Mike Hancock wins courts case over paedophile allegation

The BBC reports:

A rival who falsely claimed a Liberal Democrat MP was a paedophile has been convicted of attempting to affect a result in the general election.

Les Cummings, 66, made the false statement about Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock.

Mr Hancock had strenuously denied the allegations made in an election leaflet pamphlet.

Cummings, who stood for the Justice and Anti-Corruption Party, was fined £500 at Southampton Magistrates’ Court.

He had falsely written on the flyer: “Mike Hancock is a paedophile.”

It then showed a picture of Mr Hancock with children and the words: “Would you let him get this close to your children?”

This is the second (and almost certainly final) successful court action under the Representation of the People Act over false allegations in election leaflets distributed for the 2010 general election. The other case was that of Labour MP Phil Woolas, who lost his seat after making false comments about his Liberal Democrat opponent. The most notable previous case was that of Labour councillor Miranda Grell, who lost her council seat after making false allegations about one of her Liberal Democrat opponents being a paedophile.

These three successful cases in just under four years is an unusually high number for a legal provision that has previously gone many years without being used successfully.

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7 Comments

  • Technically and pedantically “He” didn’t win the case as it wasn’t brought by him.

    Had the gentleman been found not guilty because although the statements were manifestly false he had had a reasonable belief in their truth* I don’t think the headline would have read “Mike Hancock loses court case….” 🙂

    * Given that the story came from his hairdresser it would have been difficult to sustain that!

  • paul barker 24th Feb '11 - 2:11pm

    A ridicously light sentence though, £5,000 & community service would have been more like it.

  • Tony Dawson 24th Feb '11 - 8:17pm

    I too am surprised at the leniency of the sentence. One wonders what would befall Phil Woolas MP should he be brought to court (as he should be, together with his agent Joe FitzPatrick) for his dishonest actions against Elwyn Watkins. After all, calling someone a friend of terrorism must surely rank lower than labelling someone a Paedophile?

    In fact, Mike Hancock is clearly the loser in this case since, in establishing the falsehoods, he has exposed several truths which would not go down well at all amongst his electorate as a whole.

  • It is worth clarifying that as has been said this was a prosecution brought by the police for an offence that they thought had been committed by Mr Cummings and Mike Hancock was called as a witness for the prosecution.

    You have also to ask what you would do if you believed a serious crime had been committed. You would not put it on a leaflet, you would report it to the police. That Mr Cummings did the former and does not seem to have done the latter rather shows up his actions. Unfortunately and tragically, Mr Cummings was abused as a child in children’s home in Portsmouth in the 60s – completely before any current councillors etc. were on the council. And the judge said: “But I believe his campaign for what he describes as justice has turned into a vendetta that has ultimately warped his judgement.”

    Mike Hancock may well be, as he himself as said no saint, and has had extra-marital affairs. But in that, he is probably like 50% plus of the population and probably a higher percentage of MPs. The electorate of Portsmouth South also knew that before 1997 as details of one affair had been in the papers in the early 1990s when he stood for the European Parliament.

    Interestingly there are six vox pops in the Portsmouth News today. All say that his private life is his private life and a matter for him. Four out of six say they think he is a good MP and none say he is a bad MP. A small sample admittedly and I am sure Mike Hancock is not perfect as an MP. But any MP would be pleased to get such a response.

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