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Lib Dems Suspend Hancock After Sex Claims Leak
Liberal Democrat embarrassment over sex allegations has deepened after a veteran MP had his membership of the party suspended.
With civil war in the Lib Dems already over Lord Rennard, the party was accused of a second cover-up over accusations against 67-year-old Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock.
Mr Hancock was accused of serious sexual misconduct towards a woman who went to see him for help back in 2009.
The MP, who has always denied acting improperly or unlawfully, has been sitting as an independent in the Commons since June last year but had remained a Lib Dem councillor in Portsmouth.
But after allegations of a cover-up by the city council's ruling Lib Dems over their refusal to publish a QC's report into the allegations, party headquarters in London acted and announced his suspension from the party.
The council opposed calls from Conservative and Lib Dem councillors to publish the report at a council meeting this week, claiming it would be inappropriate ahead of a civil court case brought by Mr Hancock's accuser being heard this Friday.
But in a U-turn after the report was leaked to Sky News and other news organisations, a Lib Dem spokesman said: "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."
Those conclusions began with Mr Pascoe saying he had no doubt that the complainant had provided "compelling prima facie evidence of serious and unwelcome sexual behaviour" carried out towards her by Mr Hancock.
He described the woman as "a straightforward and vulnerable person, angry and hurt by what she said had happened to her".
He also acknowledged that Mr Hancock was not motivated "solely by sexual desire" and that he had sought to help her "wholly properly" as a local councillor.
He concluded: "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 and his knowledge from the beginning of the vulnerability of (the complainant).
"No one in public life should allow themselves to act in such an irresponsible and damaging way."
In a new statement posted on the MP's website, a spokesman for Mr Hancock said: "These matters have twice been looked at by the police, first in 2010, and in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service, they have found that there is no case for Mr Hancock to answer and have taken no further action."
But Donna Jones, leader of the Conservative group on Portsmouth City Council, said Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has been prompted to act against Mr Hancock after doing nothing for months because of the controversy over Lord Rennard.
Earlier Mr Clegg admitted on his LBC radio show that his handling of the Rennard crisis had "not been ideal".
Both sides in the row are now desperately trying to resolve the dispute over Lord Rennard's future in the party without it going to court.
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