messages alone.
    Councillors invent some bogus threshold of not being found guilty of a criminal offence.

    It’s appalling.
    Sorry, the rest of us listened to too much “new politics” stuff to let this chug along.
    By-elections. Now.

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